Middle Velma Lake Trail is a 8.2 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Tahoma, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Wife and I hiked to Upper Velma for an overnight trip. This was our first backpacking trip in the Tahoe region and my wife's first backpack trip ever. We started on a Monday because I knew the trailhead would be crazy on the weekend. We got there too late (10am) to get a parking spot in either of the parking lots. Show up at dawn if you don't want to park on the street!
The first 100 yards is very busy as tourists walk to the bridge and pool just above Eagle Falls. Quite a few day hikers going up and down from Eagle Lake which a mile from the trailhead. Eagle Lake is gorgeous and lots of people were swimming. It was busy and I didn't want to rest around all the noise so we didn't stay long. The lakes and streams feeding Lake Tahoe seem to be much warmer than Tahoe itself.
Lots of climbing in the first 2.5 miles! After that the hike is more moderate. One highlights of the trail is the butterscotch-scented Jeffrey pine that are scattered along the trail.
Views of Tahoe are few and narrow, but pretty. The higher you get the prettier the landscape is. At about 3.6 miles, just before you connect with the Bayview trail, you can leave the trail to a low dome of granite on the right. This point is visible from far below on the trail. Only from this dome can you see the waterfalls far below as water leaving the Velma Lakes cascades down toward Eagle Lake. It's only a hundred feet or so of rock hopping to get to this vantage point.
Another .9 miles brings you to the fork where you could go left to Dick's Lake (next time!). From there it's 1.2 miles to the fork at the Velmas. Upper to the left, Middle ahead, and Lower leaving the trail to the right.
The trail continues west of Upper Velma and disappears when you reach the outflow from Lake Fontanillis. Maps show the trail continuing to the next stream but we only found remnants of the trail in a few spots. We went around the south edge of the lake and found a site not far from the stream that comes in from the southeast. Upper Velma's primary source is the waterfall leaving Lake Fontanillis. This waterfall is a must see! There's a nice pool to dip in at the bottom of the cascade. Tuesday morning we climbed the smooth granite slope up to Lake Fontanillis for an amazing view of the Upper Velma Valley with Tahoe beyond.
Carry bug spray if you are hiking in the summer. There are a lot of lush areas and even the drier areas have skeeters! A worker at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center warned us that the Velma Lakes all have lots of mosquitoes.
I gave this trail four stars because it is crowded on the lower portion. Some of this busy area is narrow and difficult to move for others to pass. The trail is in excellent shape though it is easy to lose in places where it traverses smooth granite slopes. Many have shortcut the trail in rocky places, so we tried to help with trail maintenance and redefine edges. Some trail edges are lined with rocks which definitely helps stay on the path!