Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Ducks North of Stony Ridge Lake.
Ducks on Marsh South side of Stony Ridge Lake

 

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The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

Hiking to Stony Ridge Lake

Backpacking Desolation Wilderness out of Meeks Bay

 

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Trail Guide

Section
Index

North
TYT

Crag
Lake

South
TYT

Stony
Ridge Lake
to
Rubicon Lake
Topo
Backpacking
Map

Meeks Bay
to
Dicks Pass

Maps
INDEX

Desolation
Wilderness
MAP

Miles
&
Elevations
Miles
&
Elevations
Index
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
PERMITS

All
forest-wilderness Permits

local
temps

Tahoe
Weather

All
Weather

Desolation Wilderness

Meeks Bay
to
Stony Ridge Lake

Backpacking
to and from
South Shore
Stony Ridge Lake

Elevation
7800 feet
+1561 feet above
Meeks Bay Trailhead

Mileage
6.62 miles
South from Meeks Bay Trail head

 

South Shore
Stony Ridge Lake
to
Rubicon Lake


1.13 miles

South up 520 feet from

Stony Ridge Lake
to
Rubicon Lake
Rubicon Lake
to
Phipps Pass


1.13 miles

South up 480 feet from

Rubicon Lake
to
Phipps Pass
Totals
South Shore
Stony Ridge Lake
to
Phipps Pass


2.26 miles
+1000 feet

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
miles and elevations

comments-questions-experiences-advice?


STRATEGIC THINKING
The figures above indicate a 1000 foot climb over 2.26 miles from the South end of Stony Ridge Lake to Phipps Pass. This will be our first significant climb segment hiking South on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

It is short and steep, which is a change from the long gentle ascent we've made up here from Meeks Bay Trailhead.

From Phipps Pass we get views of Middle Velma Lake and the surrounding mountains and ridges separating us from the West shore of Lake Tahoe and the South end of Desolation Wilderness before we descend to Middle Velma Lake.
Middle Velma Lake is the low point from where we begin our second significant climb along the TYT to the next high point South of Phipps Pass, which is Dicks Pass.

Dicks Pass is stationed between us and the South end of Desolation Wilderness.

Once we get South of Dicks Pass there are no more significant climbs along the remainder of the mostly down-mountain route of the TYT-PCT-TRT to the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead on the South end of Desolation Wilderness.

South Desolation Wilderness
Backpacking Map

Once we get over to the Southwest flank of Phipps Pass we will find great campsites abound around the Velmas, Fontanillis and Dicks Lakes, all of which we will climb past Southbound from Middle Velma Lake up to Dicks Pass.

But first we have to get around Stony Ridge Lake and over Phipps Pass.

Stony Ridge Lake

Backpacking a short .68 mile past, and 40 feet of elevation above Crag Lake we encounter the North shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

But first we pass by the unmarked junction North to Hidden Lake before climbing high enough to look into Shadow Lake off to our Northeast.

Been here? Done that? Got good information, questions or comments?

Camping insights?

Post it!

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Shadow Lake

Over our Left, Southbound Hiker's North Shoulder we see Shadow Lake
Passing by Shadow Lake, Desolation Trail Passing further by Shadow Lake, Desolation Trail
Passing close by Shadow Lake, Desolation Wilderness. Passing beyond Shadow Lake towards Stony Ridge Lake.

We see Shadow Lake looking Northwest over our Left shoulder as our hike South turns up a degree of difficulty from easy around Lake Genevieve to an intermediate degree of difficulty once we begin funneling up the moderate grade hiking past Crag Lake.

Past Crag Lake we climb onto an intermediate-difficulty moderately-inclined ramp of terrain up to the North Shore of Stony Ridge Lake. As we begin climbing we come upon Hidden Lake's cutoff to our South, our Southbound Right, before we climb high enough to get looks at Shadow Lake, above.

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Less than a half-mile South of Shadow Lake continuing our intermediate difficulty climb we reach the North Shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

From the North Shore of Stony Ridge Lake we can see the top end of the canyon we first entered and began ascending hiking out of the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

Hiking out the South end of the canyon kicks our climb kicks up another degree of difficulty.

View South Across Stony Ridge Lake
Looking Southeast across the surface of Stony Ridge Lake.
Rubicon Lake sits on the Right side of the far flank of the distant Saddle we see above the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

Video
North Shore
of
Stony Ridge Lake
looking
South

 

Backpacking Desolation Wilderness to Stony Ridge Lake

Comments

 

Stony Ridge Lake
Another check dam lake.
More on Check Dam Lakes.

Northwest shore looking South towards
Phipps Peak and Pass
The massive check dam at
Stony Ridge Lake
Stony Ridge Lake, Desolation Trail
The rocky ridgeline comes right down to the West Shore.
Check Dam, Stony Ridge Lake, Desolation Wilderness
Massive check dam preserving Stony Ridge Lake.
HIGH SIERRA CHECK DAMS
Flattened Camp site next to Stony Ridge Lake

Well Loved Beauty
A well worn shore area of campsite roughly halfway down the South Shore of Stony Ridge Lake, and a nice place to kick it for at least a minute.

The terrain shows signs of extreme use, the ground compacted, and the wear of the hands and feet of mankind are very apparent, as it is with the majority of the terrain in Desolation Wilderness.

The backpacking restrictions and quotas maintain a degree of some kind of balance between naturalness and humanity.

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Video
Al discusses the Trail Head Options Passing by Stony Ridge Lake

It's Stony Ridge Lake! It's one beat Al!

Comments-Questions-Experiences?

Check the Forum for more information on our
Trailhead Options

Stony Ridge Lake Center Campsite
Stony Ridge Lake campsite.

About half way between the North and South ends of Stony Ridge Lake we find this very well used campsite area between the trail and the lake.

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

I like to hike through Desolation Wilderness during the early or late ends of the Summer Backpacking Season. This way we get some degree of the desolation the wilderness was named after.

Desolation is much like Yosemite in this respect, in its popularity and traffic. That is a function of its other similarity to Yosemite, that of its profound beauty.

These similarities demand we adjust to, and accept that both Desolation Wilderness and Yosemite are places where we are going to be surrounded by people, and not have a bad attitude about all of our fellow backpackers out on these popular trails.

We can take solace in the fact that we will soon be far South of this beehive of activity in the Desolation Wilderness, when we depart the Tahoe Basin to pass into the deep isolation of the unmaintained Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Summit City Canyon.

Our "Yin" of busy will get "Yanged" by isolation. We've just gotta have some patience and take our time to carefully enjoy both the social as well as the isolated aspects of this remarkable trail.

It's a wide range of experiences that stretch each of us one way or another.

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Video
View from the Middle-South Shore
of
Stony Ridge Lake
Desolation Wilderness

  Rock, forest, and Water.  
   

Hiking to the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

Duration 1:07

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Desolation Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Comments

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Desolation Wilderness

Meeks Bay
to the
South Shore
Stony Ridge Lake

Backpacking to Stony Ridge Lake

TYT proceeds .58 of a mile along the length of the Southwest shore of Stony Ridge Lake from its North to South ends.

Elevation
7800 feet
+1201' rise over Meeks Bay trail head elevation

Mileage
6.62 miles North of Meeks Bay trail head

2.26 miles South to Phipps Pass

Comments-Questions?

Miles and Elevations

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Backpacking
on the
South Shore
of

Stony Ridge Lake, Desolation Wilderness

Looking North along West shore of Stony Ridge Lake.
Looking North along West shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

Rocky forested terrain.

We can see how the rocky ridges drop right down to the shoreline, leaving little room for trail or campsites along the length of its shores.

Then we find marshy conditions precluding camping on the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

 

Hiking South to the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.
Heading South to the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

Looking almost directly North across Stony Ridge Lake from its far Southern end.

Bits of marsh grasses begin to indicate the boggy conditions deepening above the Southern Shore of Stony Ridge Lake we discover hiking up to the narrowing head of the valley.

The drainage off the mountains around the top of the valley appears to drain too quickly for a lake to form, and too slowly to form a well defined creek. Thus the terrain above Stony Ridge Lake is boggy.

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Comments

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Marsh at the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

MARSH
The chain of lakes we hiked past coming South up from Lake Genevieve terminates sloppily but beautifully in the boggy area South of the South shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

A most beautiful mosquito factory.

Good thing the prevailing winds tend to blow up or across the valley below, or this marsh would keep the valley below alive with mosquitoes.

High Sierra Mosquitoes

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map
Desolation Wilderness
30 minute Backpacking Map

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

comments?

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A Marshy Meadow
at the
Head of the Valley

Delightful meadow-quagmire at the South end of Stony Ridge Lake. The low rolling granite formations appear to extend under the meadow as well as protruding above. This under-girding with granite checks and holds water above Stony Ridge Lake allowing it to fill in with sediments creating a nice marsh-meadow quagmire of Life.
Meadow-quagmire at the South end of Stony Ridge Lake.

You and I want to stay the hell out of this beautiful muck and mosquito factory, but it's beautiful to look at, and Heaven for bugs, birds, bears, and even migrating Ducks.

Above we are looking North-Northeast, to our Southbound Hiker's Left across the top of the valley just South of Stony Ridge Lake. We are hiking South, to the Right from the perspective above, approaching the steep but short climb up to Rubicon Lake.

Rubicon Lake exactly splits the distance up to Phipps Pass from Stony Ridge Lake.

comments?

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Marshy Meadow

Verdant Greens light up the wet marsh and grassy meadow on the South Side of Stony Ridge Lake running up to the head of this narrow wedge of a valley.

Movement in the water draws my eye, causing a pause in pace. It's Ducks feeding in the Marsh.

Mergansers? Wood Ducks?

Looking like Wood Ducks to my layman's eye.

They too notice me, and take my measure. The Ducks decide to measure out a bit more distance between us, and move leisurely but deliberately further away from my position.

This wet mess above the South Shore of Stony Ridge Lake precludes it as a location for good campsites. Find camping along the drier North and Northwest shores of Stony Ridge Lake.

Post Up
Comments-Questions-Insights-Information?

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High Sierra Ducks

Meadow above Stony Ridge Lake, Lake Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness Meadow above Stony Ridge Lake, Desolation Wilderness, Lake Tahoe
Verdant green marshy meadow fills up the head of the valley above the North end of Stony Ridge Lake. Hiking past, I noticed movements in the marshy flow, it's Ducks!
Ducks in marsh-meadow above Stony Ridge Lake, Lake Tahoe, Desolation Wilderness Ducks above Stony Ridge Lake, Desolation Wilderness
Ducks chilling, but moving away from Al. I always stop and watch when the ducks are out. Hell, I try to observe everything.
More Ducks above Stony Ridge Lake, Tahoe to Yosemite Trail The ducks feeding above Stony Ridge Lake

Always plan extra time for each day's backpacking so we can stop look at the marsh, watch the Ducks, and everything else that crosses our range of vision along our route.

Not just the time necessary to get in and get out, but the time to soak it all up properly.

Living Things Forum

Desolation Wilderness Ducks Forum Entry

Feeling Ducky?
HIGH SIERRA BIRD FORUM

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Desolation Wilderness

Meeks Bay
to
Stony Ridge Lake

Nice hiking in the High Sierra Mountains paralleling Lake Tahoe's Western Shore.

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map

Stony Ridge Lake

Elevation
7800 feet
+1201' rise over Meeks Bay trail head elevation.

Mileage
Southern Shore of Stony Ridge Lake is
6.62 miles South of Meeks Bay trail head.

2.26 miles South to Phipps Pass
up 1000 feet of elevation.

miles and elevations

Into the Heart
of the
Desolation Wilderness

Our easy hike out of Meeks Bay terminates at the South Side of Stony Ridge Lake.

The hike up to Phipps Pass is a brief intermediate-2 difficulty hike.

Difficulty Scale

Climbing up to Phipps Pass opens up broad vistas of the Southwestern Shore of Lake Tahoe, and dropping down off the pass brings us into the Heart of the Desolation Wilderness.

Middle Velma Lake is another 3.44 miles beyond Phipps Pass, which makes it a total of 5.7 miles to Middle Velma from the South Shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

This means that we've 2.26 miles of climbing up to Phipps Pass followed by 3.44 miles of descending trail before we begin the climb up to Dicks Pass from Middle Velma Lake.

Middle Velma is the low point of our hike between Phipps and Dicks Pass.

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Nice Trail Work

Nice use of granite slabs to bridge busy creek across the trail.
Nice use of granite slabs to cover  busy creek across the trail.

Granite Flake Bridge

I could see that it took a lot of work to get the rock built-up to the point where these large granite "flakes" would bridge the gap over the creeklet below.

Note the extensive build up and backfill of the ramp up to the actual "bridge."

The bridge itself is a trio of custom granite slabs.

Unique.

Lake Tahoe Basin Trail Crew and Work Forum

Trail Culture Forum

Love My Trail!

This trail crew feature made me go off trail to get a better look at this pro bit of trail work.
Side view of the build-up and cap-stoned section on the South side of Stony Ridge Lake.

Side view of the build-up and cap-stoned bridging off the South Shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

NICE.

A well planned and executed piece of trail work.

A tri-granite block tread for the bridging section is pretty fancy.

We are going to keep an eye on the work, the activities, and the locations of trail crew as we hike from Tahoe to Whitney. Report trail crew contacts and observations, as well as examples of their work.

Trail Crews and their Work
FORUM

Cool Folk, those Trail Crew
Here's how I see it:

City folks are 1 in 50 000 "trail cool,"
while
1 in 500 town folk be "trail cool,"
and
95 in a 100 backpackers are "trail cool,"
but
1 of 100 trail crew are not "trail cool."

COOL to FOOL
interacting with
TRAIL CREW

Trail Crew has one of the best group ratios of "Cool to Fool" that I know of. Professional federal Trail Crews are consistently composed of solid folks.

Now, this evaluation does not necessarily mean that Trail Crew are friendly, though they are always polite, helpful, and safe. It's just that Trail Crew spends their Summers on the trail, and they encounter and meet a lot of backpackers.
This familiarity with backpackers along with the web of federal rules and regulations that directs a lot of Trail Crew practices discourages a lot of on-trail interactions of any depth. Trail Crew works hard during the day, and most backpackers will not take a day off to hang out after the work day is over, even if invited.

Trail Crews are also fairly insular. They have their own little community and culture, and can be finicky, only wanting to hang with "trail cool" folks. Other times they are going bat-shit crazy after spending the whole Summer with their own small group.

They crave new blood then!

Non-Professional trail crews, such as the CCC, and private groups such as SCA run closed camps. The CCC has a training and rehab aspect that requires some discipline and concentration, while SCA seems to be focused on student safety.

CCC and SCA are a youth's path to eventual employment on a professional federal trail crew.

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Video
Climbing from Stony Ridge Lake to Phipps Pass

Up the switch backs above Stony Ridge Lake through dense forest littered with great granite boulders.

Though not a great piece of film making, we can see and get an idea of the nature of the terrain we climb from Stony Ridge Lake up to Rubicon Lake.

post
comments-more information?

Views of Stony Ridge Lake
Climbing South
towards
Rubicon Lake

Climbing South from Stony Ridge Lake.
Climbing South from Stony Ridge Lake.

We can see how the switchbacks rapidly gain elevation above Stony Ridge Lake. The heavily forested hillside gives good cover from the Sun.

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Stony Ridge Lake

Climbing South from Stony Ridge Lake we can see the marsh pushing up and around its South shore.
Climbing South from Stony Ridge Lake we can see the marsh at its South end.

Looking back to the North while climbing South from Stony Ridge Lake towards Rubicon Lake and on to Phipps Pass.

Our trail up to here followed along the Western, or left shore of Stony Ridge Lake from this perspective. We can see the marshy area South of Stony Ridge Lake which fills up the head of the valley.

Rubicon Lake is behind us, wedged into its shelf in the mountain ridge we're climbing.

Backpacking NorthCrag Lake                                    Backpacking South: Stony Ridge to Rubicon Lake

Stony Ridge Lake

Departing the Southern End of Stony Ridge Lake Southward presents us with a 2.26 mile hike up 1000 feet to Phipps Pass.

Hard-3 or/and Intermediate-1

The trail is nicely switch-backed at a gentle grade. But it presents a stiff climb, even being well graded. The hike between Stony Ridge Lake and Phipps Pass is an intermediate1 or 2 level hike.

Harder if we are less fit.

The fine forest trails we have traveled on so far will now be decorated with the Great Granite Formations, first rising out of dense forest, which characterize the lower part of the climb up to Phipps Pass.

The higher up we go the greater the exposure of the granite features, until we rise to the top of the almost naked granite mountains overlooking the stunning terrain of the Tahoe Basin wrapping around the West and South End of Lake Tahoe.

Soon these close-in views of ours, which so far have been beautifully constrained within the forest and rock filled valley hiking up from Meeks Bay will open up much of the Northern Desolation Wilderness for our inspection.

comments-questions-experiences?

Topo Hiking
Map

Meeks Bay Trailhead
to
Dicks Pass
Topo Hiking
Map

Lake Genevieve
to
Phipps Pass

Miles and Elevations

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North TYT: Crag Lake                                                                       South TYT: Stony Ridge to Rubicon Lake

Backpacking
to

Stony Ridge Lake
Desolation Wilderness

Stony Ridge Lake
Costs and Benefits of Humans

Backpacking 1.64 miles South past Lake Genevieve we come to the North Shore of Stony Ridge Lake. The Desolation Trail runs for .59 mile along the Western shore of Stony Ridge Lake.

Meeks Bay to Dicks Pass
15 minute Backpacking Map

While looking at Stony Ridge Lake, and when in Desolation Wilderness generally, I can't help feeling how strange it is that such a remarkable wilderness could exist so close to one of the heaviest-used year-round recreation/resort/vacation areas in California, being Lake Tahoe.

Huge population centers bracket the Tahoe Basin, and have been steadily pouring increasing populations into The Basin cities for decades. Added to this are the visitors.

The massive populations of the Reno-Carson area to the Northeast, Sacramento in the middle of the Valley to the West, and the SF-Bay Area a bit further West all feed a huge number of tourists, gamblers, skiers, and sportsmen into the Tahoe Basin, and backpackers into Desolation Wilderness.

This contradiction between the demands of massive populations and the protection of wilderness satisfies neither. Both are going to break... are breaking.

Even the system of fees and permit rationing employed during high season cannot mitigate the affects of so many people, of so many backpackers. I'm not complaining about the LTBMU policies or practices. They have done a great job of mitigating impact, within the constraints they face. Though incredibly beautiful, we will not experience any desolation in Desolation Wilderness, especially during the mid-Summer high season.

Backpacking through Desolation Wilderness late in the season during the week abates much of the overcrowding Desolation is so well-known for. We can still see the affects of heavy use, even when the people are gone. The extensive compressed flattened areas around the aprons of the lakes and the deep grooves of well-trodden trails are only the most obvious evidence of many unseen hikers. Late and early season backpackers hopefully avoid experiencing Desolation running at capacity. For many backpackers the heavy human presence is reassuring.

Desolation Wilderness is a fantastic place for beginning backpackers who still feel a bit uneasy in a wilderness setting to experience an amazing natural environment with the reassuring feeling of having lots of humans nearby while not being "too" far from "civilization."
For all of these reasons Desolation Wilderness offers fantastic short trips for beginning backpackers into depths of beauty that usually demand much longer hikes much further off the beaten path.

But I'm just stating the obvious reasons why Desolation Wilderness is so busy.

Those hikers who want to start their Tahoe to Whitney hike out of a more quiet setting may be inclined to consider using either the Echo Summit or South Upper Truckee Road trail heads to begin backpacking trips. Both are much less traveled during the high season.

Yet during late Summer and with the onset of Fall crowds diminish, and Desolation Wilderness gets pretty darn quite. There's still lots of backpackers, but not like Summertime.

My take on Desolation Wilderness is that it's good either way, busy or quiet. We are going to have two or three days at a time hiking from Tahoe to Whitney when won't see anyone or talk at all. On the other hand, we're going to hike through Yosemite Valley on our way South to Whitney. This means that we're going to enjoy both the quiet and the busy times hiking down the trail from Tahoe to Whitney, getting our share of each while avoiding neither.

Well, we may detour around the Clarks Fork Road (map). No need to experience excessive unnecessary human contact!

I meet the best beginning and weekender backpackers while hiking through both Desolation Wilderness and hiking through Yosemite Valley. Weekenders and beginning backpackers congregate in these easily accessible zones of incredible beauty.

Along with some amazing experts too.

The folks I've met in/around Yosemite Valley are generally backpacking to Little Yosemite on a Half-Dome quest or up to Merced Lake... but, nonetheless, meeting these folks is a real blast. Then there are the John Muir Trail hikers.

JMT hikers are a unique group of backpackers.

I had cut Desolation and the Yosemite Valley off my routes years ago as the crowds thickened, pushing me South down to starts South out of Echo and Meyers, for some quiet. Then something changed in me.
Rather than avoiding the crowds, I put the Desolation and Yosemite Valley sections back on the hiking plan. I am glad I did. I've met so many good backpacker folks hiking through these wilderness areas that I'd never meet anywhere else.

Sometimes it's the lack of people that make the area special, and other times it's the
special people that make the area.

Post Up?

More
Permits and Permitting

All
High Sierra Permits
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
"LTBMU"
Topo Hiking
Map

Meeks Bay Trailhead
to
Dicks Pass
Topo Hiking
Map

Lake Genevieve
to
Phipps Pass

Miles
and
Elevations

South
Guide Page
Stony Ridge
to
Rubicon Lake

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Ducks on South side of Stony Ridge Lake.

North TYT: Crag Lake                                                                      South TYT: Stony Ridge to Rubicon Lake

Backpacking North

Trail Guide

Crag Lake

Up and down is North and South on the trail guide.

Backpacking South

Trail Guide

Stony Ridge Lake
to
Rubicon
Lake

Backpacker Forums

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If you have experiences, comments, questions, trip reports, trail conditions updates or pictures and/or videos of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Meeks Bay to Lake Genevieve, and camping around Lake Genevieve and up the valley, post up your images, experiences, notes, and advice here as an unknown hiker or as a member:

Section
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Segment
Stony Ridge Lake

North TYT: Crag Lake                                                                      South TYT: Stony Ridge to Rubicon Lake

Trailhead

Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

Your guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails

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