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General Information: The Big Meadow area is the jumping off point for several nice South Shore hikes. Located off highway 89 near Luther Pass, the hikes offer forest, meadow, and peak views while hiking along well maintained trails. Although the first 1/4 miles is steep, after reaching Big Meadow, the trails mellow considerably and are within the ability of even novice hikers or children. Of the three lakes,


Dardanelles is the most enjoyable to us, combining fine hiking, 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 hiking!

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. Park in this lot where you will also find a restroom and information center.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.

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 need to be taken slowly by novice hikers, 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 just after 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 and is hard to miss as it cuts a swath through the meadow grass.

Scott's Lake: The Scott's Lake trail is a little less obvious but 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 hike 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!

Dardanelles Lake: After crossing Big Meadow, the trail enters a fine fir and pine forest intermixed with some aspens. The trail widens and, though always climbing, becomes less steep. The trail makes its way up a broad drainage with some fine views of small meadows and tall peaks. Wildflowers blooming here in July and August add their beauty to the hike. 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 and 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 is easy to follow as it 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 where the cliffs lining Dardanelles southern shore come into view. The lake has many fine picnic spots and campsites from which to choose, as well as clear, cold water to get refreshed before the hike back. 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. As the trail climbs gently up the canyon, you will see wonderful volcanic cliffs composed of loose rock off to your left. After 1 mile or so, Round Lake will come into view. It is a nice spot for a snack and a rest, or even an overnight 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 but the usual...keep it clean, pack it out, pick up after those who didn't, stay 100 yards away from steams and lakes've gotta go.

Advisory: This is a mutli-use trail which means you can come across hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians (no motorcycles!). It is easier, and less damaging to the environment if you step off the trail to let the bikers and riders pass, rather than making them go around you. Say hi, share a smile, and remember we all need to share our dwindling natural resources.

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NOTICE: While the information on this site is thought to be accurate and reliable, it is offered only as a guide and cannot replace sound personal judgement.

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