Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake via Tahoe Rim Trail

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Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake via Tahoe Rim Trail is a 7.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, 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.

Distance: 7.3 miles Elevation Gain: 1,358 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

camping

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

bird watching

running

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

Directions from South Lake Tahoe: Take Highway 50 southwest to Highway 89. Go south on 89 to the Big Meadows parking lot on the left. Follow the trail at the lower end of the parking lot approximately 200 yards, where it intersects with the highway. Cross the highway cautiously and look for the trailhead signboard.

Great place for an easy-moderate hike. Little muddy in places, I wore Nike runners and I didn’t get wet or muddy. Great lake views, water was not cold and it felt good to dip the feet in before the long hike back.

hiking
muddy
snow
14 days ago

I'm new(ish) to the area for summer hiking. Upon a recommendation from workmates, started at Big Meadow Trail head with boyfriend and doggo for a birthday hike on the eve of Memorial Day Weekend. Phenomenal hike. Could not recommend more. Moderate hike, out and back with steady elevation gains. Meadow views, valley views, and the lake is breathtaking; pictures don't do it justice. Snowy patches, but I hiked this in shorts with no problem. This trail is now the site where we GOT ENGAGED! These trails will forever be a part of our story <3 Started around 0900, only a a few people on the way back to the trailhead. Highly recommend.

muddy
snow
15 days ago

Amazing hike. Didn't see another soul the entire hike back from the lake. There was patchy snow from the meadow to about half a mile from the lake and then the trail was totally covered. The snow is melting fast-and I mean there was a noticeable difference in the snow between the way up and the way back fast- so it should be ready for family hikes soon. It will still be a while before the high country melts out though, so the likelihood of an early summer up there is probably pretty small at this point. Probably around a late June start date for peak bagging if I had to guess.

hiking
15 days ago

Beautiful hike as always, and what a difference a day makes! Following up from Zach's post, the snowfields approaching Dardanelles today are melting, minor, and easily traversed in hiking boots. The meadow is wet in the usual spring spots. Small fish are enjoying the afternoon sunshine under the bridge entering the meadow... enjoy!

hiking
1 month ago

Went 4/18. Snowshoes were needed right from start of the trailhead. Short steep climb in the beginning, opens up to beautiful snow covered Big Meadow and then back into the forest. Snowshoe markings made the beginning of the trail easy to navigate but markings disappeared at the turnoff to Round Lake. Had to use GPS after that. Snow began to get slushy and much of a slog for the last mile. Last big climb up to Lake Dardanelles, which is beginning to melt. No one else at the lake. About 6 hours RT going at a slower than usual pace. If not enough time to go to the lake, a short trip to Big Meadow is just as great.

hiking
6 months ago

The first section to Big Meadows was like hiking in a war zone with fallen huge trees all over big rocks. Big meadows is a beautiful little meadow and the trail opens up half way up to mountain scenery. The scenery around the lake is fantastic making the hike worthwhile. Easy 4.5 hour round trip hike including a half hour break at the lake.

hiking
6 months ago

Great hike. The extended hike to round lake is worth it. Lot of people still heading up the trail and the weather is ideal for it.

hiking
7 months ago

Beautiful hike! We caught the Aspen change at the perfect time and the glow was incredible. There were also a couple old growth juniper trees that were super special. The start of the hike was smokey due to the fires but it cleared up as the wind picked up in the afternoon. There was a TON of bird activity: robins, stellar jays, clark’s nutcrackers, juncos, chickadees, and lots of nuthatches. The hike was more than 8 miles, which we weren’t prepared for, but the lake is beautiful and totally worth it. It’s a beautifully maintained trail and there are vault toilets at the parking lot. It was nice not having to pay to park but they have a place where you can drop a donation to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association at the trailhead. We brought a golden retriever off leash and had no issues—we did leash her when we crossed paths with other hikers and dogs as well as when the trail crosses the highway. There were no signs saying that dogs were required to be leashed, but if your dog has a strong prey drive I would recommend it due to crazy number of chipmunks and birds on the trail.

hiking
7 months ago

Several glorious aspen stands along the way! There was a sign at the trailhead warning that the lake water might be contaminated by toxic algae, so I returned to my car to get more water --- I wasn't sure what I'd find on the trail. I needn't have worried. There are several stream crossings on the spur trail to Lake Dardanelles and if you didn't bring much water with you, there's the stream in Big Meadow. Lake Dardanelles is a gem --- lots of white granite shelves and a big granite bluff to set it all off. Footing is largely easy --- not many rocky sections. There's only one steep, switchbacking section and it's not very long. And my map has this as 6.4 miles round trip? An easy to moderate hike.

hiking
7 months ago

A great hike. There’s a little up and down each way and a beautiful meadow about a third of the way in. There were three minor stream crossings and each called for using rocks that are about 2 feet apart. If you don’t have good balance it could be somewhat challenging. Our 6-yr old grandkids could do it. A 3 or 4 year old may get wet. The hike is 8.3 miles, not 7.3. That’s a long way for someone not used to hiking but if you take it slow, it’s fine. Beautiful to hike in the Fall. No pests other than grass hoppers. We were hoping to do this hike once the Aspens were at peak foliage, but they are probably another week or two away from their light show. We noticed several groves of Aspens that should be awesome soon. If you’re reading this and planning a hike after say October 15th, I would love to see some trail pictures of the trees! The lake is amazing. A great reward for your effort! Cheers!

Very light snow and slightly muddy in spots but hiking was fine. Beautiful hike.

hiking
muddy
snow
8 months ago

There was snow on the trail today due to the recent weather we’ve had. Thanks to the that and the chilly temps, we only saw a couple other people on the trail. The aspen are still pretty green, so in the next couple of weeks it should be really beautiful as they turn colors for the fall. We logged 8 miles total, and I’d agree with the classification of moderate for this hike due to the length and couple of short climbs.

The trail was absolutely beautiful. The only issue we had was that my dog got swarmed by wasps twice and got bitten around 20 times, so if you bring a dog try to keep them on a short leash. Two other hikers we ran into also got bitten by wasps. I would definitely go back in the winter to see the views with snow. I will upload more photos I took later

Dog friendly trail and well managed. Perfect trail for listening to wildlife. The lake is beautiful with plenty of resting spots. My app stated >8 miles when I finished.

hiking
8 months ago

This is possibly our favorite lake in the area! The granite cliffs make the view extra unique. We went on a weekday and only saw a couple people.

Wonderful hike with my family. 9/1/19. Some hard inclines but worth every step. The lake is beautiful, I was told no fish though. Took a dip after the dusty 4.2. Lots of granite slabs and amazing views!!! 8.4 total from the big meadow trailhead. Lots of people. Not sure if that was because of Labor Day but everyone seemed to have good trail etiquette. No fires allowed and permit needed for gas stoves. Recommended! Happy backpacking!!

hiking
9 months ago

We did this trail on Saturday Aug 17th and absolutely loved it! Gorgeous the whole way, the scenery changes about every mile or so from rocky mountain view’s to vast meadows to lovely forest with wild flower beds, then the lake is just spectacular! The water is not that cold right now and we took a nice swim. The all trails map says 7.4 round trip but it was closer to 9+. Just a hair over 4mile to the lake. The toughest inclines are at the beginning then on the way back there’s a small climb to get back up. But nothing too terrible. My 70 year old dad did this with us (my sister and friend) and he did great!

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

hiking
bugs
10 months ago

Absolutely love this hike! Are couple sections are uphill and got my heartrate up, but overall it's a mild and super scenic hike. So many wildflowers right now! But also lots of bugs, so be sure to bring insect repellent. Weirdly enough, no insects bothered us while relaxing at the lake, just on the way there and back.

One of the most beautiful trails! Well kept trail. Loved the meadow and walking on rocks over the streams. The lake is beautiful!

hiking
10 months ago

It’s July and the trail is perfect. App says 7.3 to Dardanelle Lake from the parking lot, my GPS said 4.00 to the lake. So 8 mile round trip. Whole trail was dry except the three little streams you have to cross but there are stepping stones my dog and kids could use to cross. The trail was a little busy but honestly not too bad. No horses on the Sunday we went but about 8-10 mountain bikers who were all very considerate and careful of hikers. The lakes is super clean and beautiful. There was still snow on one shore so I opted not to get in my kiddos didn’t hesitate and seemed to be just fine with the temperature. Definitely doing this trip again.

hiking
10 months ago

This is a beautiful hike! Conditions are good right now and if you like wildflowers, there are a lot. However in 7-10 days this area will be bursting with even more wildflowers! The lake is beautiful and refreshing. Be aware that you will share this trail with mountain bikers and horses. I would imagine it gets pretty crowded on the weekends so get there early.

hiking
11 months ago

Just did this hike today on July 4th. Everything people say is true. The meadow was amazing and the lake a perfect spot to hang out for a long relaxing lunch and swim. The water is cold, but worth a good swim just to lay out on the rocks in the warm sun afterward. Highly Recomended.

Great hike to do in Summer. There's tons of insects, wildflowers, and animals to see on the way out to Dardanelles lake. The first part of the hike is all uphill but there's plenty of shade to stop and rest. Lots of bugs this time of the year so bring some bug spray. Big meadow is absolutely stunning. It's lush and green with a huge field of yellow flowers. You really can't capture this in a picture you have to just check it out yourself. This would be a great time to go swimming in the lake after the hike. The water is ice cold but it would be really refreshing. We saw people on the other side of Dardanelles lake so you can probably explore around a bit for a good spot to have lunch or rest.

hiking
muddy
off trail
rocky
snow
11 months ago

The meadow was unreal, like a scene out of Lord of the Rings. The hike to the actual lake was not quite easy but very doable. My pitbull loved the scenic route as well. Would definitely recommend to close friends and will do this hike again in the near future.

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