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TRT: Big Meadow to Echo Lake

Intermediate
 4.4 (5)

A gorgeous trek through wild alpine meadows, towering peaks, and serene lakes in Eldorado NF.


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Map Key

18.1

Miles

29.1

KM

89%

Runnable

8,991' 2,740 m

High

7,227' 2,203 m

Low

3,033' 924 m

Up

2,756' 840 m

Down

6%

Avg Grade (3°)

46%

Max Grade (25°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers

Section Of

Description

Begin this segment of the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) knowing that awe-inspiring alpine lakes and utterly majestic meadows are your reward for strenuous running through the Eldorado National Forest backcountry.

Starting at the Big Meadow Trailhead Parking Area, travel south along the trail, passing through a pleasant meadow before starting a rolling climb past a trail junction to the shores of Round Lake.While at the lake, take time to enjoy its serene, still waters, shaded by towering volcanic cliffs on its eastern side.

From Round Lake, continue climbing through somewhat varied terrain rife with dense conifer forests to a trail junction with PCT: Sonora Pass to Echo Lake. At this point, the Tahoe Rim Trail joins with the PCT, turning northwest to start the second and final leg to Echo Lake.

Near the junction, keep your eyes peeled for a shingle-sided cabin nestled between the shade of a tall evergreen tree and the flowing headwaters of the Upper Truckee River. Built in 1880 by the son of german emigrants and the meadow’s namesake, Louis Meiss, the cabin served as his family's summer residence while he grazed their cattle in the high mountain meadows of the surrounding Sierra. Held in their family for over 50 years, the USFS aquired the land in 1965.

From the junction, the trail follows gentler terrain as it descends through the famous Meiss Meadows. During the spring and early summer, these meadowlands are bursting with wildflowers such as bright red indian paintbrush, purple lupines, and blonde mule's ear.

Take refuge in the beauty of Meiss Meadows for as long as you need to fully catch your breath, because ahead lies another strenuous climb. But, similar to before, the climb rewards runners with fantastic views atop protruding granite slabs near the fabled Showers Lake. Take your time at Showers Lake, perhaps break out your lunch, and enjoy the confluence of mountains, green alpine meadows, and mineral-rich granites knowing that only one more major climb awaits before a long and well-deserved downhill.

From Showers Lake, follow the trail as it climbs through a staggering granite bowl in the shadow of Little Round Top before beginning a long descent through moderate terrain punctuated about 5 miles in by a steep descent through a ravine peppered with large granite blocks.

After descending the ravine, follow the trail as it traverses and descends a nearby ridge to Benwood Meadows. Luckily from here, the descent becomes more gentle as the trail contours a hillside, handrailing the South Fork American River near Highway 50. Eventually, the trail crosses under the highway and initiates one final moderate climb from echo summit to the southeastern tip of Lower Echo Lake and the end of this TRT segment.

Flora & Fauna

While coniferous forests can be dense at times along the trail, when they open into meadows expect to find flourishing lupines, mule's ear, and indian paintbrush during the summer months.

Contacts

Shared By:

Hunter R

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 5 votes

#6662

Overall
  4.4 from 5 votes
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Trail Rankings

#590

in California

#6,662

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27 Views Last Month
1,770 Since Aug 18, 2016
Intermediate

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Photos

Great picnic site at Showers Lake. Okay fishing, good swimming, quiet...
Feb 4, 2016 near South L…, CA
Morning view of round lake
Oct 30, 2018 near South L…, CA
Bryan Meadow as seen in summer.
Aug 31, 2016 near South L…, CA
Steps along the trail.
Aug 22, 2016 near South L…, CA
Tahoe Rim Trail sign
Nov 9, 2018 near South L…, CA
Big Meadow, heading north back towards the trailhead
Oct 30, 2018 near South L…, CA

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Oct 8, 2018
Chris Leonetti