Uncategorized August 15, 2023

Backpacking to Showers Lake

By Tim Hauserman

A highlight of summer in the Sierra is to get out into the wilderness on a backpack trip. Or better yet, several. This year’s first trip was Showers Lake along the Pacific Crest Trail/Tahoe Rim Trail between Carson Pass and Echo Summit. 

While Showers Lake is certainly a lovely little lake, on this trip the journey is as good as the destination. Especially if you catch the wildflower timing correctly, which we certainly did. I’ve hiked through Meiss Meadows and up to Showers Lake perhaps a dozen times, and it is known as a wildflower haven-but this year, really took the cake. 

What also made this trip special was my daughter who lives on the east coast and her husband were able to come out and join us for a few days in the wilderness. She grew up on backpacking here in Tahoe, but it had been ten years since we’d had a chance to get out there together and it made my summer. 

We headed north from Carson Pass on the PCT. There is a steady climb for about a mile to a saddle. To the south, spectacular views of Round Top and Elephant’s Back. To the north, sits a little pond, which is the beginning of the Upper Truckee River and the edge of the Tahoe Basin. The route then descends into a wide valley with high ridges still holding patches of snow, and feeding loads of small streams. Once on the valley floor, the wildflower display begins and continues through Meiss Meadows to the crossing of the Upper Truckee. 

Soon after, a steady climb passes thick waves of lupine and paint brush to Showers Lake, at five miles from the trailhead. The lake has a forested eastern edge loaded with camp sites, a rocky northern side that attracts swimmers, and a marshy southern edge. We found a nice site, settled ourselves in, went for a swim and then came…the deluge.  Heavy rain and about three inches of hail. All part of the adventure, as long as you are in your tent when it happens. 

While Showers Lake is quite beautiful there are a few important things to consider:

The lake is very popular, but I’d never seen it as busy as this time with both overnighters and day hikers. It was over what I feel is the capacity. I’d recommend waiting until off-season or going in the middle of the week. Also, a good number of folks didn’t seem to know that one of the precepts of Leaving No Trace was to keep the noise down, as a lot of us go to the woods for peace and tranquility. And finally, we saw two groups start illegal campfires. They are not allowed in the Tahoe basin and most of the Sierra. We promptly requested they put them out and both parties said they didn’t know that they were not allowed.