The logistics involved with my recent hikes of the Uinta Highline Trail and the John Muir Trail—both necessitating flights and hotels—were very inefficient. I spent more time and money getting to and from the trail than I think was necessary. I’ve been through Reno and Lake Tahoe before, so I’m not as concerned with sightseeing as I am with knocking out miles on this trip. The itinerary below reflects that focus.
The Tahoe Rim Trail Association website offers great information about trailhead locations, trail sections, water sources, and public transportation. The trail section distances and descriptions below are largely pulled straight from that website, but I’ve also subdivided the Desolation Wilderness area based on the paper map.
Several of these sections end on summits. I obviously wouldn’t make camp there. I’d either camp before or after the climbs. These sections are loose estimations. I have a lot of wiggle room.
Since you’re on mobile, it may help to view this table in landscape mode.
|1||Arrive at Tahoe City||0||Public transportation from Reno to trailhead, start hike|
|2||Tahoe City (64 Acre Park) to brockway summit||20.2||Big views and curious lava formations|
|3||Brockway Summit to Mt Rose Summit / Tahoe Meadows||20.3||Ascend to the highest point on the Tahoe Rim Trail|
|4||Mt. Rose Summit / Tahoe Meadows to Spooner Summit||23.3||Enjoy the most photographed spot on the Tahoe Rim Trail|
|5||Spooner Summit to Kingsbury South Connector||17.9||The section for tree lovers—ancient firs and expansive aspen groves|
|6||*Resupply—Kingsbury South/Stagecoach Trailhead||0||Nearo—Resupply, recharge, eat, return to trail|
|7||Kingsbury South Connector to Big Meadow||22.6||Breathtaking views of the Carson Valley and hidden gem, Star Lake|
|8||Big Meadow to Echo Lakes||18.3||Enter the lakes region|
|9||Echo Lakes to Richardson Lake||26.6||Explore Desolation Wilderness (day permit required)|
|10||Richardson Lake to Tahoe City||23.2||West shore splendor|
|11||Tahoe City (64 Acre Park) to Reno||0||Eat, recharge, catch public transit to Reno hotel|
|12||Fly home||0||Reno hotel to airport|
*Day 6—There’s a .8-mile walk to the Tramway Market convenience store. The store will accept resupply packages if you call ahead. From the trailhead, you can also take public transportation to Stateline Transit Center, where grocery stores and gear shops are within walking distance.
As you can see, this trip is all business. This is my first long-distance hike since I suffered a compound fracture in my left leg in November 2018. I’ve had this kick-off date circled on my calendar since I got the external fixation removed from the leg and foot. This TRT thru-hike has served as an arbitrary deadline to build my leg, my body, and my confidence back up to pre-accident levels.
If I start on a Tuesday, that would require nine days off work. Of the twelve days I’ll be on this trip, eight will be hiking days. And any miles walked on nearo days (1, 6, 11) subtract from the number of miles I have to walk on hiking days. For example, being able to bang out ~7 miles on each nearo would reduce my average daily mileage to a very manageable 18.9 miles per hiking day. That was my average daily mileage on the JMT, and the TRT is supposed to be much easier than the JMT.
Another benefit to loosely following this schedule would be that I would not spend the night in the Desolation Wilderness. I would start just south of it at Echo Lakes and finish just north of it at Richardson Lake. I’ll still need a permit. Everyone who enters the wilderness needs a permit, whether they’re day-hiking or camping. Fortunately, THT thru-hikers are not subject to the lottery, so I don’t have to worry about getting a slot. I just have to call the park office within two weeks of being in the wilderness and pay my fee and print my paperwork.
The only public transportation I’m beholden to is the North Lake Tahoe Express, which will cost me around $100 to get to/from the trail/Reno, and an Uber from my Reno lodging to the airport. That’s not bad at all. All I’m really paying for is a roundtrip flight, my trail food, some public transportation, a night out in Reno, and an AirBnB.
And I get the amenities of hot, fresh meals and device recharging in Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe without the added expenses of actually staying in those resort cities. That’s a huge bonus.