Multi Use Trail System in South Lake Tahoe Region Growing in Popularity

Pronounced “Mice” Meiss country hiking and biking has become a very popular destination in South Lake tahoe to day hike, ride, and backpack in the past five years. Located between Luther Pass (Hwy 89) and Carson Pass (88 an Hwy 50 ( Echo summit)) Meiss Country features great geographic features including history, crystal clear lakes, forest, meadows and peaks. Managed by in partnership Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Meiss Country has also become a alternative destination for backpackers unable to get a Desolation Wilderness permit and still looking for that wilderness feel.

With a solid well traveled trail system which includes the PCT and the Tahoe Rim trail visitors enjoy many seasonal features of the Meiss country region. Here is a list of the Best trail destination routes.

Round Lake

Big Meadows to Round Lake and or Dardanelle Lake: Moderate
Round Lake is 2.7 miles one way. Take Hwy 50 west to Hwy 89, 4 miles to the Big Meadows parking lot on the left. Follow the trail at the lower end of the
parking lot approximately 200 yards, where it intersects with the highway. Look for the trailhead sign across Hwy 89.The first 1/2 mile
of this trail climbs from the highway through Jeffrey pine and white fir to Big Meadow. After crossing the creek and a large meadow, the trail enters the cover of a lodgepole forest. In another 1-1/2 miles, the trail descends nearly 250 feet along an aspen-covered bank to a junction. Take the left fork which leads by a wall of volcanic rock. After another short climb up a small hill, the trail leads to Round Lake.

Dardanelle Lake Follow directions from the previous hike to the trailhead. When the trail forks approximately 1-1/2 miles past Big Meadow, take the right fork. In less than a 1/4 mile, take the unmarked trail to your left which crosses the creek. The trail winds through willows before crossing two more streams. A short climb leads you to Dardanelles Lake, surrounded by picturesque granite cliffs on one side and flat granite shelves on the other.

BiScotts Lakeg Meadows to Scott Lake Easy
2.5 miles one way. Follow directions to Round and Dardanelles Lake until you reach the Scotts Lake trail junction approximately 1/4 mile after the trail begins. Here the trail climbs upward at a gradual pace through Jeffrey pine, and fir, high above Big Meadow. A great hike in the fall, the trail travels through a beautiful aspen grove which opens into a valley covered with juniper and sagebrush. A short distance further, the trail turns into a
jeep road, leading to Scotts Lake.

Christmas Valley to Dardanelles Lake and or Round Lake

Christmas Valley trail to dardanelles in a Locals Choice sierra Rec favorite

An alternate route to Dardanelle and Round Lakes is found a bit lower on the mountain and off the beaten path in Christmas valley. this trail is one of sierra Rec teams favorites and is a great summer or fall hike. this hike is moderate and is a popular trail for mtn bikers so caution on the trail is required, but as the hike climbs through both forest and old burn area before crossing a creek and and aspen lined trail segment to Lake Dardanelle visitors are also welcomed with great vista views of South lake tahoe from the trail as well.

Carson Pass to Showers Lake Moderate 5.1 miles one way. Take Hwy 89 to Hwy 88, turn right at junction. Drive 8 miles to Carson Pass. (There is a fee to park.) Follow the Pacific Crest Trail north through expansive meadows with views of Round Top (10,381′), Elephant’s Back (9,585′) and Red Lake Peak (10,063′).The trail begins by winding upward through a series of switchbacks for a mile. After reaching a summit, the trail drops down a into Meiss Meadows. When you reach a junction, take the left fork which will eventually lead you up a moderate hill, covered with wildflowers in the spring. Reaching the crest, the trail descends to Showers Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the Tahoe area

Carson Pass to Echo summit 13.2 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail that will pass all the same features of the Showers lake hike, plus add a beautiful section of the PCT from Showers Lake to Echo summit. This route is a Local favorite for PCT section hikes and is a great backpacking trip with Showers or Meiss Lakes as feature locations for a camping over night.

Carson Pass (HWY 88 to Meiss Lake)

Moderate 4 miles one way. Follow directions from the previous hike to
Carson Pass. Park on the north side of Carson Pass. (There is a fee to park). Follow the trail up a hillside covered with mules ears and sagebrush to a saddle, providing views of the surrounding peaks. At this point the trail follows an old jeep route, crosses the Upper Truckee River and leads into a large meadow. Follow the path to the right .6 miles down the gentle slopes to Meiss Lake. A shallow but scenic lake, Meiss is one of the warmest lakes in the Tahoe area, making it a great place for chest deep swimming. Fishing is not
allowed in Meiss Lake

Carson Pass to Luther Pass (Big Meadow) moderate: 8 mile through hike

Take Hwy 89 to Hwy 88, turn right at junction. Drive 8 miles to Carson Pass. (There is a fee to park.) Follow the Pacific Crest Trail north through expansive meadows with views of Round Top (10,381′), Elephant’s Back (9,585′) and Red Lake Peak (10,063′).The trail begins by winding upward through a series of switchbacks for a mile. After reaching a summit, the trail drops down a into Meiss Meadows. When you reach a junction, take the right fork (Tahoe Rim trail) which will eventually lead you past Round lake. Shortly after Round lake trail will split again, take right trail to head up and over to big meadow on the tahoe Rim trail to hwy 89/Luther Pass . (heading left will take you down Christmas Valley and past trail to Dardanelles Lake)


For the safety of our communities, wildlife and forests, Lake Tahoe Basin National Forest lands are under year-round fire restrictions per Forest Order No. 19-19-02

This means campfires and charcoal are only allowed within metal fire rings in designated campgrounds like Fallen Leaf or Nevada Beach.

Campfires and charcoal are not allowed in Desolation Wilderness or Meiss Country; along the Tahoe Rim Trail or Genoa Peak Road; in any backcountry rock fire rings; on National Forest beaches; or in the general forest. 

Illegal campfires should be reported immediately to 911.

Portable pressurized gas stoves are allowed in all areas with a valid California Campfire Permit obtainable online at



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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Comments 3

  1. Miri says:

    Hi – 

    My partner and I are planning to backpack in Meiss this weekend. Any idea what the condition are like (snow, ice)? Also, do you know of a good hardcopy map we can take with us that will include this area? Thanks!

    • sierrarecmagazine says:

      I have not made it up their yet this year but base don snow pack and warm weather this year you will most likely find dirt trails with occasional snow pack covering the trail. I highly recommend the Tom Harrison maps you can find them at most outdoor stores in the area i believe. The other map I have of tis area is the National Geographic maps which i believe is the map Tahoe rim trail uses. Have a great trip. thanks for visiting.

      • Miri says:

        Thanks for the info! If we head out there this weekend, I will be sure to let you know how the trail is.

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