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Big Meadow to Dardanelles Lake via Tahoe Rim Trail

MODERATE 190 reviews

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.

hiking
8 days 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
9 days 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
16 days 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
23 days 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
1 month 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
2 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
2 months ago

hiking
bugs
2 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
3 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
3 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
3 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
3 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.

hiking
muddy
rocky
3 months ago

I hiked this Trail 6/30/19. Started the trail from Tahoe Rim Trail, Big Meadow Trailhead at 10:30am The first 30 min is uphill, and then opens up to Big Meadow. Beautiful wide open space of yellow wildflowers, birds and butterflies. I had to stop. And just stand, and slowly turn a complete 360* to just... wow! A must! Headed straight ahead into the forest toward the next trail marker. At this point, you should take a right, (doesn’t say Dardanelles) to get to the Lake. But I decided to take a left to Round Lake first, then trek back to the trail marker to get to Dardanelles Lake. Trail to Dardanelles is delightfully muddy and wet, 4 stream crossovers on rocks ( challenging your balancing abilities) and lush forestry. Dardanelles Lake is gorgeous! Had my lunch. Watched birds skim across the lake. Headed back around 3 pm. Crossed back over Big Meadow once more at sunset. 10 miles out and back. I highly recommend this day hike!

hiking
3 months ago

Fantastic hike! First portion is uphill, then opens up into a beautiful meadow. Go right at the post that says Round Lake; Dardanelles isn’t marked on the post. Scenery is great the entire way. There’s a few streams to cross. Dog friendly, bring plenty of water and don’t forget spray. Can easily spend a few hours at the lake. I’ll definitely do this one again!

hiking
3 months ago

Nice hike. Some patches of snow around 8000 ft but trail itself is snow free and mostly dry. Three stream crossing can be rock hopped without getting shoes wet. Saw several snow plants and some wild flowers are blooming. Forgot to bring the bug spray, did ok but would recommend using.

hiking
4 months ago

Went here today, 6/22. Not a lot of people and trail is clear of snow. Some parts are wet and muddy but not terrible. The lake is absolutely beautiful. I want to come back and backpack here.

hiking
4 months ago

We wanted to go see Dardanelles Lake on our way back from Round Lake, but the trail was essentially a river. We decided to turn around as we didn't want to get our feet wet.

hiking
muddy
snow
4 months ago

Awesome hike. 80% still covered in snow. There is a lot of melt, had to wade across a couple of streams, knee deep.

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