The Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT) loops around the Lake Tahoe Basin, as it routes through the Sierra Nevada and Carson mountain ranges of the region. It happens to share the path of the Pacific Crest Trail for a 50 mile stretch on the western shore of Lake Tahoe. The overall difficulty of the trail is rated as moderate. The length of the route is relatively short for a long distance trail, and the mild terrain and weather conditions make this a pleasant hike. Spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe are common from the mountainous stretches on the trail.
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, and the basin around the lake is home of the famous mountain ranges of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Range. The trail includes several challenging sections of steep, rocky climbs through these mountains. Other sections pass through the dense forests common to this area. With this diversity, the difficulty of the terrain will vary based on different sections of the trail.
The trail does pass through a few towns where hikers can collect water, but for the most part you will need to depend on natural water sources. There are some natural streams along the trail, but it is important to plan ahead, especially during drier years. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association publishes additional information on the availability of water sources and current trail conditions. Hikers can also use maps and guidebooks to find nearby sources. It is important to note that the northeastern section of the trail of about 75 miles can have more water scarcity during dry seasons.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is relatively short, and a thru-hike can typically completed in around 10 days time. This reduces the need to depend significantly on resupply points. There are several primary trailheads in developed areas where hikers can potentially get to town in order to resupply on food - Spooner Summit (east), Kingsbury Grade (southeast), and Tahoe City (west). The trail coincides with Tahoe City just a few hundred feet from a supermarket, so many hikers will opt to start the hike at Kingsburgy Grade in order to resupply at Tahoe City.
The weather for the Tahoe Lake region during the summer is pleasant with hot days, cool nights, and little precipitation. Hiking early in the season can be more difficult, as snow will linger on the ground until later in the season. The summertime is usually quite dry, but there are occasional storms in the area. There is cell service along most the trail, so hikers can easily check the weather ahead of time. While the days are hot, the nights can dip down to close to freezing temperatures, so it is important to have warm clothes and an adequate sleeping bag for those times.
The TRT is clearly marked with signposts designating the trail by a blue marker with an outline of the lake, and the route is very well-maintained by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. As with most trails, it is still recommended to bring backup navigational data. GPS data can be downloaded ahead of time, and there are also published maps and guidebooks which are very useful for both trail navigation and finding general information on the surrounding environment.
Severe weather can be a concern, but with proper gear and planning, this risk is easily mitigated. Black bears do live in this region, but they are not usually very dangerous. In fact, a bear canister is not actually required for thru-hiking the TRT, but many hikers will still use some form of bear-proof bags to protect food. Regulations can be a "hazard", as permits are required for campfires and for hiking in the Desolation Wilderness section in the southern part of the trail.
The TRT is not a very popular thru-hike, and is often overshadowed by the nearby John Muir Trail. Compared to the JMT, it is much less crowded, and also not as challenging while still offering great views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountain ranges. When the trail coincides with the Pacific Crest Trail, the route will become more crowded from hikers using both trails. Additionally, areas that pass through towns like Tahoe City will have more day-hikers and section-hikers.
Transportation to the main trailheads is fairly straightforward. Those hikers coming from out of the area can get to the Lake Tahoe region by flying into Reno, and then use the Tahoe Express to access points along both the north and south shores. There are both public transportation options using local buses, as well as shuttle services for more customized transportation needs. There are taxis in the area too, although Uber and Lyft only operate in limited areas around Lake Tahoe. Local hikers can drive, but there are limited options for long-term parking.
Developed accommodation along the trail is only available in passing through a few larger towns such as Tahoe City and Kingsbury. For the most part, hikers will need to rely on camping out in the backcountry. As this is a relatively short long distance hike, having only a few nights of proper accommodation will be sufficient for most hikers.