Washoe Meadows State Park

Copyright © 2016 by Jared Manninen

Washoe Meadows State Park is open year-round. Hike through the park during the warmer months and snowshoe and cross-country ski in the snowy ones. Angora Creek and the Upper Truckee River run through Washoe Meadows State Park, so much of the park’s terrain is moist and home to many varieties of wildflowers throughout the spring and summer. Since there is so much water in and around Washoe Meadows State Park, it’s a great location for birding. The park offers sweeping views of Freel Peak, Mount Tallac, Angora Peak, and nearby Twin Peaks. Hiking through the park is about as flat as it gets at Lake Tahoe, so this location is perfect for young children and elderly adults. Just keep in mind that since it is a meadow, large sections of the park can be submerged underwater early in the spring and summer (based on the previous winter’s snowfall). And a fun fact about the park is that scenes for Top Gun 2: Maverick, starring Tom Cruise, were filmed in December 2018 near this route’s turnaround point.

Click on the above map to enlarge it for printing and better viewing. This map is only for reference and shows the general route along Washoe Meadows State Park. Always carry a traditional topographic map and compass when traveling in the backcountry.

Trail Data (approximations):

  • Location: South TahoeMeyers
  • Category of Route: Family Fun Hike, Day Hike
  • Total Mileage: 3 miles
  • Total Elevation Gain: 100 feet
  • Highest Point: 6,388 feet
  • Trail: Hard-packed sand, meadow (portions submerged underwater during wet months)

Considerations:

  • Parking at the gate is OK, but don’t block the gate
  • Sections of the trail of Washoe Meadows State Park can be submerged underwater during wet months, especially during the spring
  • Dogs are not allowed in the park
  • 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

Parking:

Park at the Forest Service gate located on Lake Tahoe Blvd 2.5 miles west of the “Y” intersection of Highway 50 & State Route 89 in South Lake Tahoe. The gate is just beyond Tahoe Mountain Road and near the Lake Valley Fire District Station, and it’s set about 100 meters back from the road in the trees.

An optional entry point to the park is on Mountain Meadow Drive. However, I recommend just parking at the main gate on the north side of Washoe Meadows State Park since it’s never busy and the location enables you to hike the full three miles of trail to the derelict structure/turnaround point. I only offer this secondary location and the alternate trails that form a loop (on the map) so as to alleviate any confusion when hiking if you happen to wander off the main trail.

Hiking through Washoe Meadows State Park on May 16, 2016. © Jared Manninen

The trailhead to the Washoe Meadows State Park is between Tahoe Mountain Road and the Lake Valley Fire District Station, tucked back in the trees on the south side of Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

Here’s a map to assist you in finding the parking area for accessing Washoe Meadows State Park. Remember, the hike featured on this post begins on the northern end of the park.

Travel:

Begin your hike through Washoe Meadows State Park at the trailhead on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, between Tahoe Mountain Road and the Lake Valley Fire District Station.

This hiking trail is about as straightforward as they come at Lake Tahoe. It’s easy to follow and generally comprised of a hard-packed sandy walkway occasionally lined with granite rocks. Just stick to the main thoroughfare and you’ll easily make your way to the turnaround point while hiking alternatively in and out of meadows and forested areas. Along the way you’ll be able to read a handful of interpretive signs, cross a couple of foot bridges, and hopefully spot a wide variety of Sierra Nevada wildflowers and birds.

Copyright © 2015 Jared Manninen

An Alpine Lily in Washoe Meadows State Park on July 6, 2015. © Jared Manninen

I can’t emphasize enough, however, that this park is best saved for hiking during the heart of summer and fall. Although there are some beautiful wooden bridges that will help to keep your feet dry, ultimately this park is a meadow and many of the lower portions of the trail can be completely submerged underwater during April, May, and even June, depending on how much snow Tahoe received the prior winter.

Although I have you arbitrarily turning around for this route at the derelict wooden structure located 1.5 miles from the trailhead (set back in the trees), you could continue south exploring other sections of the park.

Copyright © 2016 by Jared Manninen

View of Mount Tallac from Washoe Meadows State Park on May 16, 2016. This fork in the trail forms the bottom of the alternate trails loop (see map above) where you could hike to the left/west and reach the secondary parking location at Mountain Meadow Drive. © Jared Manninen

When Lake Tahoe experiences a big snow winter, Washoe Meadows State Park is an excellent place to cross-country ski or snowshoe. It’s an ideal location for beginner cross-country skiers since the terrain is mostly flat. However, the overall snowpack definitely needs to be of significant quantities because the park is basically located at lake level, which means its at the lowest point in the Lake Tahoe Basin and is slow to accumulate snow.

Copyright © 2017 Jared Manninen

View of Mount Tallac from Washoe Meadows State Park on February 27, 2017. Normally, this entire aspect of the park would be off-limits on foot during the summer because Angora Creek runs through it and its wet as a result. However, after a good winter of snow it’s prime cross-country skiing and snowshoeing terrain. © Jared Manninen

For those of you who are interested, here is a poster available for purchase that I designed featuring an image taken in Washoe Meadow State Park on January 25, 2017. Click on the image of the poster to go see all of the types of prints available at my RedBubble. Thanks for your support!

Click the image to view available prints of this poster.