Directions to Meeks Bay
The Meeks Bay Trail head into the Desolation Wilderness is the easiest backpacker access point for hiking into to the North end of Desolation Wilderness, but the hardest of all three of our Lake Tahoe Region trailhead options to get to, especially if you hitch-hike and/or rely on public transportation as I do.
Meeks Bay's location on Highway 89 on the Western Shore of Lake Tahoe is fairly remote, at least as far as public transportation and easy hitch-hiking goes. Or does not go...
Two main routes connect Lake Tahoe with the rest of the world.
Highway 80 runs East-West to the North of the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, while Highway 50 runs East-West along the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. These two main routes are supplemented by two other significant routes.
The Kingsbury Grade connects the Nevada side of South Lake Tahoe to the 395 corridor through the towns of Minden and Gardnerville in the South end of the Carson Valley. Highway 89 does not just connect Highways 80 and 50 along the West Shore of Lake Tahoe.
From South Lake Tahoe Highway 89 continues South out of the Tahoe Basin over Luther Pass to run East with Highway 88 to run all the way Southeast down into the North end of Antelope Valley (Topaz Lake, and the excellent little town of Walker...) via Markleeville, and then through the Magnificent Monitor Pass.
Monitor is not much as far as High Sierra Passes go, but it feeds into a world class gorge cutting down the Eastern Escarpment into Antelope Valley.
These are our main North, South, East, and West road access points to Lake Tahoe,
though there are other routes.
To Meeks Bay on Highway 89
Highway 80 and Tahoe City
HIghway 89 is a winding and twisting narrow road through dense forest along the West Shore of Lake Tahoe no matter which way you get there. It is a slow road to drive, and is as easily clogged by weekend traffic during Summer as it is during Winter ski season.
The Lake Tahoe Basin has both daily and seasonal traffic, depending on where you are.
From Highway 80 the Highway 89 exit South to Tahoe City is clearly marked.
13.6 miles South of Highway 80 on Highway 89 we will veer Right, or South, in Tahoe City to continue South on Highway 89 along the West Shore of Lake Tahoe towards the Meeks Bay trailhead.
The Meeks Bay trailhead is another 11 miles South of Tahoe City on Highway 89.
Again, it is a slow 11 miles South to the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
Public transportation does come most of the way down Highway 89 to Meeks Bay from the North,
if we are approaching Meeks Bay from the North through Tahoe City.
Though we can take public transportation South on Highway 89 from Tahoe City towards Meeks Bay, that bus line ends (pdf) about three miles North of our Meeks Bay trailhead. The last stop on the line is just a wee bit South of the Tahoma Store and Deli.
Ironically, the problem with using the available public transpo coming from the North is there is no public transportation running East and West along the Highway 80 corridor between San Francisco and Reno.
Getting up Highway 80 to the North Shore of Tahoe without a car can be challenging. HItch-hiking is not what it used to be, nor are we.
I use caution and discretion hitch-hiking, and so should you. But, on the other hand I have met the best folks who have become life-long friends who've picked me up hitch-hiking to, around, and from the Sierra Nevada. Life is a double-edged sword. We must be cautious not to cut ourselves on it, but be especially cautious not to cut ourselves off from potentially great experiences.
Jeeze, I have some good hitch-hiking experiences!
If you know of a transportation service between San Francisco and Reno across Highway 80 that drops us off near the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, post it up here. I don't.
From Tahoe City we can use local public transportation from Tahoe City South down HIghway 89 to Meeks Bay Trailhead or easily hitch-hike. It all depends on getting a ride up HIghway 80 to the North Shore.
There is bus access from the Bay Area to Reno via South Lake Tahoe up Highway 50 by Amtrack. But there is no local public transportation North from South Lake Tahoe up Highway 89 to Meeks Bay at all.
Backpackers without cars will find traveling to the Meeks Bay Trailhead a bit challenging.
Oh, and the good thing about not having a car, besides meeting lots of locals on the way to the trailhead, is that I don't have to come back to get it when the trip is done.
To Meeks Bay on Highway 89
Highway 50 and South Lake Tahoe
There is no public transportation to Meeks Bay up Highway 89 from South Lake Tahoe, for those backpackers who access South Lake Tahoe via Highway 50. There is public transportation directly to the junction of Highway 89 and 50 in South Lake Tahoe, the "Tahoe Y" from the San Francisco Bay Area via a combination of Amtrack's train to Sacramento, which connects with the Amtrack bus to Reno via South Lake Tahoe.
From the Tahoe Y it is 16.2 miles North on Highway 89 to the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
The Amtrack bus from the Bay Area will drop us off at the Tahoe Y, where Highways 89 and 50 intersect, but that's where the public transportation ends. Those depending on pubic transportation will have to hitch-hike from there to Meeks Bay themselves. But not to worry, hitch-hiking is very easy in the Tahoe Basin.
Just walk diagonally across the intersection from the Tahoe Y bus station, and hitch North on Highway 89. The locals are real friendly, and a few of the out-of-towners are too. But South Lake Tahoe has grown beyond its small town roots, and much of the traffic looks like a suburban commute. Lot's of blank, if not hostile stares, nowadays.
In any case, the South Lake Tahoe region is a still a good place to hitch-hike for backpackers. In fact, the Sierras are good hitching, as well as good hiking!
In Meeks Bay, the trail head itself is set-back off of the West side of Highway 89 directly across from a trailer park, a 100 yards South of the well-signed Meeks Bay Resort, and 75 yards South of a National Park Service fire station.
As we can see from these photographs of the landmarks around the Meeks Bay trailhead on the Find Meeks Bay page, that there is a substantial seasonal permit cabin, and a prominent information board that are clearly visible from Highway 89.
If we are coming to Meeks Bay from the North, from Highway 80 to Highway 89 South, we look for the tiny town of Tahoma. After passing about 4 miles South of Tahoma, we see the Meeks Bay Resort and NPS fire station on our left about a 100 yards before coming upon Log Cabin Road, (Also known as Forest Route 14N42) and the Meeks Bay trail head on our right.
There is a substantial parking lot at the trailhead.
If we are coming to Meeks Bay from the South, from Highway 50 and South Lake Tahoe up Highway 89 North, the trailhead appears on our left directly across Highway 89 from a trailer park less than a half-mile after we pass a little red two garage fire house in Rubicon Bay. If we reach the Meeks Bay Resort and the Forest Service fire station on our right, we have just passed the trailhead!
There is more info about local transportation on the
Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources page.
Local resources are sparse in Meeks Bay, with the Meeks Bay Resort
offering little more than candy bars, chips and soda.
But there is real food available in Tahoma, consisting of a Pizzeria and a Deli,
about four miles North on Highway 89.
The pizza place is good in Tahoma, but the real treat to my tastes is the monster sandwiches available in the deli in the Tahoma store, pictured above. They are kind of expensive, but they are huge.
South Lake Tahoe Resources
Next Trail Guide Page South
Hiking South from Meeks Bay
Topo Map: Meeks to Phipps Pass Topo Map: Lake Genevieve to Phipps Pass
Topo Map: Phipps Pass to Lake Aloha
Miles and Elevations
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