A Great Day Hike or Short Backpacking Destination Spring, Summer or Fall At Lake Tahoe’s South Shores
Dardanelles Lake in our opinion is the prettiest of the lakes in the Meiss Country of South Lake Tahoe. Located off Hwy 89’s Luther Pass the Christmas valley trailhead is the less popular destination for the region as most people stop at the Big Meadow trailhead just up the hill. (Better Services and less climbing on that route). We discovered the Christmas Valley route a few years back when one of our Instagram follows suggested the route and though trail is a bit more strenuous than the Big Meadow trail (part of the Tahoe Rim Trail) I find that I enjoy this route very much and have done it a few times now instead of Big Meadow.
The trail itself is well maintained and is used by both hiker and mountain biker. It starts at the edge of a meadow and ascends up through the lush forest til it reaches an old fire area that has grown back with fields of manzanita and a thorny sagebrush of sorts. The green colors mixed with the burnt trees and granite outcrops is spectacular. A quick peek back over your shoulder and you realize that you climbed high enough to now see Lake Tahoe in the distance. As you climb through the scarred remains of the burn area it is refreshing to hear stream water that eventually feeds Lake Tahoe running beside you along the route. Back in the trees, you continue to gradually climb until you reach the trail split for Dardanelles Lake. From here you are approx. 8/10th of a mile to the lake crossing three streams and down into the lake basin.
You are not likely to be by yourself at Dardanelles Lake as it is a popular local location to get away from the crowds and enjoy an evening backpack trip with friends or just an afternoon in the hammock and a couple dips in the lake. There is reachable shoreline on most of the Lake with granite slabs running into the water on the Northern edge. Cam spots a plentiful of the North and western edges of the Lake and at this time no permit that we know of is needed to backpack and stay at Dardanelles Lake, as with all the lakes in Meiss Country. A great alternative to Desolation Wilderness if you did not get your permits before visiting.