Tahoe Rim Trail Day Hikes: Spooner to South Camp Peak

You don’t have to be thru-hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail to enjoy this hike.  It can be done as a half-day out-and-back or also completed as an overnighter for those wishing to take in the sunset and sunrise views of Lake Tahoe from South Camp Peak.

  • top trails tahoeTrailhead: Spooner Summit Rest Area on the south side of Highway 50 – Open in Google Maps.
  • Length: 10 miles round trip; 4-5 hours.
  • Difficulty: Moderate with about a 1,700′ gain in elevation.
  • Usage: Hikers and horses, mountain biking is also allowed on this section of the trail.  Free.
  • Best Time for Photography: For a day hike, plan to get to the summit in late morning to have the best light on the west shore.  But if you can afford to spend the night, you’ll get a great show for both sunset and sunrise from the peak.
  • Are Drones Allowed: Yes.
  • Trail Info Current: May 12, 2015
  • Further Reading: Top Trails: Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Hikes for EveryoneTahoe Rim Trail Official
  • Go back to Lake Tahoe Hikes map

Plots created using digital topographic map data, not actual GPS logs. Distance and elevation profiles are approximate.

Spooner Summit to South Camp Peak

South Camp Peak Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail gently winding through pines, firs, and manzanita scrub near Spooner Summit.

The parking area is at the Spooner Summit Rest Area, at the larger lot on the south side of the highway (not the smaller lot on the north side).  The trailhead starts at the south side of the parking lot and immediately starts climbing in a series of switchbacks.

After a few switchbacks the trail starts to mellow out for a few miles.  It alternates between open areas and wooded areas, and a few spots offer glimpses of Lake Tahoe through the trees.  A number of camping sites are situated immediately off the trail for much of the route.

Tahoe Rim Trail to South Camp Peak

Saplings growing along the Tahoe Rim Trail.

The trail continues in this manner, with shallow descents and shallow climbs through mostly wooded terrain and the occasional lake view.  The real view comes at the end.

View from Tahoe Rim Trail

View of Lake Tahoe from the Tahoe Rim Trail, Spooner to South Camp Peak trail. Glenbrook just barely visible.

Shortly after three miles from the beginning you’ll start another climb, and suddenly you’ll find yourself looking over the entire lake.  This ridge is very exposed and when the winds are out of the west it can get really gusty here!

Lake Tahoe view from South Camp Peak

View of Glenbrook and beyond, from South Camp Peak along the Tahoe Rim Trail.

The trail along the ridge extends for about one mile south and offers outstanding views the entire length.

Hike Extension:

Continue south for approximately 1/2 mile to the junction of the Genoa Peak trail and climb Genoa Peak (9,150′) for some stellar 360-degree views!

Emerald Bay from South Camp Peak

Emerald Bay and Cascade Lake from South Camp Peak, along the Tahoe Rim Trail.

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Tips for the Spooner Summit to South Camp Peak Hike

  • This section of the trail is usually the first to be clear of snow since most of it is west-facing and this side of the lake usually doesn’t get as much as the west shore.
  • There are no stream crossings (i.e. no water) on this trail.
  • Camping is allowed within 300 feet of the trail.
  • This is also a good trail to photograph wildflowers in early summer.
South Camp Peak views

The plateau of South Camp Peak, from the east shore of Lake Tahoe, along the Tahoe Rim Trail.

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Views from South Camp Peak

South Camp Peak and Lake Tahoe

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Corrections, suggestions, or questions?  Please leave a comment below!

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