Lake of the sky" is one of the names European arrivals called it. Simply "the lake," or Da'aw, is what the area's original settlers, the Washoe, called it, giving us the anglicized "Tahoe" for the largest alpine lake in North America. Now you can walk circles around this world-famous body of blue and see all the names it inspires.
Newly completed, the 150-mile-loop Tahoe Rim Trail encircles the lake as it runs along ridges and mountaintops, through lush meadows and thick forest. It will officially open on September 22 with great fanfare planned for the entire weekend.
The trail has been some 20 years in the building by thousands of dedicated and tireless volunteers. Its opening kicks off with a three-day celebration including guided hikes, mountain bike tours, horseback rides, and much more.
The Tahoe Rim Trail began as the vision of Glenn Hampton, a Forest Service recreation officer who is now retired. Hampton hatched the idea in the late 1970s while resting atop a peak over the lake. An avid outdoorsman, Hampton researched his idea, exploring the Lake Tahoe Basin and old paths walked by early pioneers, Basque shepherds, and its first users, the Washoe.
Right from the start, Hampton says, he had the support of even staunch environmentalists, making sure that, along with hikers and equestrians, groups such as the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society had full representation on the initial advisory committee.
"My philosophy," Hampton says, "was that the trail be light on the land, afford special views, and draw hikers away from what was then overuse of Tahoe's Desolation Wilderness." (The trail goes through a part of that wilderness.)
The well-marked trail covers elevations from 6,300 feet to 10,333 feet. It has nine trailheads with parking and information kiosks, so day users and overnight hikers can enjoy the trail. Parts of it are wheelchair accessible.
In addition to the glorious vistas of the Sierra Nevada, at each turn, hikers get unparalleled views of Lake Tahoe, one of our finest national treasures. The trail courses through two states (California and Nevada), six counties, three national forests, three wilderness areas, and one state park. It is open to runners, equestrians, hikers, and, in non-wilderness areas, to mountain bikers.
Along with Nevada State Parks and the Forest Service, the nonprofit Tahoe Rim Trail Association will help maintain the trail. The official grand opening ceremony on September 22 takes place on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe. For maps and more information, contact the Tahoe Rim Trail Association at (775) 588-0686 or www.tahoerimtrail.org.
Photography by John Clausen/Mountain Stock
This article was first published in September 2001. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.