Hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak in one shot is a goal shared by many Tahoe locals and weekend visitors. It’s an arduous but relatively safe route that is mostly above treeline and offers 360 degree views for miles in all directions.
Each of the three peaks featured in this hike sit above 10,000 feet. Freel Peak is the highest peak in the entire Lake Tahoe Basin at 10,881 feet.
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There are some variations to this three-peak excursion, but the clockwise route described in this blog is the most common way of accomplishing the feat.
So with a little prior planning and some moderately athletic preparation, you can successfully hike Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak in a day.
Hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak Trail Data (approximations):
- Location: South Tahoe – Luther Pass
- Category of Hike: Day Hike, Multi-Day Hike
- Total Mileage: 12 miles
- Total Elevation Gain: 4,100 feet
- Highest Point: 10,881 feet
- Trail Conditions: Alternating between hard-packed and sandy soil
Considerations for Hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak Trail:
- Confirm that the gate to Forest Service Road 051 is open and your vehicle is equipped for the road conditions
- Plan for the worst, hope for the best—this route features at least 5 miles of fully exposed terrain that sits at 10,000 feet of elevation or higher
- Begin your hike earlier than you would start a lesser day hike in order to give yourself plenty of daylight to work with, as well as enabling you to get off of the higher peaks before any afternoon storms roll in
- Adhere to all Leave No Trace principles
- There are few trail signs and markers on public lands in the Tahoe region, so unless there are tracks to follow, the correct route may be difficult to identify–when in doubt, turn back
- Be prepared for inclement weather and carry plenty of warm clothes, food, and water
- Leave an itinerary of your plans with someone who’ll call emergency services if you don’t return by your prescribed time
- Dogs are allowed, but keep them on leash and pick up after them
Parking Directions for the Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak Hiking Trail:
The most simplified version of the parking instructions for hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak is this…
take SR 89 about 9-10 miles south of Meyers, CA, to Forest Service Road 051 (.75 miles beyond the Luther Pass sign), drive up that road for 3.5 miles, park in the big open dirt area on the left, and hit the trail.
Those were the basic instructions I received from a friend I had run into on top of Mount Tallac on January 7, 2012. Winter had not yet arrived that year and many people were hiking peaks in the Lake Tahoe Basin well into January.
I was looking to hike Freel Peak the following weekend, but the only route I knew was long and grueling. I described this to my friend that day on Tallac, and that’s when she mentioned a slightly easier approach to Freel Peak.
My friend’s instructions were simple and accurate, but I didn’t pay close enough attention to some key details and clearly didn’t ask enough questions.
Needless to say my hike of Freel Peak the following weekend became an experience I, nor the friend who hiked with me, will never forget. The day also became “that which we do not speak of” forevermore.
If you’re already familiar with the Luther Pass area, take those above instructions and run with ’em. But I recommend reading further for detailed information about Forest Service Road 051, which is where you’ll park for this route.
Freel Peak and Jobs Sister are technically located within the Lake Tahoe Basin, but both peaks are on the border between the Lake Tahoe Basin (managed by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit) and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
The reason this is important is because the most common trailhead to access Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, or Jobs Peak (and the route I’m describing) is via Forest Service Road 051. On some maps this road is also referred to as Willow Creek Road. Some Tahoe locals call it Crystal Mines Road.
Regardless of what you call it, know that this rugged and rough dirt road is located within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. This means that the road (with a green Forest Service access gate) is managed by the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest office in Carson City, NV.
Forest Service Road 051 is not managed by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit in South Lake Tahoe, CA.
The reason this is important is because the gate at the entrance to Forest Service Road 051 is locked for many months out of the year. There are no specific open/close dates for the gate. That’s based on the conditions.
Mostly the gate is locked during winter months, but in 2017 the gate remained closed until the end of June due to the harsh conditions remaining from the 2016/17 Snowmaggedon (i.e. epic winter). When the gate was opened, FS 051 had deep ruts and mud/water zones where it would’ve been impossible to negotiate with a standard passenger vehicle.
The day I drove the road (July 4, 2017) to assess it for vehicle access, I witnessed a Toyota RAV4 safely coming down the road, but on my way out I met some folks who were in a newer Ford Mustang. They only made it about a half mile past the gate before having to turn around.
If you’re planning to hike Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak, you don’t want to add another seven miles (round trip) of unnecessary road walking. I’ve traveled this road by foot voluntarily and by necessity many times and the additional miles make an already long day, longer.
Before you leave the house consider the time of year you plan to hike Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak via this route. Then, confirm that the gate is unlocked and your vehicle is appropriate for driving the road.
When you’re positive the gate is open, take SR 89 out of Meyers, CA, and head south for approximately 9 miles to Luther Pass.
Three-quarters of a mile beyond the official Luther Pass sign (on your descent into Hope Valley) you’ll find Forest Service Road 051 on the left (north side of SR 89).
This road is easy to miss because it’s surrounded by trees and lacks any official indicators other than a small stop sign for traffic leaving the road and turning onto SR 89.
Slow down at about a half mile beyond the Luther Pass sign and keep your eyes out for the road, but be aware of traffic backing up behind you because this is a 55mph zone. You don’t want someone thinking you’re a slow-driving tourist taking in the sights and then passing you on the left at 65-70mph while you’re target fixated on finding the road and making the left hand turn onto it.
Most people don’t even realize FS 051 exists, so they’re not prepared to come to a dead stop driving downhill in a 55mph zone. This could be the case when you have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before making the left hand turn onto the road. I apologize for belaboring what may seem like mundane details about the fine art of driving an automobile, but everything I write is born out of direct experience and it’s my desire to help you to avoid catastrophe.
Once you spot the road (the first section is paved) turn onto it and proceed uphill.
At the gate, which is set back in the forest and not visible from SR 89, the road turns to dirt.
To safely navigate the 3.5 miles of dirt road that leads to the trailhead, you need a vehicle with moderate clearance.
Prior to the road’s most recent grading (circa 2013), you would’ve needed a four-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance to negotiate a series of deep ruts soon after the gate.
No matter what, this road has many obstacles such as rocks, roots, and ruts that will wreak havoc on a small two-wheel drive car. For my first 12 years living at Lake Tahoe, I drove a two-wheel drive coupe and never bothered to even attempt to drive up this road (even after it was graded), which is one reason why I have so much experience traveling it by foot.
After approximately 3.5 miles from the gate you’ll find an open dirt area that should show obvious signs of vehicle use and probably a couple of parked vehicles. This parking area will immediately follow the second small bridge that you will cross.
While standing on FS 051 and facing that parking area, look to the far left of the parking area and you will find the trailhead.
It may take you a minute to locate it because, again, there aren’t any signs and it’s tucked back in some trees and bushes. You’ll know you’ve positively found the trailhead when you find the small foot bridge that crosses Willow Creek.
The small foot bridge is the trailhead for hiking to Freel Peak (and on to Jobs Sister and Jobs Peak).
FYI … Forest Service Road 051 continues up the hill for another mile or so and splinters off in various directions, but the main road eventually dead-ends at the base of the trail that leads to Jobs Peak.
If you were only hiking to Jobs Peak, park near the end and save yourself a short road walk. However, if you’re hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak just park at that larger area near the main trailhead.
Here’s a map to assist you in finding FS 051 (aka Willow Creek Road) for accessing the trail to Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak.
Travel along the Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak Hiking Trail:
The first thing to note about hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak is that most people travel this route in a clockwise direction (as I am describing in this blog).
The reason for this is that there is a steep sandy section below Jobs Sister. It’s not something you have to worry about falling off of or needing specialized climbing gear or skills. This section is just really exhausting to hike up because it’s an 800 foot section of vertical beach.
Minimizing exposure (i.e. not getting trapped in one section for too long) will increase your chances for a successful and safer hike.
Other than that, it’s six of one and a half dozen of another whether you choose to hike clockwise or counterclockwise. But know that this blog is written with the intention of hiking the traditional clockwise route.
About 1 mile after setting off on your adventure from the trailhead near the parking area, you’ll reach Armstrong Pass. This junction is also where the trail links up with Tahoe Rim Trail.
At the Armstrong Pass junction choose the trail that travels northeast (to the right as you are looking toward Lake Tahoe) and in the direction of Star Lake and Freel Peak.
If you traveled south along the Tahoe Rim Trail you would end up at the Big Meadow Campground near SR 89.
If you took the trail that travels northwest (along the left side of Armstrong Pass as you look toward Lake Tahoe) you’d link up with Fountain Place Road and the Corral Loop mountain biking trail system.
So, veer right and contour the west-southwest facing aspect of Armstrong Pass.
After approximately 3 miles you’ll reach a small saddle between Trimmer Peak (nearer Lake Tahoe) and Freel Peak.
There will be a sign at this saddle indicating that Freel Peak is one mile away. Take that trail and start heading uphill.
You’ll have to negotiate a number of small switchbacks through weather-beaten trees. At this point, you’ll have reached about 10,000 feet in elevation and be fully exposed to the elements.
Keep in mind that you’ll continue to be exposed for the next five miles.
Here is a panoramic video from the top of Freel Peak on the morning of June 20, 2015.
Lake Tahoe averages about 275 days of sunshine each year, which is why so many of us love living here. However, we’ve also experienced our fair share of punishing storms.
When tackling the hike around Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak, never assume things are going to magically work themselves out when shit goes sideways.
Respect the mountains by having contingency plans.
To me that means carrying a topographic map of the area and identifying evacuation routes. I keep a close eye on the weather throughout the day and wear adequate protection against the sun, wind, and rain. In addition to carrying enough food and water for the trip, I take enough to last me just beyond the allotted time to complete the route. I also continually monitor my hiking pace, as well as my mental and physical states.
The five mile stretch above 10,000 feet is my favorite part of this route. However, it’s also arguably the most dangerous section because once you begin your ascent of Freel Peak there just aren’t that many places to go in case of emergency.
Fortunately, because there are endless panoramic views along this route, you can navigate by line-of-sight. You can spot bad weather from miles away.
But again, make sure you have some contingency plans if something goes wrong.
Traveling from Freel Peak to Jobs Sister and then from Jobs Sister to Jobs Peak is easy to navigate. You literally can see where you are going the entire time.
When you descend Jobs Peak and reach the saddle that either leads back over to Jobs Sister or continues downhill into the forested area, pick the trail that goes downhill.
You’ll make your way down through the forest for approximately 1.25 miles and eventually end up back on FS 051.
Walk the road for about 1.5 miles back to your vehicle.
One last self-indulgent note…
Although some people refer to this hike as Tahoe’s “Triple Crown,” I avoid using that term since it already holds an established place of honor in the hiking world.
For those who aren’t familiar, the Triple Crown refers to the big three American long-distance hikes (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail). Each one of those hikes takes between four and six months to complete.
Also consider that in the horse racing and baseball worlds the term Triple Crown refers to season-long accomplishments. As a former Appalachian Trail thru-hiker (1999), I can tell you that hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak in one day is hard, but it ain’t that hard. It is ultimately a day-hike, so let’s try to keep some perspective on the matter.
Please forgive me and my obsession with semantics.
Here is an infographic I created about Freel Peak. Order your copy at RedBubble.
Do you have other insight, feedback, or trail updates about hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak?
If so, please post it in the comment section below for the benefit of everybody 🙂
10 thoughts on “Hiking Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak (via Forest Service Road 051 near Luther Pass in South Tahoe)”
Impressive! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you for the kind words 🤗 I appreciate it!
I’m thinking about doing this trip from the Fountain Place entrance instead. Is that insane? The mileage looks like it would be 17ish? Feel free to talk me out of this plan if there’s an obvious reason.
I don’t know that I’d call your proposed route insane, but I’d definitely classify it as ambitious 🙂
The added distance which, as you’ve estimated at about 6 miles (approx. 17 total miles), is one thing. The extra elevation gain is what I’d be more concerned with as far as slowing you down. If you park at the top of Fountain Place Rd, you’ll be at roughly 7,700′. And the only way to go from there is straight up. From the dirt road on the backside of Luther Pass (FS 051), the starting elevation is closer to 8,200′. And, the hike up to and through Armstrong Pass is mostly just a longer traverse (until you reach the Trimmer Peak/Freel Peak intersection on the TRT). Then, no matter where you start you’ll be going straight up.
The benefit to taking the Fountain Place option is not having to drive up and over Luther Pass and then up the dirt road on the backside of Freel (FS 051). That drive can take long, but you wouldn’t necessarily save time on your journey by taking Fountain Place because you’ll have more elevation gain and miles to cover. You’d mostly just be saving the gas by not driving as far.
The uphill battle from Fountain Place would make for a long start to your day. Not impossible, but if you’re not training for anything in particular I’d just recommend hiking Freel, Jobs Sister, and Jobs from the standard route as explained in this article.
That said, you could shave a couple miles off of the Fountain Place route (Armstrong Pass Trail 18e09 on the south side of Armstrong Pass, if that’s what you were planning) by traveling off-trail on the north side of Fountain Place. There’s a draw that leads directly up to the Trimmer Peak/Freel Peak intersection on the TRT from the top of Fountain Place Rd. Basically, hug the base of the south face of the Trimmer Peak mountain area at Fountain Place (be sure not to cross or travel on the private property up there). This route is not technically directly below Trimmer Peak, but rather the 9,700′ (no name) summit directly south of it. Hike along the base of this mountain to the stream and take that draw directly uphill. There’s often a footpath that travels parallel to the stream/draw (on the west side). You should’ve ever have to cross that stream/draw. Keep in mind that this is even more straight uphill and you’ll have to negotiate a “vertical beach” for much of that route. I haven’t written about this particular route because it is a challenge and not necessarily obvious to people who’ve never been up there. I’ve hiked it a handful of times and have since left that to more ambitious folk than I 🙂 Now I just take the FS 051 route as it’s generally easier to navigate and not quite as much as a slog. If you hiked in the clockwise direction around the three peaks from this starting point, I’d then just recommend taking that Armstrong Pass Trail (on the south side of the pass) back to Fountain Place (as opposed to retracing your steps back down that draw).
Anyway, whatever you choose will be a great adventure. Let me know what you ultimately decide and tell me how it goes!
Jared, thanks for taking the time to write the detailed experience. All the tips provided ensure a pleasant day including the traffic issues turning from 89 on to 051 (trail head). I like this style, I do it myself and have been considered a bit long winded but you won’t be able to say I didn’t tell you. I do my homework and “seek to be understood”. Pay now or pay later!
Anyway, I feel very good about your directions but I have added a GPS to my navigation cache. I’m routinely practicing with my Garmin 60 CSx. I was wondering if you have any coordinates for this run?
Also if you have any other experiences on comparable hikes that would be appreciated as well.
As a rule, have your vehicles been safe in these parking areas? I know to bear proof my P.U. but it’s the knuckleheads I dread.
Again, Thank you,
Hey Kevin aka Luke,
Sorry for the delay in responding. I spent this past weekend on the north shore of Lake Tahoe doing research on the Donner Party. Good stuff!
Thanks so much for the nice feedback, btw! I usually try to keep it brief, but it seldom happens 🙂 I began to format my trail articles with the basic information at the beginning so that if a person just wanted the facts they could find them quickly. However, I feel compelled, particularly on more challenging routes such as this one, to offer more detail. I get annoyed at sites that gloss over the hazards/considerations of a trail (in lieu of motivating their readers to get out there?). Those sites remind me of the scene in “This is Spinal Tap” where the band is ready to rock ‘n roll, but they get trapped in the basement of the concert hall because they never bothered to figure out how to get to the stage. haha
Anyway, once I finish this reply I’ll email you the route in a GPX format. It’s actually broken up into two legs as one of the times I did this trifecta (and recorded it) I took a friend and we camped on top of Freel (hence the two files). Honestly though, the only GPS I use is my Suunto Ambit 2 watch, and that’s just to record my routes to double check my map reading abilities. Basically, I only use a map/compass for navigation. So, I’m hoping you’ll know what to do with the GPX files. If that’s not what you’re looking for, get back to me and tell me specifically what you need. I’d include them for direct download on this site, but WordPress treats the GPX files as a suspicious for some reason. Something I need to research further.
I will say this, though. I’m 99.99% positive that the gate at FS 051 is locked at this point in the season (11/19/18). Usually it’s one of the first gates in the Lake Tahoe region to be locked as it sits at a higher elevation. And usually the Forest Service begins to lock all the gates around November 15th. So, either plan for the extra 7 miles (round-trip), or save it for next year.
That said, the loop hike around Stevens Peak (which I posted recently) might be more appropriate now. It’s about a 12 mile hike with 7 miles of off-trail travel. I’ll include that GPX file as well in the email.
As far as thefts/break-ins at Tahoe trailheads, I’ve never had a problem. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur, because I have read articles in recent years about the increase of theft. But, again, I’ve never had a problem. I seem to recall a higher percentage occurring at trailheads with easy access to a highway or state route (i.e. quick getaway) versus trailheads located at more obscure and small dirt roads. I would also avoid leaving any scented items in your vehicle (bear proof canisters or not).
Thanks again for getting in touch. Let me know if you have any other questions!
Can you send the files for the Freel Peak hike via Horse Meadow?
I will also email you a GPX file, but this page ( https://tahoetrailguide.com/freel-peak-via-forest-service-road-051/ ) details the information more succinctly about hiking Freel Peak via the Horse Meadow trailhead.
Do you have a GPS file for this route? Thank you G
I’ve hiked Freel, Jobs Sister, and Jobs on the same day, but day prior to owning a GPS. Since getting a GPS I’ve rehiked the route a couple times and have turned it into a two-day excursion camping out up top, so I have the route in XML format (but split in two files). If you’d like it, contact me through the contact form so I can get your email to send it to you (I don’t have the ability to attach files here in the comment section). Thanks for reading!