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General Information: The Big Meadow area is the jumping off point for several nice South Shore mountain bike rides. Located off highway 89 near Luther Pass, the rides offer forest, meadow, and peak views while traveling along well maintained, single track trails. Although the first 1/4 miles is steep, after reaching Big Meadow, the trails mellow considerably and are within the ability of intermediate riders. Of the three lakes, Dardanelles is the most enjoyable to us, combining fine riding, 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 riding!

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.

 

Dardanelles & Round Lake Trail Map and Profile

Scotts Lake Map and Profile

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 walked by most riders. The trailt flattens quickly as you approach Big Meadow. The trail to Scott's Lake splits off to the left (east) from the main trail just before an old 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 ride down from Scott's Lake on a jeep trail to the east and end up in Hope Valley. Turn left onto Highway 89 and head up the back side of Luther Pass to Grass Lake and then down to the Big Meadow Parking Lot and your car! This adds a considerable amount of climbing and distance.

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 ride 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 riding, the trail turns sharply south and up a steep, short section before topping out. The cliffs lining Dardanelles southern shore come into view from the top of this rise.. The lake has many fine picnic spots and campsites from which to choose, as well as clear, cold water (treat all 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. Mountain Bikes are not allowed on the Pacific Crest Trail which intersects the Meiss Meadow Trail just past Round Lake.

Environmental Concerns: None but the usual...keep it clean, pack it out, pick up after those who didn't, stay 200 yards away from steams and lakes when...you know...you've gotta go.

Advisory: This is a mutli-use trail which means you can come across hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians (no motorcycles!). Bikers should slow down to a near stop when passing hikers and should pull completely off the trail and stop to allow horses to pass. Say hi, share a smile, and remember we all need to share our dwindling natural resources.

 

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