Tahoe Rim Trail

A writeup about my experience hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail in September 2018.

Last week, I thru-hiked all 170 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail. I was on the trail for a total of 124 hours (6 days, 5 nights). My average distance hiked per day was over 30 miles! This was the longest distance, by far, that I’ve traveled in self-supported backpacking.

A hiker on a mountain raises a hiking pole, pointing it into the sunset
Me on day 4, approximately 115 miles into my journey

Some parts of the journey were relatively easy. The weather, for example, was more or less ideal. I slept in a bug/wind bivy every night, without need to ever unwrap and pitch my tarp. One night was extremely cold and windy, but I was able to make camp in a wind-sheltered spot adjacent to a huge boulder and large tree. Not a drop of rain fell for all 6 days that I was on trail.

The hardest challenges I faced were related to blisters on my feet and sore spots on my body from my weighted pack. The pack soreness started to go away on day 3. The blisters I tried to mitigate by washing my feet daily in streams or lakes that I passed, but this wasn’t always possible. All of the water sources were near-freezing, so I wasn’t about to get myself wet in the early morning or late evening. I brought one change of socks, but no other changes of my daily clothing. I rotated the sock pairs when I washed my feet.

A hiker in front of a clear mountain lake
Lakes as pretty as this one in the Desolation Wilderness provided a great place to wash my dirty, blistered feet

Covering 30+ miles per day meant that I had to be moving almost constantly. My fastest hiking pace is about 3.3 miles per hour. While traveling uphill on technical terrain, that pace can dip below 2 miles per hour. I spent the fast majority of each day on my feet, moving forward. I was exhausted each night, but my body definitely adapted to the demands.

Sample Daily Routine:

  • 5:30am: Wake up, pack
  • 6:00am: Start hiking (using headlamp for light)
  • 10:00am: Non-cooking break (20-30 minutes)
  • 1:00pm: Cook & eat dinner (45 minutes)
  • 4:00pm: Non-cooking break (20-30 minutes)
  • 6:30pm: Cook & eat dinner (45 minutes)
  • 9:00pm: Pick a campsite & set up sleep system
  • 9:30pm: Start dreaming
A hiker on a mountainside trail, below a colorful sunrise
A benefit to early mornings - epic sunrise views!

Prior to this trip, all of my backpacking experience had been more relaxed in pace. The longest distance I had covered in a day on a backpacking tripi was less than 20 miles. Stepping it up to 30+ miles each day wasn’t an easy process. Notably, the biggest changes I made for this trip were:

  1. I simplified pre-bed and early-morning tasks to the bare minimum, so that I could spend more time on trail
  2. I cooked during rest stops long after starting my mornings, and long before reaching my sleep location
  3. I often rested while preparing food, then I would eat the food while hiking

Though my style on the Tahoe Rim Trail was certainly a ‘fast-and-light’ approach, I feel like there are still improvements to be made! I do really enjoy pushing the limits of comfort for the sake of carrying a lighter pack and moving more quickly through the mountains.

A hiker along a rocky mountainside, with Lake Tahoe in the background
Moving fast and light up Relay Peak, the highest point on the Tahoe Rim Trail

Thanks for reading! Feel free to post below with any questions/comments.

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