Big Meadow to Round Lake

MODERATE 91 reviews

Big Meadow to Round Lake is a 6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
6.0 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
1,197 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dog friendly

kid friendly

birding

fishing

hiking

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

backpacking
4 days ago

Came here instead of Aloha Lake because we couldn’t find a permit. Absolutely gorgeous, totally manageable hike leading to an absolute playground. Round Lake itself is a tiny Oasis with an absolutely gorgeous view of the entire Tahoe Valley if you’re willing to do a little climbing. Despite camping relatively close to the lake we experienced no bugs, the weather was perfect, and we even caught a little meteor shower. What more can you ask for?

Make sure you check out the other Lakes too.

backpacking
25 days ago

We came to Lake Tahoe hoping to do a 1-night backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness. Permits for the easy hikes were sold out.
So we tried Big Meadow / Round Lake trail.
Best decision.

My favorite 1-night starter backpacking trip I’ve ever hiked.

I lead groups on outdoor treks. This trail was fantastic. We had a first time backpacker, as well as some seasoned trekkers, and this loop satisfied them both. It fits a short schedule. 2 and half hours one way with loaded backpacks and multiple breaks.

Saturday night trip.

Plenty of parking. No backcountry permits required. Easy to start.


The trail starts with a terraced incline leading up to Big Meadow, which is an impressive midway spot. Continue a gradual incline along aspens and fir to the top of the ridge, with nice views of the Tahoe Rim Trail and Sierra backcountry. The peaks still had some spots of snow, mid-July. Beautiful. Yet trails were dry.

Then a quick descend into a basin with a small incline up to Round Lake.
The lake is surrounded by interesting rock formations. So much to explore.
Small warning, the ground is rocky with a natural cement aggregate like soil so finding a flat camp spot can be tricky. But we found one, if you continue on the left side of the lake about half-way you may see our spot.
This lake is good for rock Jumping, photos and more. Cool areas to explore. The right (west) side is better for swimming and diving.

The area is quiet, yet had a few other backpackers that made us feel safe enough yet away from crowds.
We could hear a bear crunching through the woods late at night, but no issues or encounter. We felt fine with the handful of other backpackers scattered around the lake.


Bring your swimwear
Bring good shoes
Don’t miss the sunset

One of our hikers had some slight soft knees and the trekking poles came in handy for the whole hike.

This hike is a must for Tahoe area backpackers. Also would make a good half-day hike

Relatively easy scenic hike to an OK lake. The journey was much more enjoyable than the destination so we didn’t spend much time there.

1 month ago

This was a nice hike with lots of wildflowers along the way. I downgraded it just a bit because I also tracked to Dardanelles lake, which was more scenic than round lake.

2 months ago

Just did this hike last weekend. Great family hike. Beautiful views along the way, just enough incline to make the hike worth the views at the lake. Some mud and snow along the way but not enough to detract from the trail. Highly recommended. Happy hiking!

hiking
3 months ago

Lovely trail! There’s a nice change from rocky to meadow to forest to lake throughout, which keeps it exciting. Not a lot of great vistas for the most part, but I found the meadow charming, some nice mountains were visible after a while, and the lake was gorgeous. It was a little wet this time of year (mid-May) - I’d recommend waterproof hiking boots if you’ve got them, but I got by fine in my tennis shoes for the most part, just had to do a little scampering on rocks adjacent to the trail when I came upon puddles in the meadow. Further up it got a tad muddy, but I didn’t see any consistent snow until the last half mile or so. It got cold FAST once I got close to the lake - I almost turned back before I realized how close I was. 70+ degrees in the parking lot but the water was still partially frozen. Bring layers!
Also, note that there are two different trailheads that leave from this parking lot - you want the one that’s downhill, further away from the bathrooms. I almost went on a completely different adventure!

camping
3 months ago

Been going here every year since I was in 1st grade. I love it there and I am also looking forward to another trip. Great fishing and greats views. If you are up to it you can even hike to the peak.

hiking
7 months ago

Really great moderate hike, beautiful views in the meadow and of the lake. The lake was frozen when we got there, ice was thick enough for several meters in for us and the dog to walk. The way up was snowy and icy - having microspikes helped basically the entire way. To the lake and back took about 3hrs, and we took our time up.

camping
9 months ago

Trail was clear until towards the top of the ridge on the hike in, 1-2" of snow in patches. Same with around the lake. Weather was cold and windy, plenty of downed fire wood around all the camp sites. Didn't catch any fish but they are there. Climbed up the rock formation, not recommended with snow.

hiking
9 months ago

The meadow is wet in the Spring and braided trails are developing. Buttercups bloom first then Asters both are beautiful. Round Lake had a pair of nesting bald eagles this year. A great hike with access to Dardanelles lake as well.

hiking
9 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

This is pretty easy to moderate hike having a paved terrain. Hiking through the lush green Meadows was very pleasing to eyes. The lake by itself serves a good place for backpacking. the hike is almost fully through the dense wilderness and hence was very pleasurable. The rating of 3 has been provided based on the scenery around the lake, as the other side of the lake features a rocky terrain.

backpacking
11 months ago

Steep for us novice backpackers! Especially the switchbacks before the meadow. But short. A few wildflowers left, no mud, pretty. The meadow is gorgeous. Hiked in shorts and tshirts, just now getting chilly.

hiking
11 months ago

Excellent trail with lots to see. The entire family, including the dog, enjoyed it very much. The way in is a bit tuff with all the uphill but well worth if when reaching Round Lake. The hike back much easier and faster given it's mostly down hill.

mountain biking
11 months ago

Tough Mountain Bike trail. Lots of technical climbing to start. Then turns into a good ride.

hiking
Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Round Lake is gorgeous in mid-afternoon. At the beach where the trail meets the lake, we saw chipmunks, dragonflies, and a few humans at the far end of the lake. As Madame says, turning right at that point will show you more lovely views, including a cove with the world's cutest island. Turning left, you soon see some hefty rocks that must have fallen from the cliff above.

Wide variety of plants both at the lake and on the trail. Big Meadow is probably better in early summer. Trail is mostly shaded except for Big Meadow and Round Lake.

We met several dogs and one mountain biker. Horses had been there too. My teenagers handled the climb from CA 89 to Big Meadow slightly better than I did; we used almost a quart of water per person. Construction work on that part of CA 89 finished while we were hiking!

hiking
Thursday, August 10, 2017

Nice hike. Would consider the rating accurate as most of it is at an incline until you get to the meadow then a little ways until your almost to round lake which is a decent decent down. Shady enough to cool off if you need to take a rest. Saw lots of people but was alone enough to enjoy some solitude. Saw bikers hikers and horseback riders. The lake is so pretty. I really enjoyed sitting and reading there. Only thing that was sort of a bummer was construction going on today 8/9 so for the first portion you could hear traffic and road work going on which takes away from the elements of nature but once you get to the meadow it's fine. Great views once you get to the lake I recommend walking to the right when you get there you get some great views you would realize are there.

backpacking
Sunday, August 06, 2017

Very fun. Took the whole family. Kids loved it.

hiking
Sunday, August 06, 2017

Great hike, excellent views: creek alongside the trail, awesome meadows, and a very pretty alpine lake. It starts at the trailhead off 89, then cross over 89. Trails starts off fairly steep about a mile before arriving at the large meadow. The meadow is large and beautiful with a nice creek crossing and a shady tree at the other side. From there it's a 2.5-3 mile hike to Round lake. Before getting to the lake you'll climb a steep portion for 1/2-1 mile then down a switchback then another climb before a slight decline just before you see the lake.

hiking
Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nice trail with some incline. Lake was beautiful, took a swim but the water was really cold. Definitely bring bug spray.

backpacking
Monday, July 17, 2017

Had a great trip, easy 3 mile hike in nice and shady for the most part, very little snow on the path, the mosquitoes are insane up there so make sure you bring lots of DEET! tried my luck at fishing but did not catch anything. still does get a little chilly at night but i was fine with my 40deg bag and a one man tent.
The view is incredible and there is a couple of nesting Bald Eagles that just scream freedom!

hiking
Sunday, July 16, 2017

Took my flip flops along in case we had to take our hiking shoes off because of flooded spots, but the trail was clear and dry all the way to the lake. Several spots along the way for the dogs to drink, as well as plenty of shade. Mostly uphill going there, which was great having downhill on the way back - pretty hot on the return trip. Definitely take mosquito repellent because you won't stay long at the lake or anywhere along the way without it.

hiking
Monday, July 03, 2017

Tons of shade along the way. Very dog friendly trail. There was a little bit of flooding at big meadow but passable. Round Lake always seems a bit smelly with lots of pollen. But overall a very nice trail that my dogs approve. There's also still snow in July!

hiking
Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Just as some said, water runoff is causing portions of the trail to be flooded. We took our shoes off and it was completely manageable. Some snow, but totally doable in sneakers. Well worth it!

hiking
Monday, June 19, 2017

Escaped the 107 degree weather in Sacramento into natures own AC. Trailhead has parking and restrooms, along with maps. Weather was great even when we were in shorts and a tank top. Gets a little chilly up by Round Lake so if you're planning to stay there for awhile bring a light layer. There was a portion where we had to walk through shin deep water so may want to bring some extra socks. We were able to walk through the snowy areas fine without special shoes but walking sticks would be helpful for those less agile. Lots of mosquitos in the meadow section so bug spray highly recommended. Didn't have a lot of human traffic which was really nice for bringing dogs.

Good short hike to go on for just a day trip to Tahoe. We had a late start around 1:30pm and we were back to the trailhead around 5:30pm even with a break to eat lunch.

backpacking
Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My fiancée and I were thinking about doing a midnight hike but we decided to sleep in the car and head out in the early morning, good call. As soon we got to the trailhead we were instantly greeted by the flood warning on the bulletin board. And being as stubborn as I am we trekked right along up the first section of the trail. Sure enough we got to the flooded bridge that led to Big Meadow. Found a couple of long and thick native branches to act as trekking poles and help with balance and confidence. Parts of the trail on the meadow were visible but majority was covered with either water or hard packed ice. After the meadow the trail pretty much disappeared into yonder but with the help of my fiancée's ALLTRAILS app we finally found a frozen Round Lake 4 hours later.

We chose a site that was less windy and setup camp... Filtered some lake water from a small opening near the shore and made lunch. While my soon to be napped, Juno (our pet schnauzer) who I forgot to mention tagged along with me to gather some wood for our evening campfire. Snuck in about 20 minutes of lure fishing to no avail, the longing of camp "fish tacos" will just have to wait for the next adventure. Last but not least, found a good location to call the throne with a good hidden view to camp and a panoramic view of the frozen lake to drop a fat freeze dried deuce into the soil of the Sierras, ahhhh, GOD is good.

PS: Hun, thanks for being my navigation couldn't have done it w/o you… Oh and you too Juno hehe. I love you guys.

backpacking
Monday, May 29, 2017

Didn't expect the snow, it covered the trail but thanks to AllTrails we were able to make to the lake and back.

snowshoeing
Sunday, March 19, 2017

I love to snowshoe this trail. Beautiful!

hiking
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

This trail is short but fairly demanding. It's a constant minor grade for the extent of the rail after you pass through the meadow. That being said, it is entirely worth the effort. The lake is fairly deep and on surrounded by hills and mountains. On one side there is a mountain that looks completely alien to its environment. It's really spectacular. We were able to climb some of the smaller granite hills that surround one side of the lake for some incredible views. Saw a water snake or two by the rocks, and heard plenty of beautiful bird calls. Bring some bug spray as the mosquitos are out in full force from the forest to the water side. My young dog loved the trip but I'd refrain from bringing any old dogs or young children. All in all a trail I'll definitely be visiting again.

hiking
Saturday, July 16, 2016

Many types of experiences with forests, plateaus and lake. Amazing. Not very steep but you are going up most of the way. Trail is well travelled and clear. You'll definitely run into other hikers and campers. Make sure you pack insect repellent as once you hit forest you will be swarming with mosquitos. We went for day and took about 4.5 hours rt since we explored lake once there. You can do it in 3-5 depending on shape you are in. Had I known lake was so amazing, I would have camped out.

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