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North Lake Tahoe Hiking Trails: Mt Rose Summit

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Mt Rose Summit Trail

Mt. Rose is the second highest peak in the Lake Tahoe basin and the highest peak on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, at 10,778′.  Seems tall, but you’ll start your hike up at 8,911′ and be rewarded by some fantastic 360-degree views!

  • top trails tahoeTrailhead: Mt Rose Summit parking area, Highway 431  – Open in Google Maps.
  • Length: 10 miles round trip; 5-7 hours.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.  Roughly 1,900′ elevation gain.
  • Usage: Hikers and dogs.  Free, no permit required unless you’ll have a campfire at a wilderness site.
  • Best Time for Photography: The waterfall 2.5 miles into the hike photographs best in the morning.  The sun will be high when you get to the summit.  Sunset & sunrise colors from the summit are spectacular.
  • Are Drones Allowed: For most of the way until entering Mount Rose Wilderness at the end.
  • Trail Info Current: May 31, 2015
  • Further Reading: Top Trails: Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Hikes for Everyone
  • Go back to Lake Tahoe Hikes map
mt rose

Plots created using actual GPS track logs.

Mt Rose

The ridge on the top of Mt Rose.

Mt Rose Summit Hike Narrative

The summit may seem high to some, but the trail starts at the highest year-round Sierra pass so you won’t have that much of an elevation gain.  A large parking area is at the summit of the highway and the trail starts behind the bathrooms.

Mt Rose

Overlooking Tahoe Meadows and beyond to Lake Tahoe at the beginning of the Mt Rose Summit trail.

The trail has a very easy, barely noticeable climb for the first 3.5 miles.  The climb starts in the final mile and a half, but is still on a well-maintained footpath all the way to the summit.

Views of Lake Tahoe will be in front of you as you start on the trail over Mt. Rose Highway, but you’ll quickly enter a scenic forested area and lose the lake.  At 2.5 miles you’ll get to a small waterfall, a nice contrast to the fairly dry area that is this side of the lake.  These falls are highly dependent on the previous winter’s snowfall.

Mt Rose waterfall

The Mt Rose waterfall, two and a half miles into the trail to the summit.

You’ll take a right past the waterfall and pass through an open area and across a few streams.  After these stream crossings you’ll begin your climb, gradual at first and then getting steeper as you reenter the forest and into the Mount Rose Wilderness.

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The Mt Rose Summit trail, looking back towards the waterfall just before the beginning of the climb.

A small series of switchbacks will take you up the west side of the mountain and you’ll then arrive at the saddle between Mt. Rose and Church Peak to the north.  Here you’ll have some fantastic views to the north, into Truckee to Donner Lake, Boca Reservoir, and even Mt. Lassen 115 miles to the northwest on a clear day.

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Looking northwest from Mt Rose Summit. Donner Lake is distant to the left, Boca Reservoir to the right and Prosser Reservoir left of that. Mt Lassen is visible in the distance above Boca Reservoir.

As you continue up this saddle you’ll get continually better views of Lake Tahoe, and eventually Reno to the east.  The final climb up to the summit is rocky and very exposed.  Just a few months before I did this hike, anemometers recorded 134 mph gusts at the top!

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Looking south from Mt Rose Summit.

Tips for the Mt Rose Summit Trail

  • Check the weather before you go!  Thunderstorms can pop up in the spring and summer and you don’t want to be on top when lightning strikes.  And as mentioned above, the winds can reach well over 100 mph!
  • Snow can stay on the covered portions of the trail and north side of the mountain well into late summer.  This is a heavily-used trail so the snow will be packed where the trail is, but you may want to bring gaiters and hiking poles.
  • There’s some great opportunities for panoramics at the top, if you have any specialized tripods or heads to make them.
mt rose

The final stretch up to the top of Mt Rose.

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Looking over the trail to Lake Tahoe, from Mt Rose.

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