I had the good fortune of being invited by my friends, Caroline and Victor, to their vacation rental at Lake Tahoe. I was able to clear some time at work, packed up minimal supplies and off I went for a few days. Not only am I able to visit with them, but I can hike in one of the most beautiful places anywhere. It is a three-hour drive from my home in Sonoma and even the drive up was effortless having timed it mid-day to avoid any major traffic situations. I know that it isn’t the same with everyone, but just the thought of being outdoors in an undeveloped areas is so refreshing to me – a time to get re-energised.
We set our sights on Dardanelles Lake as our first hike which was intended to be an acclimatisation hike for me (since my friends had already hiked to the top of Mt. Tallac a few days prior). I felt quite in shape since I had been hiking almost every weekend and running (when physically able) and walking in preparation for my upcoming races.
We accessed this trail at CA Hwy 89 at Big Meadows Campground. In speaking with some backpackers at the lake we discovered that there is another trail leading to the lake and sounding a bit steeper just down the highway. This is in the Lake Tahoe Basin/El Dorado National Forest and part of the Tahoe Rim Trail system. After a series of moderately steep switch backs we entered Big Meadow. It was an incredibly beautiful meadow with wildflowers blooming and views from all directions and about 1/4 mile across.
The elevation at the beginning of the trail was 7200 feet and we climbed at a steady pace to 8100 feet in two miles. The trail was lovely and the views amazing! There is a junction which takes you to Round Lake and up to the John Muir Trail in Meiss Country.
From the highest point we had approximately another mile before the unmarked trail to the lake. This trail was easily visible and had a wooded stake with rocks that served as its marker. After three creek crossings we arrived at the lake. I mention this for two reasons; one: I hate creek crossings, but these were fairly painless with well placed large rocks on which to walk across and two: Victor hikes with a fabulous water filter system by Katadyn which solves lots of hydration problems. Dardanelles Lake was very peaceful and pretty; few people were about and they were at a distance. You can go around the lake and I understand that swimming is excellent (crystal clear water) and that there is opportunity for trout fishing. Camping is also available. The dramatic granite cliffs that surround part of the lake are stunning and a perfect setting for lunch and a little siesta.
The trail is an out and back and thanks to my Garmin 405 watch, we hiked a distance of 7.61 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,396 feet. A perfect hike!