Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake via Tahoe Rim Trail

MODERATE 69 reviews

Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake via Tahoe Rim Trail is a 7.3 mile moderately 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 September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

7.3 miles
1,358 feet
Out & Back

dog friendly




nature trips


trail running





wild flowers


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.

6 days ago

Great lake. Amazing spots to camp. Just no fishing. All the fish have been "removed" to reintroduce the cutthroat. Also leeches. Just keep moving and they won't bother you..

10 days ago

Great hike and camp for this first time backpacker and new hiker. Only a couple spots going up are tough and they're towards the end, coming back was a little tougher. gorgeous and quiet.

16 days ago

Didn’t plan ahead a get a wilderness permit for Desolation Wilderness. The ranger suggested this trail instead which was free. What a great trail it is. Amazing to get to the end and be next to this lake. Plenty of spots to setup a tent. Very quiet. Perfect!

22 days ago

Nice trail. Not too steep for a Midwesterner who just arrived. Loads of wildflowers along the way.

I also side tracked to round lake. If you are only to going to one, Dardanelles is more scenic than round lake.

29 days ago

I just hiked this trail yesterday, and oh my goodness, it is the most beautiful trail I've hiked! This is coming from someone who hasn't spent a whole lot of time in the Sierras, but still, this was truly amazing!

It was really cool to start out on a portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail. I didn't know about that through-hike until I found this on All Trails, but it's cool to imagine people hiking all the way around Tahoe Lake. We were content with Dardanelles though. The parking lot was pretty big and had restrooms, but no running water. We arrived around 10:30am and we were able to find a parking spot in the lot. It was pretty full, though. If you want to be sure that parking won't be an issue, you may want to come an hour earlier if you're summer hiking on a Saturday.

The trail itself was sensational! I couldn't believe the beauty! At the very beginning, you do have to run across highway 89, but once that's over it is wilderness all around! there's a steep-ish incline with rocks and roots. It was adventurous! The trail evens out once you get to the big meadow, and that's where you get your first glimpse of the snow-capped mountains. The meadow is so serene and peaceful. After that is forest with many beautiful wildflowers. Some flowers were so cool looking! The stream crossings were easy. There were conveniently placed rocks to step on while crossing. Only one was a little tricky. But wow, was the river gorgeous!

As we got closer to the lake, we reached a patch of huge granite stones with bright pink flowers growing on them! The rocks were so cool-looking! They weren't steep, so we climbed up on them for a gorgeous view. It was a great spot to take a small break. Very safe.

We finally reached Dardanelles Lake and it just took my breath away. I couldn't take my eyes off of the scene: dark blue waters against a big mountain of granite, with snow-capped Sierras in the background. It was remarkable. There were 1-2 other small groups of people, but the lake was big enough to give us a very secluded spot along the shore. Even though it was breezy and the water was cold, I still couldn't resist jumping in! The water felt great after the sunny hike! There are leeches though! A little one attached itself to my sister's leg. It was really easy to pull off, though.

It was so hard to leave the lake, and eventually we did. Walking back in the late afternoon was lovely, because the lighting was just right against the trees and the leaves.

Throughout the hike, we ran into friendly hikers and their cute dogs, but it wasn't crowded. We were alone for the majority of the trail.I whole-heartedly recommend this hike! I was the happiest I'd been in a long time on this trail.

1 month ago

Hiked on 6-3-18. No issues with snow or muddiness along the trail. The meadows are green with wildflowers. This trail is a good workout. Bring bug spray

1 month ago

Beautiful hike with a variety of scenery. Will return with my bike for a second round. Everyone hiking/riding was polite and the traffic was not too heavy. Too many off leash dogs is my only complaint however that is happening at every trail now.

1 month ago

Had a blast hiking to Dardanelles lake, and even more fun camping there for 2 nights. I highly recommend camping if your coming from out of town. Didnt come across and bears or signs of them. There are plenty of pre-existing fire pits and lots of places to set up camp. My only complaint is the amount of day hikers with off leash dogs. Had a few instances where dogs came into camp and lingered a bit too long and urinated on personal belongings. Other than that it's a wonderful experience.

9 months ago

We only had a couple hours to hike so we did an out and back, nice mix of rolling hills and foliage. Not too busy but we did see a few other hikers.

11 months ago

Great hike through forest, meadows and across streams. A little uneven, some climbs, but the destination and swim are well worth the effort.

11 months ago

Pretty popular trail in high season, lots of people and dogs. Still an excellent hike

11 months ago

Loved the trail it's pretty much uphill all the way until you get to the second intersection to chose round lake or another trail on the right. We got confused because we didn't see the Darnell's lake sign but we back tracked and found it. Over all must because the meadow and wild flowers were amazing.

11 months ago

Beautiful views. Trail is very well maintained and easy to follow. Getting a bit more crowded.

11 months ago

Beautiful hike, with diverse terrain. The uphill climb is at the beginning, and then opens up to Big Meadows. Unfortunately, I went with my family the week of July 19th and the fire in Mariposa brought about an abundance of smoke that sat and disrupted what would have been an even lovelier view. I plan on going again soon, a great and easy hike!

11 months ago

Nice hike with varied terrain. Creek crossings are no longer an issue. Still some sections with nice wild flowers. Lake water was warm enough to take a dip in. Saw hikers, backpackers and a few mountain bikers both directions along the trail.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Did an epic night hike with a large group... We stopped at Big Meadow, turned off our headlamps and gazed up at the stars, just pretty. Found xmas valley trail via the TRT then the junction off to Dardanelles. After successfully crossing the first stream which I thought was probably the most sketchy, the next two were pretty cake. Got to the lake and veered to the left to setup camp around 3:30am. Btw it's a huge campsite capable of accommodating a large group.

Switched campsites about midday to northwest side of the lake... absolutely wallpaper type views. Our new camp area had beveled wood bench seating placed on stone and granite slab kitchen tables for cooking and prepping. Didn't have a good area to drop a comfortable deuce due to the number of campers but that wasn't a deal breaker. The shoreline area(s) are just beautiful, have to be there too see for yourself.


Saturday, July 08, 2017

Great hike! Wish we would have taken camping equipment.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

A wonderful hike! We clocked it at 8 miles. The trail was clear of snow. Multiple stream crossings, but we were able to cross each one without getting wet. One section had water running down the trail, and you had to do a bit of cross-country to get around it, but not bad. WONDERFUL wildflowers along the whole way. The lake was amazing. A moderate amount of traffic on the trail, not bad (but it was mid-week). Mosquitoes were a bit of a problem in the meadow and once you got to the stream area, particularly as the sun was going down. The meadow was easy to traverse, not too wet at all. A perfect time to hike this trail. All the trail junctions were clearly marked.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

What a great trail. We did Dardanelles and Round Lake. Ended up with 8.9 miles.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Out and back yesterday. Trail clear -- A bit wet coming into Big Meadow, which has some boggy sections. Not that bad. Could smell the wildflowers coming back through in the afternoon. Patches of snow at the top of the pass. Lots of water in the Upper Truckee drainage, easily forded (rock hopping) as you approach the lake. One wet (flowing) section that requires a little route inventiveness, and some tree walking. (Lots of downed trees on the trail down to the lake.) Lovely hike, a good test for my old body. Flowers everywhere.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Nice trip. But if you go anytime soon be prepared to get your feet wet. There's a lot of water on the trail--just in sections. It is passable. I took my shoes and socks off a couple of times. Big Meadow has a lot of flooding. Then there are a few spots as you get closer to Dardanelles Lake. Well worth it though.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Great hike. Beautiful meadow, lake, hike through sequoias and wildflowers. Saw people swimming in lake: wished I'd brought my stuff! Get to parking lot early: we got last parking spot at 10:30 on a Sat morning in mid-July.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Awesome hike. Beautiful Lake. The trail has some patches of snow (after the meadow and before the trail intersection), but it was easy to cross with just hiking boots. There were 3 river crossings (hopped on rocks) and at one point the trail turned into a river (lots of mud and water). Overall the trail was easily hiked. The wildflowers in the meadow were just starting to show. Loved this hike.

Friday, October 23, 2015

There are three lakes after big meadows. Dardanelle, round lake and I think the third was Scotts lake. All of them are around 3.7 miles from the trail head. Round lake has a huge wall of rock on the east side and the lake and the lake used to be a murky gray but this last hike It was very clear and I was told there are fish in it again. If you keep going south around the lake there are trails to an old settlement but I'm told it is easier to go from Carson pass on 88 to the settlement. Dardanelle lake is my favorite hike in the sierras so far. The lake is pristine and beautiful. I've see camps on the western side during the summer many times!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

This is a great trail. This was the first time my wife of 35 years had joined me on an overnight backpack trip. I wanted a trail that would be scenic, but not too difficult. This trail and location fit the bill. She had a great time and promised to join me next year.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The hike in was not too hard and there was plenty of downed trees to rest on along the trail, if needed. Once we arrived, the lake was amazing. We were fortunate enough to be the only ones out there and had our pick of any location to set up camp. I would highly recommend this hike!

Saturday, September 05, 2015

I would rate this as an easy hike. The trail is well marked and the lake was beautiful. The trail has some steady inclines but nothing to tedious. Great hike for the family.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

This is a great hike but the first 2 miles (from the Big Meadow trailhead is a continuous uphill climb and definitely not "easy". It's challenging the first 2.5 miles until you get to the switchback down. It's ip and down from that point - a little longer and tougher than the route to Round Lake. You cross the creek via stepping stones 3x and it's a great break for the dogs! The lake is lovely but I think around Lake is the most beautiful of the three (Scott, Round and Dardanelles). The turnoff to the lake is almost hidden - marked by a small stack of rocks - but for the dogs, I would have missed it! The last leg takes you over some rock face and then the lake appears! Gorgeous lake! But I'd rather hang out at around Lake. It's crystal blue and a bit shorter hike. My "map your hike" app had it at 8 miles round trip! Bring lots of water and a hat! Super fun!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Beautiful hike with a gorgeous destination. 4.5 miles one way on the GPS, with the first 2 miles going up hill. There is a nice break in the climb at .70 miles when you reach Big Meadow. My 6 yr old son had a bit of a hard time but he caries a 15 pound backpack and made me proud by powering through his longest hike to date. My wife and 10 year old daughter thought it wasn't bad. Starting off by attacking the trail up hill warms you up fast. The trail to Dardenelles is not marked but once you make a right at the maker for Round Lake go .25 miles and keep an eye on the left side and you see the trail.

We spent 2 nights and 3 days there exploring and fishing, no fish were caught due to the department of forestry netting the lake and streams to remove non-native species. They are to replant at a later date with Lahontan Cutthroat trout. Round Lake has already been restocked.

Great hike, beautiful scenery, plenty of camping spots and friendly people.

Friday, July 24, 2015

This is my new favorite hike, so beautiful! We hiked to Round Lake first, then Dardanelles. There were so many wildflowers and little streams, it was incredible! We got there late in the day and there were dark clouds rolling in, so we didn't get to stay at Dardanelles as long as we would have liked. We will definitely go back! My Garmin clocked it at 9 miles to both lakes.

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