Lake Tahoe is a jewel amid one of the most spectacular regions of the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, while nearby Yosemite National Park is world-renowned for towering granite domes, powerful waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. This tour combines the best of both regions. Visit the famously blue waters of Lake Tahoe, hike below Half Dome and El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, and enjoy peaceful nights in Tuolumne Meadows, the scenic Yosemite “High Country”. This tour is led by Matt Brown of Rubicon Outdoors, a veteran of this region, who loves to show off his favorite hikes in Yosemite and the Lake Tahoe region. Join us for the whole trip, or for either half of this great tour.
After a short shuttle ride from the airport in Reno, our hiking tour starts in Truckee, California. We will spend two nights at the The Cedar House, minutes from historic downtown Truckee, and explore nearby Mount Lola, and Donner Lake, where the Transcontinental Railroad was painstakingly blasted and eventually completed to connect the eastern and western United States. Then travel upstream along the Truckee River taking a detour to Squaw Valley, the home of the 1960 winter Olympics, where we stay at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn. Our hike will take us along part of the Pacific Crest Trail, which links Canada and Mexico, summiting Granite Chief over 3000′ above the valley floor. Then we’ll spend three nights on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe at Sunnyside Resort. One of our hikes will take us six miles along Lake Tahoe on the Rubicon Trail to Emerald Bay and a visit to Vikingsholm Castle, a Scandinavian inspired summer home completed in 1929 and now part of the Emerald Bay State Park.
From Tahoe, we will travel south on historic Highway 395 along the east side of the Sierras, making a stop at one of the oldest lakes in North America, Mono Lake. Once threatened and nearly destroyed by the growing water demands of Los Angeles, Mono Lake was thankfully saved by heroic conservation efforts. The lake is a vital stop on the Pacific Flyway and migratory birds like the Eared Grebe are abundant in the early fall.
Crossing Tioga Pass at 9,945 feet, we enter the eastern gate of the park drop down to Yosemite Valley for our first three nights. Our home in the Valley is the luxurious Ahwahnee Lodge, a National Historic Landmark noted for it’s giant stone fireplaces, massive beams, and grand views. The Ahwahnee was specifically designed to highlight its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. Our final two nights, will be spent at the rustic Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The cozy canvas-covered tent cabins recall the early days of Yosemite with no electricity, candles for lighting, and wood burning stoves. Hiking stories are shared as hearty family-style breakfast and dinners are served in a central dining tent a stone’s throw away from the Tuolumne River.
Our days will start with breakfast at our hotel, giving us the energy needed for the day ahead. Then we’ll be out on the trail, exploring the wonderful landscapes of the surrounding Sierras. Each morning, you’ll be handed a lunch to carry, and at a mid-point along the way we’ll choose a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy our picnic. We get a lot of compliments on our imaginative lunches – making them something to look forward to as well! We should finish our hike around 4 pm, giving you time to wash up, relax at the hotel, or perhaps do a bit of sightseeing on your own. Later, we’ll enjoy delicious dinners together at our hotel or another local restaurant.
Truckee – Arrive in Reno and transfer by a short 45 minute shuttle to our meeting point at The Cedar House, nestled in the Martis Valley, just minutes from historic downtown Truckee.
You might have a chance to check out the town or enjoy the wonderful outdoor spa before settling in for our welcome dinner at a favorite local restaurant. (Cedar House)
Truckee – Our first hike finds us on a nearly forgotten trail north of Lake Tahoe. Mt. Lola (el. 9148′) is the high point in Nevada County, and the northernmost point from which the waters of Lake Tahoe can be seen.
It offers possibly the finest views of the northern Sierra region where the range melds into the Cascade Range (Mt. Lassen can be seen from the summit on a clear day). The Pacific Crest Trail passes beneath the peak to the west, and to the north the Little Truckee River has carved out a wide canyon running east-west, and the beautiful Perazzo Meadows lie at the base of the peak through which the river meanders. (Cedar House)
Olympic Valley – Today we may choose to hike along the newly completed Donner Lake Rim Trail. Many options await us as the route wraps around the east end of the sapphire expanse of Donner Lake, rises up Schallenberger Ridge to the granite escarpments of Mount Stephens, then weaves through steep hills and dales to the north of Donner Summit.
Travel to Squaw Valley in the evening, home of the 1960 Winter Olympics. (Plumpjack Inn)
Tahoe City – From Squaw Valley, might choose to ride the cable car 2000 vertical feet to High Camp (el. 8200′) or choose to ride it back at the end of the day. From High Camp we climb towards Emmigrant Peak and then to the summit of Granite Chief.
At the top we are rewarded with views of the Desolation peaks to the south and Castle Peak near Donner to the north. From here we decend to Shirley Lake and either hike back to High Camp or follow Squaw Creek to the valley floor. Transfer to Sunnyside Resort on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe in the evening. (Sunnyside Resort)
Tahoe City – A great hiking choice for today are the six relatively level miles along the Rubicon Trail to Emerald Bay. We will see Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe, and tour Vikingsholm Castle.
We also have an option to hike above Emerald Bay, past Eagle Lake Falls to Eagle Lake. Return to Sunnyside Resort for a final night at our lakeside location. (Sunnyside Resort)
Tahoe City – Hiking far above Emerald Bay we once again enter the Desolation Wilderness in search of Dicks Lake. Passing Eagle Lake we steadily climb until we are out of the trees and and bounding along the trail with Dicks Peak coming into view and the East side of Mt Tallac off to our left. We soon reach Dicks Lake and enjoy a well-deserved lunch on its quiet shore.
On our return we connect with the Bay View trail which will lead us back down to Emerald Bay. Fannnette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe, sits perched in the middle of Emerald Bay and the entire expanse of the Lake comes into view as we decend the final switchbacks for the end of a fantastic day. (Sunnyside Resort)
Yosemite National Park – From Tahoe we will travel south on historic Highway 395 along the east side of the Sierras making a stop at one of the oldest lakes in North America, Mono Lake. We head west via the highest trans-sierra route in California, crossing Tioga Pass at 9,945 feet in elevation. We enter the eastern gate of Yosemite National Park, passing thru Tuolumne Meadows on our way to Yosemite Valley.
We’ll have time for an afternoon stroll to Mirror Lake/Meadow. At the stone bridge, we will either choose to turn right and take the five-mile loop around the meadow or stay our current course for a shorter but equally scenic option. Exhibits detail the story of the area’s lake-to-meadow succession and it is a great area for spotting wildlife. (Ahwahnee)
Yosemite National Park – Today we have the option of hiking a full loop, roughly 13 miles, along the floor of Yosemite Valley or taking a shorter 6 mile option. This superb hiking trail follows many of the Valley’s first east-west trails and wagon roads.
The half-loop trail crosses the Merced River on El Capitan Bridge, while the longer loop continues on to Bridalveil Fall. Much of the Valley floor loop provides solitude as we hike through meadows and forests, and along the Merced River. Along the way we enjoy classic views of Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Three Brothers, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls. (Ahwahnee)
Yosemite National Park – Another spectacular day hiking along one of Yosemite’s must-do hikes. While many of Yosemite’s trails are popular due to having a single spectacular destination, the Mist Trail has fabulous views scattered all along it.
The views begin at the bridge overlook, progressing to two unforgettable waterfalls that fall a combined total of more than 900 feet, and ending with a spectacular view of Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap and the backside of Half Dome from the John Muir Trail. (Ahwahnee)
Yosemite National Park – Today we head back to the high country of Yosemite and beautiful Tuolumne Meadows, the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. Our hike today passes through Lyell Canyon, along the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, once again on a section of the famous John Muir Trail.
There are several creek crossings, including Rafferty Creek and Ireland Creek. We have a good chance to see bear in the back corners of the Canyon. In the afternoon we have the option to hike to the 9400 foot summit of Lembert Dome and catch some afternoon glows and watch the shadows as they begin to creep into the meadow. (Tuolumne Meadows Lodge)
Yosemite National Park – Our hike today leads to the high saddle above Budd Lake separating the Mathis Crest from Cathedral Peak. From the trailhead we once again hike along the John Muir trail towards Cathedral Lakes before turning off on a much quieter path along Budd Creek.
The uniquely shaped Cathedral Peak soon comes into view with its pointy summit and will be our constant companion as we make our way to the 10,000 foot saddle. We are not disappointed as the knife-edged ridge of the Mathis Crest is before us and to our backs is Cathedral Peak and a spectacular view of Tuolumne Meadows and numerous granite domes scattered throughout. (Tuolumne Meadows Lodge)
Depart – Our Yosemite Hiking tour finishes after breakfast, and we will drive to Reno International Airport for our post-trip destinations, arriving about 12:00pm.
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