Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake via Tahoe Rim Trail

MODERATE 88 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.

DISTANCE
7.3 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,358 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

birding

camping

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

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, gorgeous, trees, meadows !

26 days ago

Nice hike and beautiful lake,did a overnight hike there Aug 12 13....

hiking
29 days ago

I hiked this trail in July with a group of high school students of different levels of experience with the outdoors. The consensus was that it felt longer than 7.3 miles but it’s worth the effort. Take care crossing the road from the parking lot to the trailhead.
The highlight is jumping into the water and swimming out to the rocks across Lake Dardanelles. I later read that there are leeches but none of us encountered any. Pack plenty of water and snacks and lunch and make a day of it. It’s beautiful.

hiking
1 month ago

Fantastic hike! The meadows at the end of summer are mostly yellow and dead, but the lake was fantastic and secluded. The foot traffic is very light, and we swam in the lake to islands. The parking for the hike is kind of hard to find because you need to follow a very small road down from highway 89.

1 month ago

Beautiful hike. Would do it again.

backpacking
1 month ago

First solo backpacking trip. Was beautiful

hiking
1 month ago

Our group hikes in this area every summer (for 17 years). The first 1/2 mile is the steepest part. Trail beautiful. Heavily used this year with many youth groups backpacking. 4 stream crossings, which I walked thru, but others hopped the rocks. Shallow enough to not go over the top of my hiking boots. Wonderful variety of conifers and other trees. Not to many wildflowers but a few groups near "seep" areas. A stunning hike and Dardanelles is one of the most scenic lakes nearby (not counting Lake Tahoe.

2 months ago

I ran to this lake on Tuesday of last week from the Big Meadows trailhead. There are so many great aspects to this trail: the wildflowers, the meadow, the super nice people, the Aspen stands, the creek crossings...i could go on! But when you get to Dardanelles Lake, prepare to be blown away. This has to be one of the most scenic, striking alpine lakes I've seen. I only had 10 mins before I had to turn around and head back, but it left me wanting to come back for more time there. Give yourself time to sit down and take it all in.

hiking
2 months ago

It was a little rough in the beginning, because there was some Altitude increase, but that only goes on for about a mile. I’m kind of a beginner to hiking, but the 8 miles it took to get there, and back was easy enough. Great place for hiking, backpacking, camping, biking, and running!

hiking
2 months ago

Great hike. Solid uphill and downhill both ways. The lake is beautiful and lots of flowers along the way can only imagine what it’s like in the spring. Only downside there was a decent amount of people there and we prefer more isolated areas.

backpacking
2 months 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..

backpacking
2 months 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.

backpacking
2 months 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!

hiking
3 months 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.

hiking
3 months 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.

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

hiking
3 months 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.

3 months 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.

hiking
11 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.

hiking
Sunday, August 13, 2017

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

hiking
Saturday, August 05, 2017

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

hiking
Monday, July 31, 2017

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.

backpacking
Monday, July 31, 2017

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

backpacking
Sunday, July 23, 2017

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!

hiking
Sunday, July 23, 2017

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.

backpacking
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.

PS: MOSQUITOS (100x)

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Great hike! Wish we would have taken camping equipment.

hiking
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.

backpacking
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

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

hiking
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.

Load More