Snowplant Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Sprouting Paper Plant above Round Lake
Past Round Lake you get a view of Lake Tahoe.
Brief glimpses of Lake Tahoe through the trees as we climb


The Trails



Current Weather Conditions

Weather Notes
Northern High Sierras
Central High Sierras
Southern High Sierras


Gear List
Gettin Started
Testing yourself and your gear
Gear Reviews


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Meiss Country Roadless Area
Meyers to Round Lake

Four-Season Hiking and Backpacking into Meiss Country Roadless Area





Trail Arts

The art of walking
Physical Preperation


Trail Skills

The trail
Off the trail
Camp skills





Photo Catagories
Trail Stories
Trail Culture
News and Science


Terms and Conditions of Use

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Trail Guide



Climbing Christmas Valley
Topo Map

South Upper Truckee
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit


High Sierra


All Sierra Weather

Lower Trail
All Seasons

South Upper Truckee Trailhead in Spring.

Winter-Spring Trailhead

Almost typical Spring conditions on March 18 2010. Well, we've seen decreasing snow in the Sierra for at least a couple of decades now.

The fact is that unstable weather conditions now characterize the seasons, their length, and the timing of the transitions from season to season in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The beginning, ending, duration and character of the seasonal cycle over the Sierra Nevada, California, the West Coast and the North Pacific are all radically different than they were twenty years ago.

This makes careful observation of these unstable weather conditions important for every backpacker, regardless of the season. Observe and keep track of the weather conditions of the Sierra Nevada on the Tahoe to Whitney Forum:

High Sierra Weather Resources

Below find weather resources focused on this area.

See the beauty of the High Sierra now, while the tattered remnants of the climate our great range still preserve good bits of their natural ancient ecosystems, though the weather has already changed everything out from under the current patterns.

Once the conditions supporting the environment change, the environment follows.


15 min Hiking Map
Meiss Country Roadless Area
30 min Hiking Map
Echo Summit to Round Top Lake

Winter Trailhead


South Upper Truckee Trailhead-Trail


see the previous page for directions to the trailhead

Dense Forests
Heavy Forest Floor Liter




Spring Delights Snowplants and Rain


Weather, Gear, and the Seasons



South Upper Truckee
Carson Pa

15 Minute Topo Hiking Map!


South Upper Truckee Trailhead

Carson Pass
Miles and Elevations



All Weather
Fire Information

All High Sierra Weather Resources

Comprehensive High Sierra Fire and Smoke Information

South Lake Tahoe
Weather Information


Point Forecasts

Echo Summit Point Forecast

Meyers Point Forecast

Carson Pass Point Forecast


Regional Forecast Greater Lake Tahoe

Regional Forecast
West Slope Sierra Tahoe to Yosemite

All South Lake Tahoe Regional Weather Information

All Carson Pass Regional Weather Information

All High Sierra Weather Resources

Real Time
Ground Reporting Stations

Lake Tahoe
Ground Stations

Carson Pass
Ground Stations

Reporting Station

Fallen Leaf

Rubicon 2

Echo Peak

Carson Pass
reporting station

Caples Lake


Forestdale Creek

Silver Lake

All Ground Reporting Stations

MesoWest N Calif Stations

Calif Snotel

Road Conditions

Caltrans Hwy 88

All Lake Tahoe Basin Highway Conditions

Big View

North California Radar

Big View

Western US Satellite

Local Resources
South Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources

> Forum <

All backpackers can post text comments about this page, and each of the following segments of trail through the comments links on all the trail guide pages.
The segment of trail that each page covers has its own Forum/Comments pages. Your shared experiences hiking here adds to the guide, while your questions and comments provoke thought.
Registered Members can post up stand alone pages, articles, and notes, about this trail with text, images, maps and videos in the Trails Forum.

Your contributions are welcome to supplement this section of the trail Guide from Meyers to Meiss Cabin, or any segment along our trail from Tahoe to Whitney.

Check out all the Tahoe to Whitney .org
Backpacking Trails and Topics Forums.

Share what you see out here.


Hiking South
into the
March 18, 2010

Winter Trailhead

  Backpacking our route across the Winter-Spring transition.  

See the full list of Videos from this
Winter backpacking trip

Hiking Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Miles and Elevations
South Upper Truckee to Meiss Meadow


South Upper Truckee Trailhead

The South Upper Truckee trailhead is located where the River coming South down the mountain flattens out to cross Christmas Valley's lower meadows.

The new trail route (2009) avoids the center of the South end this flat near the river and immediately begins gently climbing into the forests along the Eastern flank of the valley South of the trailhead.

The trail starts veering Southeast to traverse up the mountain flank rising to our Left.

I've marked the new trailhead location on the map. The trailhead as originally laid out on the map has been changed.

15 min Hiking Map
Meiss Country Roadless Area

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Summer Trailhead

A very brief flat, before the four mile climb to Round Lake, our traditional first night campsite.
The first steps out of the Tahoe Basin are gentle
Very Brief flat before the 1560 foot Climb to Round Lake begins in earnest.

Sweet Forest and Granite

Deep forest rising out of the Tahoe Basin.
Soft trail, dense forest, South Upper Truckee Trailhead.
Deep Forest past trailhead.


Hiking South from South Upper Truckee Trailhead looking back at footsteps through the forest..


Where we are

South Upper Truckee Road Trailhead

Meiss Country Roadless Area

Gently rising forest just South of the trailhead

6680, rising 160 feet out of the trailhead.

.3 miles from South Upper Truckee Trailhead.

After this brief gentle climb, the trail steepens.

Miles and Elevations


Heavy Forest Floor Litter

Forest Floor litter ready to bust into flames.
Dangerous level of forest level threatens massive fire

This beautiful forest is in serious danger of burning up (again) due to the dense accumulation of dead and dried forest floor litter.

This is the face and fate created by decades of fire suppression sponsoring and supporting policies of iresponsible growth. The incredible scale of this growth has changed the progression of seasons, which is compounding all the worse implications of our irresponsible behavior.

The dry seasons we induced will burn the fuel we've compiled.

What will grow back will be suited from drier climates.

The Sierra is undergoing a radical transformation.


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Controlled Burn

I understand that The LTBMU is going to try to controlled-burn this forest litter in an attempt to prevent a disastrous fire. (2011) Yikes!

This is a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. A "controlled" burn here could easily get out of control.

I just hope they do it in Spring or Fall, while it is still moist. Otherwise keeping any burn controlled in here will be a real handful.

Deep forest floor liter, incredible dry conditions, and lots of dead standing snags will make keeping controlled burns controlled in this narrow drainage very difficult.

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Winter in South Upper Truckee, South Lake Tahoe.

Winter above the trailhead

Crossing snow presents challenges and advantages absent during Summer.

For instance, a couple of nice segments of upcoming terrain are going to be much easier to cross over a more direct route that possible during Summer because snow has covered terrain that would be difficult to cross during Spring and Summertime.

On the other hand, we will have to contend with obstacles not present on the maintained trails of Summertime. We will find great resistance crossing powder snow, greater resistance of each step through snow than across solid terrain, along with the challenges to observation and analysis that route finding through complex snowed-in terrain demands.

All suck up more calories than conventional Summer hiking.

Oh, and our Winter gear is a heck of a lot heavier than the Summer gear.

Hiking Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Miles and Elevations
South Upper Truckee to Meiss Meadow


North: South Upper Truckee Trailhead                               South: Climbing Christmas Valley, Burnt Area


This forest trail is very quiet.

Muffled, really.

Trail South of Upper Truckee River Trailhead.

The feeling of heavy quiet in this forest is a function of the dampening effect imparted by the density of the forest, the density of the forest floor litter, and the shape of the valley this all sits within. These combined factors create a "muffled" or "hushed" feel within this dense piece of forest.

It's a nice feeling.

Sweet Trail

The new trail.
Forest trail to Round Lake out of South Upper Truckee Trailhead.

It looks great, but the trail has been lengthened.

It seems to me a set of switchbacks was installed across the original straight line of the trail from the trailhead South into the lower mouth of the tributairy up to just below the Burnt Flat.

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New Trail

Note that this lower section of trail up to the burnt area has been significantly rerouted between 2007 and 2008, which has extended the length of the trail from the trailhead to Round Lake.

I measure the distance between the South Upper Truckee Trailhead and Round Lake at 3.39 miles, as listed on the miles and elevations page.

The 3.39 mile distance was measured before the switchbacks were installed. I figure the new total distance between the trailhead and Round Lake is around 4 miles.


Early Spring Delights
Brand New Snowplants

Natural Fluorescence
The Snowplant.
Snowplant growing between trailhead and Round Lake

Snowplants were bursting through the forest Floor everywhere, adding intense contrast to the dark shades and shadows in the dense forest.  This image was taken in June, when a fantastic series of rainstorms was blowing through.

The wetness of the recent thaw, combined with the rainstorms was creating ideal conditions for a widstread blooming of Snow Plants, which imparted a magical feel to the dripping wet "hushed" forest.

This Snowplant is bursting out of the ground next to a fallen tree semi-submerged in the fully saturated forest floor litter.

The Snowplants were long-gone when I came through again in July.

Check out the Fungus Forum to post up entries about fungus, while you can leave comments on the Snowplant entry.

Each part of each season has a character that's reflected by the plants, animals and insects. Snow Plants are a hard to miss part of the Spring Thaw.

Living Things

Snowplant references
Forest Service, and Blooming Plants


Spring Rains

Light rains, showers and fogs blessed my first day on the trail for a brief 5 night trip to Round Top Lake and back during early June of 2009.

We've switched-out our heavy Winter Gear for lighter Spring-Fall gear, taken out a couple of layers of insulation from our Winter layers, and retired the heavy Winter Boots.

For backpacking trips earlier in the season we've packed the Full Winter Gear Kit.

Our destination for this snow trip through the Meiss Country will bring us out of, and back into the Tahoe Basin.
Round Top Lake sits above and to the Southwest of Carson Pass, nestled in under the peaks of Round Top and The Sisters.

It was 54° at 3 pm on June 7 in Mists and Rains when I arrived, and 41° when I arrived at Round Lake after hiking the four miles and 1560 feet up from the South Upper Truckee Trailhead.

Rain down Low, snow up high

The earthy smell of the moist forest was refreshing.

Previous years this early June rain would have been snow. Well, it will likely be snowing higher up, maybe.

Nonetheless, the seasons have changed in the High Sierras. Winter begins later, if at all, and has much less snow. The snow that does fall is wetter, the average tempertures are higher, and earlier and earlier Spring Thaws are typical of the changes.

I suggest seeing the Sierras now, before these changes in the character of the seasons completely alters the environment and the experience.

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Late Spring Snow Backpacking


Typically in the high twenties through the low thirties during the night.

Daytime temperatures range from the high forties to low fifties.

Morning Mists on the mountains above our route to Round Lake are just incredible. Their movements were both delicate and articulate reflections of the changing temps and atmospheric moisture.

 I cannot articulate it well, but the trees interact with the mists, maybe because of their dampening effect on the delicate temperature changes driving the mists, and maybe because of their aspiration. Maybe both.

Nonetheless, fine mists decorate and dance on the trees in Christmas Valley during all seasons, once you get an overview, but are less likely during Summertime.

High Sierra Mosquito Cycle



Departing for Mount Whitney through the South Upper Truckee Trail head

July 15 to August 28

Temperatures in the Northern Sierras during July are quite different than in June.

At 11am it was 91° in Pollack Pines, when I crossed the Western Slope of the Sierras, heading to the trailhead. Wow.

It was 88° in South Lake Tahoe during the day, and I recorded 68° next to Round Lake at 7 pm. This is hot weather for High Sierra backpacking.


The next 11 days would bring daily highs in the mid-to-high 80s between Lake Tahoe and Sonora Pass. Afternoon thunderstorms finally broke this brutal heatwave.

I've subsequently experienced heat waves during every subsequent Summer up through the 2013 hiking season.



The Tahoe Basin can experience a wide range of Temperatures during Winter. The key to a successful Winter trip is to gear yourself properly for the coldest temperatures possible during your trip's time frame.

Though Winter has been getting shorter and warmer each year, the Sierra Nevada is prone to intense cold snaps and high winds. Don't get "suckered" into a dangerously under-equipped situation by the increasing periods of tame conditions.

Neither during Winter or Spring.

Cold snaps and blizzards will happen.

To ascertain what's going on with the weather, check out this video.

This High Sierra Weather Page has a wide range of tools to determine weather conditions and forecasts as well as snow depth and temp in specific locations up and down the Sierra Crest.

Low single degree temps are common in the mountains around Lake Tahoe during Winter. I've seen low temps combined with high winds that bring the wind chill factor quite far below zero.

Windchill Chart

Take a look at our
Four-Season Backpacking Gear List.

Climbing to Round Lake from Meyers in snow conditions.

Working our way South-Southeast up the mountain, looking back to the North at our route edging up the flank of the mountain from the trailhead.


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North: South Upper Truckee Trailhead                               South: Climbing Christmas Valley, Burnt Area

Hiking South
through the
South Upper Truckee Road Trailhead

A brief but beautiful walk across a too-short flat section of heavily shaded dense forest marks the beginning of our Backpacking trip South out of the South Upper Truckee trailhead.

On our way to the trail head we've noticed the deepening quiet. Once we enter the forest its dampening effect seems to be magnified and reinforced by the shape of the valley, the thickness of the forest, and the dampening effect of deep forest floor liter.
The terrain here creates a zone of almost palatable quiet.

Quiet so intense you can hear it.

But not silence. Though dense and dampening, we are still close to the bustle of South Lake Tahoe. But even here, right past the trailhead, the protective arms of the forest and the narrow aspect of valley instantly dampen the sounds of civilization.

Shortly we will fill the void of disappearing civil noise with the sounds of our webbing stretching and cracking over the rhythem of our panting as our lungs and legs strain to get enough oxygen to bring us up to Round Lake.
We will spend the first night of the 45 (or so) at Round Lake on our trail down to the Whitney Portal.

7.5 Topo Hiking Map
Meyers to Carson Pass

    30 min Topo Hiking Map
Meiss Roadless Area

Carson Pass Management Area

Miles and Elevations


Next page South
Climbing Christmas Valley, Burnt Area

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Backpacking Trail Guide


South Upper Truckee Trailhead

Compass pointing the way North and South along the High Sierra Nevada trails.

Backpacking Trail Guide


Christmas Valley
Burnt Area

Backpacker Forums

General Sierra Nevada hiking thoughts to relate?

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The Backpacker's Forums.

High Sierra Backpacking
High Sierra Backpacking

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On the Forum you can browse trail locations and add your experiences, comments, questions (& pictures and videos if you Register...) about hiking South out of the Echo Summit Trail Head.

General comments about the South Upper Truckee to Carson Gap section of the High Sierra trails, or this particular location:

South Upper Truckee to the Carson Gap
Gently rising forest past trailhead

North: South Upper Truckee Trailhead                               South: Climbing Christmas Valley, Burnt Area

Alex Wierbinski

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Frosted Backpack

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

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

Snug tent after Snow Storm
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail