Hiking Warr Trail

Copyright © 2017 Jared Manninen

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The Warr Trail is short and stout, featuring just over 1,800 feet of elevation gain in just under three miles of hiking (one-way). Although the Warr Trail is shown on three of the more popular Lake Tahoe recreation maps, not many people (Tahoe locals included) actually know it exists. This is interesting because the trailhead is easily accessible, the trail itself provides a heart-pounding workout, and the views at the top are stunning.

Warr Hiking Trail Data (approximations):

  • Location: South TahoeChristmas Valley
  • Category of Hike: Day Hike
  • Category of XC Ski/Snowshoe Route: Advanced
  • Total Mileage: 6
  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,800 feet
  • Highest Point: 8,300 feet
  • Trail Conditions: Hard-packed sand with some roots and rocks

Considerations for Hiking Warr Trail:

  • Be prepared for a significant climb in a relatively short distance
  • For late fall, early winter, and spring hiking bring some type of foot traction to negotiate icy aspects of the trail
  • 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
Click on the above map to enlarge it for better viewing and printing. This map is only for reference and shows the general route of the Warr Trail. Always carry a traditional topographic map and compass when traveling in the backcountry.

Parking Directions for the Warr Hiking Trail:

The parking “lot” to the Warr Trail is essentially hiding in plain sight.

At the junction of HWY 50 and SR 89, in Meyers, travel south on SR 89 into Christmas Valley approximately 0.9 miles (a few hundred meters south of Shakori Drive).

The parking area is located on the east side of SR 89. It’s nothing more than a dirt turnout with some large rocks delineating the edge, which is adjacent to the open field.

If everyone parked perpendicular to SR 89 in this area, there would be enough space to fit at least a dozen vehicles. Although, you’d never see that many people there at one time as it’s a lesser traveled hiking trail.

Copyright © 2017 Jared Manninen
Desert Firedot Lichen (Caloplaca trachyphylla) as seen on granite at the top of the Warr Trail on November 19, 2017. © Jared Manninen

Finding the trailhead of the Warr Trail is slightly challenging for the first time, but once you’ve found it you’ll never again have difficulty locating it.

When you’ve parked your vehicle and are ready to go, hike away from the road and directly toward the mountain.

There are at least two well beaten paths that run parallel to SR 89 (one near the highway and one a little further from it), but these are not the trails you want to choose. They just take you between Shakori Drive and Santa Claus Drive. You’ll know that these are the wrong trails because they never really travel uphill.

The Warr Hiking Trail, on the other hand, immediately heads uphill. As it gains in elevation, it contours the mountain face in a southerly direction.

So, hike past those two foot paths toward the mountain.

Once you reach the base of the mountain, you’ll find a relatively wide and obvious trail.

As of November 2017, you could see from the parking area a huge tree that had been cut down. It’s laying parallel to the trail.

The trailhead for the Warr Hiking Trail is just beyond the fallen tree.

Here’s a map to assist you in finding the parking area for accessing the Warr Trail.

Travel along the Warr Hiking Trail:

The Warr Trail can be found on Tom Harrison’s Lake Tahoe & Tahoe Rim Trail Map, National Geographic’s Lake Tahoe Basin Map (#803), and the Lake Tahoe Basin Trail Map by Adventure Maps, Inc.

However, those three maps cannot agree on the distance of the Warr Trail or where it starts. My GPS watch clocked the trail at 2.75 miles one-way.

All the maps do agree upon where it ends, however, which is at its intersection with the Saxon Creek Trail (aka Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride mountain bike trail).

Unless you’re planning to hike further to link up with the Tahoe Rim Trail via Tucker Flat, for example, I wouldn’t bother going to the Saxon Creek Trail junction.

Instead, I would recommend hiking further uphill to the unnamed peak closest (just north) to the Warr Hiking Trail. This route is shown on my map in the form of the hooked shape trail highlighted in red.

This brief deviation with the actual trail provides a much more gratifying turnaround point. You’ll be rewarded with exceptional views looking west (Echo Summit, Echo Lake, the southern half of the Crystal Range in Desolation Wilderness, and Mount Tallac).

There’s some off-trail hiking involved in this choice, but nothing too dangerous. Just be conscious of your steps and don’t try to climb up and over the large granite boulders.

Small streams and snow melt along the Warr Trail can create icy hiking conditions in late fall, early winter, and spring, so exercise caution when you encounter these hazards. © Jared Manninen

If you’re planning to hike the Warr Trail in late fall, early winter, or spring, be advised that many parts of this trail can be slick and icy. There are a handful of small streams that cross the trail and can quickly turn to ice under the right circumstances.

Also, the first major aspect of the trail is on a west facing slope, so a lot of the snow melt will also go through a freeze/thaw cycle which can create hazardous walking conditions.

If in doubt, bring micro-spikes or foot traction devices to negotiate the icier parts. When the snow is deep enough, you’ll definitely want to bring with you some snowshoes.

If this trail has enough snow that you need snowshoes, exercise caution when traveling it.

Although the trail mostly faces west and south (as opposed to more avalanche prone aspects of north/northeast/east), there are a few parts of this trail where there is nowhere to go but down.

Copyright © 2017 Jared Manninen
Andy hiking up one of the steeper sections (toward the top) of Warr Trail in the snow on November 19, 2017. © Jared Manninen