Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Echo Summit Trail Head.
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Echo Lake

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Echo Summit
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Miles and Elevations

We won't be hiking North out of Echo Summit Trailhead.

Well, virtually nobody except very long distance backpackers on their way North, and maybe a few day hikers would hike North out of the Echo Summit Trailhead.

Two Miles out of the Wilderness
The reason is that the Echo Summit Trailhead is two miles South of Lower Echo Lake and its Northbound trailhead into the Southern Desolation Wilderness. That's the main Northbound trailhead along the TYT-PCT and TYT routes in proximity to Echo Summit and Highway 50 on the Sierra Crestline.

These two miles hiking North to Echo Chalet from Echo Summit are alongside Highway 50 for a ways, then crosses 50 into a diffuse neighborhood of National Forest and private residences on a small grid of paved roads under moderate density forest cover.

These structures, roads, and forest sit on the Easternmost Nose of the ridge running East & West around the South Shore of the Echo Lakes.

The Gap Map

The next two miles to our North from Echo Summit cross a gap in the wilderness that's filled with some bits of civilization between the North end of Meiss Country Roadless Area to our South and Desolation Wilderness to the North.

The vast majority of folks hiking Northbound through Echo Summit are PCT hikers or PCT section hikers hiking North on their way to Canada, and clockwise hikers on the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Local Northbound hikers will be starting Northbound backpacking trips out of the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead, not Echo Summit.

Desolation Wilderness to the North
Everyone starting backpacking trips North from the Echo Summit region are a lot better off hiking North through the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead into the South end of Desolation Wilderness.

Folks planning on backpacking North from Highway 50 will park at the Lower Echo Lake upper parking lot to stage up for Northbound backpacking trips into Desolation Wilderness through the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead.
Hikers beginning a Northbound trip into Desolation Wilderness must get a permit for the Desolation Wilderness. Starting North out of Echo Summit will not solve that problem.

Thus this Echo Summit Trailhead and parking lot mainly serves hikers and backpackers moving South into the Meiss Country Roadless Area.


No Permits Required for Meiss Country Backpacking
No permits are required for trips into the Meiss Country Roadless Area which remain in Meiss Country, but fire permits are required for all fires, including camp stoves.
Backpackers beginning long backpacking trips South from Echo Summit that will depart the Meiss Country exiting the Tahoe Basin into the Mokelumne Wilderness must obtain permits from the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit naming all the subsequent forests we plan to visit.

This is especially important for backpackers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail who wish to camp at Round Top Lake on your way over into Summit City Canyon. Make sure you specify that on your permit.

If all the designated campsites are full, find a nice non-obtrusive spot and throw down. No problem. You have a permit.


Meiss Country Roadless Area


Northbound trips into Desolation Wilderness begin at

Echo Lake Trailhead

Echo Summit Trailhead

Trail Notes: Southbound
on the
Echo Summit Trailhead
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Hiking South into Echo Summit Trailhead

Hiking South on the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails into Echo Summit

Hiking South into the Echo Summit Trailhead along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. We are bending Right, South, off this last section of our trail paralleling Highway 50 up to Echo Summit from our crossing point a little lower down the West flank near Little Norway.

We see the Echo Summit parking lot coming into view, and the trailhead sign across the parking lot.

Trail Notes

Northern Meiss Country Roadless Area

on the
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail - Pacific Crest Trail - Tahoe Rim Trail

The Long and Short of It
Backpacking South Out of Meeks Bay on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
In late September of 2009 we arrived at Echo Summit early on the morning beginning our third full day coming South out of Meeks Bay on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route towards Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite. It took us 2 and 1/8 days to hike the 30.71 miles from Meeks Bay to Echo Summit along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route across the length of Desolation Wilderness.We have just finished hiking the first section of the two sections we will cross on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail (and PCT) hiking from the Meeks Bay Trailhead out of the Lake Tahoe Basin out of the Carson Gap.
This first segment was composed of the Desolation Wilderness, including Echo Chalet Resort at at Lower Echo Lake, which is our first possible resupply spot South of our starting trailhead at Meeks Bay.

Having already closed for the season we could neither resupply nor obtain fresh food at Echo Chalet. No problem. We did not expect to. Here at Echo Summit we are beginning the second section of the our Tahoe to Whitney Trail hike, which covers our hike South through the Meiss Country Roadless Area along the Southwest shore of Lake Tahoe.
The first section of this backpacking trip was crossing Desolation Wilderness, and this second and last section in the Tahoe Basin will bring us through Meiss Country Roadless Area to exit the Tahoe Basin hiking through the Carson Gap. Exiting the Lake Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap begins the third section of our Tahoe to Whitney (or Tahoe to Yosemite) hike, being the third section crossing the Mokelumne Wilderness from Highway 88 down to Highway 4.

Highway 4 is where we will find our next place to eat, rest, recover, recreate, and/or resupply at the Lake Alpine Lodge , though it too is closed this late in the season. No problem. I plan on hitching down to the Bear Valley Store and Deli to do some heavy eating. Situation
Our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route joined the Pacific Crest and Tahoe Rim Trails just a bit North of Middle Velma Lake up in Desolation Wilderness, 11.5 miles South of our starting the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
The junction where the TYT-PCT-TRT all joined together near Middle Velma Lake is 19.21 miles North of our current position at the Echo Summit Trailhead. We've hiked a total of 30.71 miles South from Meeks Bay Trailhead to Echo Summit Trailhead. Follow the trail guide pages North to view the maps, miles and elevations figures, and written descriptions across Desolation Wilderness up to the Meeks Bay Trailhead, where this trail guide begins.
North and South on this High Sierra Trail Guide.
Follow the trail guide below South for the next 12 miles to see the PCT and TYT routes across the Meiss Country Roadless Area.
At Meiss Cabin we intersect with the third and final trailhead out of the Lake Tahoe Basin described on this guide, the trailhead at the end of the maintained segment of the South Upper Truckee Road. Backpackers looking for short hikes through the Meiss Country Roadless Area will find Carson Pass, the South Upper Truckee, and the Big Meadow Trailheads good end points for short but delightful backpacking trips across the Meiss Country.

Yes, that's my overall assessment of the Meiss Country Roadless Area,

North: Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit                                                          South: Echo Summit 2

Local Trailhead - Long Backpacking Trips

Echo Summit is a good starting point for long backpacking trips South down the Sierra Nevada Crestline as well as for excellent short backpacking trips into the Meiss Country Roadless Area. Echo Summit Trailhead's location on Highway 50 is quite convenient for anyone with a car, though no public transportation serves Echo Summit or Echo Lakes. Meiss Country Roadless Area
Backpacking Map
Echo Summit can be our starting point for Tahoe to Yosemite backpacking trips on either the Tahoe to Yosemite or Pacific Crest Trail routes, as these unified trails both pass South through here before splitting into their distinctive routes once they exit the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

Starting South from this Echo Summit Trailhead cuts 30.71 miles off of the overall length of any long backpacking trip to points South as opposed to starting at the "traditional" Tahoe to Yosemite Trailhead at Meeks Bay.If you want to turn your 180 miles Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hike into a 150 mile Tahoe to Yosemite hike, this is the starting trailhead for you. It is an option.On the other hand you could start your Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip a bit further North, say begin hiking South where the PCT crosses Highway 80 up near Donner Pass. Meiss Country Roadless Area
Echo Summit to Carson Pass is also the shortest section of the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail crossing High Sierra trails along our whole hike to Mount Whitney. This next section across Meiss Country measures out at total of 12 miles.

If you are a beginning hiker the small size and convenient access points into the Meiss Country Roadless Area (Highway 50, Highway 89, and Highway 88 access trailheads) makes Meiss Country an excellent place to practice and build your backpacking skills and fitness, as well as a great place to hike your first little section of the PCT & TYT. Section Hiking
The Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Echo Summit is a convenient place to begin short and medium-length backpacking trips South into the Meiss Country Roadless Area, and beyond, along the Pacific Crest Trail route.

We have a 12 mile hike South across Meiss Country to Carson Pass, 39 total miles bring us to Ebbetts Pass from Echo Summit across the Eastern Mokelumne Wilderness, and another 29.44 miles South from Ebbetts Pass crosses the Carson Iceberg Wilderness down to Sonora Pass.
We can pump up a muscular total of 69 total miles of hiking from Echo Summit to Sonora Pass if we are looking for a "middle-distance" backpacking trip. We can hike one, or as many sections South towards Mount Whitney as we have the time, energy, and funds to support.

Miles to Tuolumne Meadows

Each of these PCT section hiking destinations along the successive mountain pass trailheads to our South are each shorter options than hiking the whole remaining 150 miles down the Sierra Nevada crestline along either the Tahoe to Yosemite or Pacific Crest Trail routes to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite.

These section hikes are great for folks who want to hike from Tahoe to Yosemite over the course of a few seasons, rather than all at once, for whatever reasons. These are fantastic hikes for all of you medium distance section hikers out there. These are amazing sections of trail, and their shorter distances than a "flat-out" long-distance backpacking trip can give us a bit more time and energy to explore our surroundings over the course of more leisurely-paced section hikes.This can be a real nice change from being forced to push through at the quicker pace and longer daily mileages demanded by long distance backpacking trips.

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Lake Alpine lays 35.92 miles South of Echo Summit along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail. Saint Marys Pass is 70.56 miles South of Echo Summit, and Tuolumne Meadows is about 150 miles South of Echo Summit Trailhead. The trail guide below covers both the PCT and TYT routes down to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, so check them both out to see which route, section or local trip options along the way suit your backpacking needs, expectations, and capabilities. I believe that there is something for everyone on the trails between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. Hopefully you are into hiking the whole thing with me.In any case, tighten up your pack straps. We're just getting-going and picking up speed after crossing the Desolation Wilderness! Crossing Desolation Wilderness was just getting us warmed up. In the meantime, Echo Summit's access to the Meiss Country Roadless Area has something interesting for every short, medium, and long-distance backpacker, so let's keep our eyes open as we hike through.

Terrain is terrain...

Local Hikes and Backpacking Trips
within the
Meiss Country Roadless Area

The most popular trailheads into the Meiss Roadless Area form a triangle around this triangular wilderness-like area. Highway 50 bounds it to the North and Northwest, 89 to the East, and Highway 88 wraps around the Southern boundaries of the Tahoe Basin and the Meiss Country Roadless Area. The most popular trailhead access appears to me to be the day hiker access hiking North into Meiss Country Roadless Area from Carson Pass, 12 miles South of our current position at Echo Summit.
Carson Pass offers easy access hiking North into the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap. Carson Pass and its associated Carson Pass Management Area can get busy. See the miles and elevations page for the distances hiking North into Meiss Meadow, Meiss Lake, and Showers Lake from Carson Pass. Start from the bottom of the page and work up, as this guide travels North to South down the Sierra Crest. (As a matter of fact, Northbound hikers should start from the bottom of each trail guide page and work to the top of the page, while Southbound hikers read this trail guide from top to bottom.) Meiss Meadow's delightful expression of the changing nature of beauty in this Southern corner of the Tahoe Basin through the changing seasons is worth hiking through and camping within on a regular basis.
Well, not camping there in Meiss Meadow, until the mosquitoes diminish. Echo Summit is the second most popular trailhead into Meiss Country after Carson Pass, with the main goal of local Southbound backpackers out of Echo Summit being Showers Lake. Showers Lake is 7 miles South of Echo Summit through a convoluted intermediate-2 difficulty trail tracing along this nifty section of the Tahoe Rim. The third-most popular access point into the Meiss Country Roadless Area is the Big Meadow Trailhead nestled into a fold in the mountains along Highway 89 above the little town of Meyers.
Big Meadow is mostly a locals-used trailhead that enters Christmas Valley just below Round Lake a couple of miles above our Meyers Trailhead.
I locate the Big Meadow Trailhead and its junction with the trail up from Meyers on both the road map, the trail map, and on the Meyers page linked to above, and trail map page linked to below.

Check out our hiking Map of Meiss Country Roadless Area to see the relationship between these trailheads. Excellent backpacking trips across the Meiss Country Roadless Area are crafted between these trailheads.

Let's hear about your experiences, comments and questions hiking long and short backpacking trips South out of Echo Summit.

Trail Sign
at the
Echo Summit Trail Head

This Mileage Sign sits at the Echo Summit trailhead parking lot
Video and Pictures taken at Echo Summit, September 20, 2009.
I put the distance to Carson Pass at 12 miles, as mentioned above and below.

Meiss Country Roadless Area

Echo Summit
to the
Carson Gap

Echo Summit Trailhead



Trail information


Echo Summit to Carson Pass
Miles and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Miles and Elevations page


Trail Sign heading Northbound out of the Echo Summit Trail Head

Tahoe Rim Trail sign at Echo Summit.

Above: The Northbound Trail out of Echo Summit is well marked. This sign is located at the NW corner of the parking lot close to Highway 50. The Northbound hiker walks against traffic West down Hwy 50 to our crossing point just East of Little Norway.

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Long Distance Backpacker mileages

South on the Pacific Crest Trail


Echo Summit to:

Carson Pass: 12 miles.

Ebbetts Pass: 38.78 miles

Sonora Pass: 68.22 miles

Tuolumne Meadows: 142.02 miles


South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Echo Summit to:

Carson Gap: 10.61 miles.

Lake Alpine: 35.92 miles

Saint Marys Pass: 70.56 miles

Tuolumne Meadows: 150.29


The Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails split at Carson Gap.

Also See
Miles to Tuolumne Meadows

Echo SummitIf you've started your backpacking trip at Meeks Bay Trailhead, you have just completed 32 miles to get here.Either your trip is over, or you are just picking up speed on the Tahoe to Yosemite route on our way to Lake Alpine and our 1st resupply point at the Lake Alpine Lodge on Highway 4.

On the other hand, you may just be starting your Southbound trip on the Pacific Crest Trail to Carson Pass, Ebbetts Pass, Sonora Pass, Yosemite, or Mount Whitney from Echo Summit.

In that case, Good Luck!

The third option is that you are moving North on the Pacific Crest Trail.

In that case, you are either headed to the Echo Lake Chalet Post Office to pick up your resupply, or hitching down Highway 50 to South Lake Tahoe for a rest and resupply break.


Bail Out, Rest, Resupply, and Repair

Echo Summit overlooks South Lake Tahoe.

Echo Summit sits a thousand feet above, and about 9 miles to the West of South Lake Tahoe.

At South Lake Tahoe we can find excellent cheap accommodations, full grocery, backpacking, and bulk food supplies, freeze-dried food, and outdoors equipment retailers. Need to replace that broken hip strap buckle?

This is your big chance.

Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources

Continuing North on the Pacific Crest Trail?

Echo Lake ChaletMiles
Echo Summit to PCT Junction
(Northbound hikers read list from bottom-up.)

Fresh Food is available at the Echo Lake Chalet.

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South Lake Tahoe

Rest & Resupply

I figure that South Lake Tahoe is the Mammoth Lakes of the North.

At Mammoth Lakes it is customary for me to spend a couple of nights at the Hotel 6. South Lake Tahoe has the High Country Lodge. Both have given me backpacker discounts. Really. The key is not to show up on a busy weekend. That's always expensive.

I go to Roberto's, and Angles BBQ for huge great dinners and lots of water and beer in Mammoth Lakes. South Lake Tahoe has Izzy's Burger Spa, Ernie's for breakfasts, and countless places with 12 to 15 dollar Prime Rib.

Mammoth Lake's Breakfast Club is a classic, and the Good Life Cafe is a modern version of The Breakfast Club, with hippy omelets. South Lake Tahoe has Ernie's.

I don't carry a pack for two full days when I hit Mammoth Lakes. Many Pacific Crest Trail hikers can use a little break before exiting the High Sierras North of Lake Tahoe, as the length of the Sierras is always a tough go. Now that you are departing the high elevation range, your daily mileages will really begin to pick up.

The hard hiking conditions in the Sierra Nevada between Mount Whitney and Lake Tahoe keep the Pacific Crest Trail hiker's mileages low. Most PCT hikers drop down to, or below 20 miles per day. You may need a little rest before continuing North. South Lake Tahoe is a cool place to kick it for a couple of rest days of rest and recovery.

Remember, sometimes we have to slow down to speed up.

I figure that Northbound backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail may be ready for the Northern version of this type of custom rest, restore, and feeding break at South Lake Tahoe that Mammoth Lakes offers in the South Sierra.

That's why I made the
South Lake Tahoe Backpacker's Resources Page!

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Where We Are
Echo Summit on the Road Map


Echo Summit Video with Randy


The Echo Summit Trail Head is located on Highway 50 less than 100 yards West of Echo Summit. The Trailhead is located on the South, or Right side of Highway 50 if you are traveling Eastbound....West bound travelers cresting Echo Summit should immediately look for Echo Road, on their left. Just past Echo Road on Highway 50 you will see a large blue "Sledding and Snow Play" sign which marks the road to Adventure Mountain, where the Echo Summit trailhead is located. If you see "Little Norway" on the Right while traveling West, you have gone about a mile too far....When East bound travelers see "Little Norway" on their left, look to make a right turn within a long mile. Turn down the road where you see the blue "Sledding" sign  on your right.

The trailhead is a short ways down the road to Adventure Mountain.

North: Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit                                                          South: Echo Summit 2

Google map

Echo Summit, Meeks Bay, and S Upper Truckee trail heads.

all videos

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Echo Summit Backpacking Options
The Meiss Roadless Area

Physical Location of the Trailhead

The Echo Summit trail head sits on Highway 50 just to the West of Echo Summit, and a bit West of Echo Road. The trailhead parking lot is on the South side of Highway 50, down the road marked by the blue "Sledding Snow Play" sign shown on the next page.

There is no public transportation to Echo Summit from East or West, but there's plenty of parking at the trail head for drivers.

Backpackers who take public transportation into South Lake Tahoe should have little problem hitch hiking up to Echo Summit trail head. The whole Tahoe region is full of wilderness and outdoor lovers who pick up backpackers.

Once you get into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, hitch hiking is fairly easy. Hitching in California's urban areas is crazy.

It is like hitching in a foreign country.

The Meiss Roadless Area

South of Echo Summit we enter the Meiss Roadless Area. This area is roughly bordered on the East by Highway 89, on the West by Highway 50, on the North by Christmas Valley (Meyers), and on the South by Highway 88.

The Meiss Roadless Area is also part of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, as are all National Forests, Wilderness, and special zones such as the Meiss Roadless Area, that sit within the the watershed of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Every Wilderness and National Park within the Tahoe Basin was subsumed by the LTBMU. This was to comprehensively monitor and manage the public lands affecting Lake Tahoe. Check out the history of the LTBMU.



Meiss Country Roadless Area map pdf


USGS Topo Map Meiss Roadless Area



Echo Summit
Long Distance Backpacker Options

Echo Summit is one of our potential trailheads for long distance backpacking South towards Yosemite and on to the John Muir Trail South to Mount Whitney.

The Echo Summit trailhead also offers many medium distance hiking trips to the mountain passes which cross the Sierras to the South.

There are also many short distance backpacking trips South into the Meiss Roadless Area that we can and should explore.


Echo Summit
Medium distance Backpacking Trips

From Echo Summit we can craft many fine medium distance backpacking trips South. If we are headed North, we would be better served using the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead, which is the main Southern access point North into the South end of the Desolation Wilderness along the Northbound Pacific Crest, Tahoe Rim, and Tahoe to Yosemite routes.


The Lower Echo Lake Trailhead is two miles North of Echo Summit.

Basic Southbound long distance trips from Echo Summit include:

Echo Summit to Ebbetts Pass at 38.78 miles

Echo Summit to Sonora Pass at 68.22 miles,


Echo Summit to Tuolumne Meadows, measuring in at 142.02 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail route.



Echo Summit
Short distance Backpacking Trips
into the
Meiss Country Roadless Area

Our main short distance backpacking options involve departing Echo Summit Southbound and crossing the Meiss Roadless Area to exit through the one of the Roadless Area's other trailheads. Or we can backtrack to the Echo Summit trailhead.


Our main destination options are:

The trailhead at the
Carson Pass on Highway 88 (12 miles)


The trailhead at Meyers (14.6 miles)


We can exit the Roadless Area through the Big Meadow Trailhead on Highway 89, which is .13 of a mile less than the 14.6 miles down to the Meyers Trailhead.

Each of these trips is between 10 and 12 miles in one direction, are of moderate difficulty, and follow well-used, well-marked, and well-maintained trails.



The Meiss Roadless area is an excellent hiking and backpacking location that offers intermediate-skilled backpackers an excellent introduction into High Sierra Backpacking.
This is a great place to get your gear and legs together for High Sierra travel at the beginning of the backpacking season.

The elevation is high, but not too high. The distances between trailheads are not too long, nor too short. The terrain is challenging, but all the difficult sections are just a few miles long, and all lead us to Meiss Meadow, a huge almost-flat meadow that sits below the Southern corner of the mountains making up the bottom of the Tahoe Basin. Meiss Meadow is namesake and the center of the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

Meiss Meadow is the hub of the Meiss Roadless Area with trails radiating out to its main and minor trailheads.

There are other fine trails in the Meiss Roadless Area, such as the trail over Little Round Top, and the routes down to Strawberry on Highway 50.

Though Meiss Country is just a couple of miles South of the Desolation Wilderness, it is much quieter and less traveled than Desolation. The beauty in Meiss is subtler and of a more quiet and subdued character than that of the Desolation Wilderness. You will notice the difference.



7.5 Backpacking Topo Map
Echo Summit to Carson Pass


30 min Topo hiking Map
Echo Summit to Carson Gap






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Echo Summit

Backpacking Trail Guide




Echo Summit
Highway 50


North and South on this High Sierra Trail Guide.

Backpacking Trail Guide




Echo Summit 2


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Alex Wierbinski

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