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General Information: Freel Peak is probably the most difficult summit to attain in the Lake Tahoe area. Even though it presents no technical obstacles, such as the 4th class scrambling required on Red Lake or Round Top Peaks, Freel requires long and sustained climbing. The shortest route up Freel is 10+ miles and nearly 3000 feet of vertical gain, and that assumes you were able to drive far up a dirt road.

Never the less, Freel is a "must" for any serious peak bagger! The hike is enjoyable no matter which route you select, and the views from the top are expansive taking in all of Lake Tahoe, the Crystal Range, the Carson Range, The Pine Nuts in Nevada, and wilderness areas far to the south.

Leave yourself plenty of time (6 to 7 hours for a person in very good condition), bring lots of water, and, as always follow good backcountry travel techniques, especially in winter when avalanches are a consideration.

Click here for a trail map and elevation profile

(File size: 450KB)

Where To Start: There are three common routes up Freel.

Star Lake Route: This is the most common winter ascent route and begins at the end of Marshall Trail off Pioneer Trail. Look for Sierra House Elementary School along Pioneer Trail and turn onto Marshall Trail. Follow it to the gate at the end (locked during winter).

Fountain Place Route: This is a good summer route as you can drive far up Fountain Place Road (which is an extension of Oneidas Road off Pioneer) and park at the locked gate. The Armstrong Pass trail starts just before the gate.

Hope Valley Route: This route is also a good summer choice for the same reason as above. Head out Highway 89 (Luther Pass). After Grass Lake, you will begin to descend into Hope Valley. Look for a left turn onto an unmarked (but ungated) paved Forest Service road about 1/2 way down the grade. If you get to the big right bend at the bottom of the hill, you've gone too far. Once on this road, follow it for several miles until you cross a bridge. The road splits just after the bridge, take the one that heads left. The road again splits, go right. This is a steep, rutted road only passable with high clearance. If you can make it, park in the large turn-around, otherwise park along this road and walk 0.2 miles to the turn-around. An unmarked and indistinct trail starts at the end of the road.

Trail Description:

Star Lake Route: This route is a bit longer than the other two routes and entails more elevation gain because it starts at a lower elevation. However, it is the best choice during the winter when you cannot drive up either Fountain Place Road or the Hope Valley dirt road. During the summer, this route passes through private land with a caretaker on site and so is perhaps best avoided. During the winter, we've never seen anybody. Follow the dirt road at the end of Marshall Trail until you come to a gate, pass the gate and continue up the road all the way to High Meadows. From High Meadows, a trail heads southeast towards Star Lake along Cold Creek. In the winter, you can save some tim e by attaining a prominent ridge to the west of Star Lake, by-passing the lake altogether. If you do go to Star Lake, the trail passes the lake on the west side. Your goal in either case is the obvious saddle north of Freel Peak. From this saddle, the way to the top is obvious but not trivial as you still have about a 1000' to go!

Fountain Place Route: In the winter, when you cannot drive up Fountain Place Road, this route is actually longer than the Star Lake Route, but in summer, you can shave about 2 miles and 1100' of elevation gain. It is still a long route (about 12 miles round trip). Once on the Armstrong Pass trail (see above), the trail is easy to follow. You will pass Fountain Place meadow as you climb up through some fine Red Fir forest. This is also a nice mountain bike ride! The trail eventually intersects the Tahoe Rim Trail at the ridge top where you will turn left (east). You have hiked about 2 miels and have 4 and change left, plus 2000' of vertical gain. Very soon, you will pass "Armstrong Pass" proper where the trail from Hope Valley also intersects. Continue east on the Tahoe Rim Trail which will begin a steady but gradual ascent. The trail will make two switchbacks then head up to the saddle mentioned in the above description. Again, from the saddle, the route to the top is obvious.

Hope Valley Route: This is the shortest of the routes at just over 10 miles. Of course, this assumes that you can drive to the start of the Armstrong Pass trail and ...find it! Once on the trail, you ascend quickly to Armstrong Pass where you turn right (east) and follow the trail past two switchbacks and on to the saddle described above. From the saddle, you have 1000' of steep hiking to the summit.


Environmental Concerns: The high alpine environment is extremely fragile. Try to avoid tramping wildflowers and bushes as they take years to re-grow. As always, please be sure to pack out all that you pack in.

Advisory: Freel Peak is not a trivial undertaking. In order to attemp this hike, you should be comfortable with map and compass, be well equiped, have experience with long climbs and be in good physical condition.

Avalanche conditions around Freel Peak can be extreme in the winter. Avalanche conditions introduce a distinct element of risk that the skier/boarder/snow-shoer accepts by stepping foot on the mountain. Always check the avalanche forecast before skiing/boarding this peak and carry avalanche gear!

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