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General Information: The Big Meadow area is the jumping off point for several nice South Shore ski tours. Located off highway 89 near Luther Pass, the tours offer forest, meadow, and peak views while skiing along popular trails where someone else has probably already broken trail! Although the first 1/4 miles is steep, after reaching Big Meadow, the trails mellow considerably and are within the ability of intermediate skiers. Of the three lakes,

 

Dardanelles is the most enjoyable, combining fine skiing, the feeling of pristine wilderness, and a beautiful lake. Round Lake is also a fine lake with the trail continuing on to the expansive Meiss Meadow area. Scott's Lake is somewhat stark, but overlooks Hope Valley. Being less stunning, Scott Lake sees less traffic than the other two. All the lakes, however, offer terriffic skiing!

Where To Start: From South Lake Tahoe, take highway 50 towards Sacramento, turning east onto highway 89 (Luther Pass) before US 50 heads up to Echo Summit. Follow highway 89 up towards Luther Pass, turning left into the Big Meadow Parking Area just a mile or so before the pass.

It is easy to miss the left turn into the lot, but if you get to where the road flattens out and you can see a large grass meadow to the right, you've gone too far. Park in this lot where you will also find a restroom and information center. The lot may or may not be plowed. If it is not plowed, people park along the road opposite the trailhead in a wide turnout. During periods of snow removal, however, parking in this area can get you ticketed.

Trail Description: The trail actually starts across highway 89 from the parking area at the sign-board. The first part of the trail is steep climbing 320 feet in 1/4 mile and will be challenging even for intermediate skiers, but it flattens quickly as you approach Big Meadow. The trail to Scott's Lake splits off to the left (east) from the main trail near a horse gate/fence before you get to Big Meadow. The main trail continues on to Big Meadow which you soon learn is appropriately named. The trail to Dardanelles and Round Lakes heads directly across Big Meadow.

Scott's Lake: The Scott's Lake trail heads east between the south side of Waterhouse Peak and Big Meadow Creek. The trail climbs steadily through a thin, mixed forest gaining about 450 feet in elevation over about 2 miles. A short, steep section lets you know you are getting close to the lake. It is possible to ski down from Scott's Lake on a jeep trail to the east and end up in Hope Valley...but then you are a long way from your car! If you plan ahead, you can shuttle a car to Pickets Junction (89 meets 88).

Dardanelles Lake: After crossing Big Meadow, the trail enters a fine fir and pine forest intermixed with some aspens. The trail climbs steadily but becomes less steep. The trail makes its way up broad drainage with some fine views off to the left of small meadows and high peaks. After a little over a mile, the trail begins to climb a bit more steeply until it tops out at a saddle on the ridge that separates the Meiss from the Big Meadow drainage basins. The trail then makes a short, steep slanting path down the ridge where it intersects the Meiss Meadow Trail. Heading left (up) this trail, will take you to Round Lake, but to get to Dardanelles, turn right (down) on this trail and hike less than 1/4 mile before looking for a smaller trail that goes off to the left (west). This trail may...or may not be signed. Once you make the turn west the trail winds through more beautiful forest, across several seasonal streams, and by a pond full of lily pads and reeds. After about a mile of easy hiking, the trail turns sharply south and up a steep, short section before topping out as the cliffs lining Dardanelles southern shore come into view. The lake has many fine picnic spots and campsites from which to choose. To return, simply reverse your trail.

Round Lake: Where the Big Meadow Trail hits the Meiss Meadow Trail, turning up canyon (left) will put you on the path to Round Lake. Along the way, you will see wonderful volcanic cliffs composes of loose rock off to your left as the trail climbs gently up the canyon. After just about 1 mile, Round Lake will come into view, a nice spot for a snack and a rest, or even an overnigh stay! To continue to Meiss Meadow, follow the trail as it passes the lake on the east then continues to head slightly uphill past Meiss Lake and finally into Meiss Meadow.

Environmental Concerns: None.

Advisory: The trails described here may not have tracks, or the track may not follow the trail. It is your responsibility to choose the route. Be sure to have a topo map and know how to use it. Weather conditions change rapidly in the Sierras in the winter and the wise backcountry traveler carries emergency supplies. For more information on backcountry travel techniques, see our Tips Page.

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