Summiting Mount Rose
There is nothing like the exhilaration of bagging a peak, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time: crating your neck to catch a glimpse of your destination, winding your way up countless switchbacks, finding yourself breathless at the summit from both the views and the altitude.
If you’re looking for a fairly unchallenging peak to bag while in the Lake Tahoe area, Mount Rose is a perfect 10-mile out-and-back hike. Heidi and I hit Mount Rose for a sunset hike to stretch our legs after a long day of traveling in the #YourLead van. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of snow still on the trail; we battled some fierce winds at the summit, but we made it just in time to watch the sun dip below the mountains and light up Lake Tahoe.
Our updated Five-Star Trails: Lake Tahoe, by Jordan Summers, will be hitting the shelves later this month! Can’t wait that long to try this hike for yourself? Here’s how to reach the summit.
No one is certain about the origin of Mount Rose’s name—even whether it came from a man or a woman. At 10,776 feet, Mount Rose is the highest point around Lake Tahoe’s Nevada side.
This trail is straightforward and pleasant to walk the entire way. You’ll use a ridge at the foot of Mount Houghton to gain 200 feet in the first 0.5 mile before crossing that ridge to traverse for the next 2 miles with no elevation gain. You’ll have great views of Lake Tahoe initially before your destination begins to dominate the vista. The final 2.5 miles to the summit are interrupted only by a few switchbacks up the more than 1,700 feet to the top of this old volcano.
Walk past the pit toilets to the trailhead, which is situated immediately behind them at the kiosk. Less than 100 feet past the trailhead is the hikers-only trailhead for the Tahoe Rim Trail, which leads to the Mount Rose Summit Trail.
Head uphill with a sharp turn at the kiosk, and immediately take in the views to the south and west, where Lake Tahoe comes into view. In exactly 0.5 mile, the trail will level out. The broad, sandy, well-marked trail stays level, or nearly so, meandering across a lightly treed, south-facing slope for the next 2 miles as you traverse to the northwest of Tamarack Lake.
Just before the trail’s 2.5-mile midpoint, the Tahoe Rim Trail veers to the west toward Relay Peak. At the next fork in the trail, momentarily leave your route on the path to your left, which leads over to a rocky cascade and an opportunity to refill your water. Don’t miss this cool photo opportunity. Continue on your route to the right and cross the stream on boulders placed there for you, then on through this marshy area along the rock-and-gravel causeway.
Just after you crash through the willows and lupine at the next stream, you’ll pass another junction where the Tahoe Rim Trail diverges from our route and heads to Relay Peak. From this intersection, climb across one of Mount Houghton’s eastern flanks, and then begin ascending the crease between it and Mount Rose. Climb these tree-covered slopes, then cross to the north side of the ravine and resume hiking up the rock-filled ditch to a saddle 400 feet above. At the saddle, continue to walk around it 150 feet to the west to reach the end of a ridge, which you will mount and hike to the northeast.
Turn uphill to the right. Your destination lies 1 mile ahead. The dirt-and-rock trail becomes somewhat scrabbly as it ascends the prominent ridge rather directly. The switchbacks will lead you to a traverse of the northwest slope, where you will turn southeast on the lower portion of the summit ridge. Three final switchbacks through the rocks carry you up to the ridge and a simple 250-foot walk to the summit.