Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

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September 05, 2018

Freel Peak Summit Routes

   We couldn't find tracks from each approach, or definitive
mileages, so we are giving each of the three options
(besides bushwacking up the south side), a try.

            Only 1 more mile to Freel Peak once you reach this sign!

From High Meadows Parking

I really hate this 3 1/2 mile section.  To think I am hiking about 1/2 way to Star Lake on a gravel road irks me.  Oh!  Note, I have seen two bears on this trail.  Watch your dogs.

DISTANCE: We hiked 19 miles and did not make the summit, missing it again by less than one mile.  I got injured just shy of the Freel Trail, and although we started up the steps, I couldn't safely do them and had an extremely hard time getting back to the car, headlamp-ed out the last few miles of that awful gravel jeep road.
DIRECTIONS: (added for your convenience on Sept 8, 2018) From  Lake Tahoe Blvd, (between Cold Water Brewery and Grill, and Blue Dog Pizza) turn southwest on to Sierra Blvd.  Go 14 short blocks and turn right on Pioneer Trail then left left on High Meadow Trail.  Follow it to the obvious parking.  A gate there is usually closed and you go through it to hike up the gravel jeep road and follow the directions below.
OR from Highway 50 at Meyers, take Pioneer Trail east and in 4 1/2 miles turn right on High Meadow Trail; follow it to the parking.

View from the jeep road from Big Meadows area.

Veer to the right.  This sign should be in place.

We finally got beyond the part of this trek I really do not enjoy and on 
to the trail through the forested area.  

We took fewer photos this trip than usual, 
but I couldn't resist capturing this one!

As you progress, you get these glimpses of Tahoe that 
help me realize, with gratification, our progress 
to Star Lake and Freel Peak.

A nice spot to refill and get some cold water 
and a few minutes rest.

Star Lake seems to jump out of nowhere and offers spots 
around the lake for camping or to take in the views 
and picnic along your way. If you are there without a moon
 at night, the stars are incredible!  
Taken near the TRT and Freel Peak trail converging with 
a big open area to take in views. By now I had rolled my ankle 
for the first time in my life (I thought I must be immune!) 
and had to think that it might affect our hiking time down if the pain got worse.

Right near the Freel Peak trail junction. From here you get 
on the trail (photograph at the of of the article) and start heading 
up to the summit.  A very short distance in and there is an excellent 
big boulder with a table-like top and room to rest and recharge.  
We left most of our gear there to make our final summit attempt.  
Admittedly we discussed turning back here but being stubborn and intrepid, 
we decided to give it a go. My daughter had never done close 
to this many miles in a day and I had to face the prospect 
of getting all the way back to the car with an ankle injury.

We got up a few of those carved boulder stair steps, 
looked at our distance from the summit, and I had to admit 
the injury was making it impossible.  We sadly turned back.  
It was a bit crushing having logged so many miles.  
We made Mt Whitney but couldn't get Freel on our second attempt.  

For hikers who don't like steep areas, this section between 
Freel and Star Lake will be a challenge.  I love getting the shade and views.

Star Lake on our return was a welcome sight.

I became unable to wear my boots for a while so hiked the Meadow section in socks!

DOWNSIDE OF THIS APPROACH: The gravel road really got the best of me and I got quite an arm and abs workout using my poles to stay upright.  That gravel road section is a curse.  Some of it is steep and it is slippery footing at times.  I was extra thankful not to be carrying more than a day pack.

Hiking miles, half the hike to Star Lake from Big Meadows Parking, 
is a sore spot with me.  Literally and figuratively.  
I get away to be away from roads, not to hike them.  Grrrr.
I hiked most of that section coming down 
in my hiking socks due to the foot, knee, ankle pain.
At least we can say we got a nice sunset through the trees.
The end of the tale at this point is that we head-lamped
out the last couple of miles or so. 
At the end of the week, I am still injured and having difficulty with my foot.  I had to call in at work for two days.  I wouldn't mind so much if we had gained Freel.  If you choose that route, best to do it as an over-nighter at Star lake.  (On day 10 I still can't walk normally from the injury so I am anxious for recovery to get back up to the summit trail, along with the thought that my last attempt will be the shortest hike there.)
BENEFIT OF THIS ROUTE: 1. It is long but could be done in a day without injury.  2. You get to see and hang out at Star Lake which is one of my favorite spots around the Tahoe area. 3. The trail is very well marked and easy to follow. 4.  Since you head to Star Lake you can overnight and use it as a basecamp for probably the easiest way to summit Freel, and perhaps the Triple Crown if you are so inclined. 

From Fountain Place Parking 

This was our first attempt and we really enjoyed the hike.  Without using private property we hiked 15 miles but due to our late start we ran out of time and missed achieving the summit by less than one mile. Keep in mind the last mile is the hardest and most time consuming.
 One of my favorite things in life is wildflowers!  We enjoyed hiking alone the creek in lush green, dotted with lots of color from the blooms.

Then we started really heading upward.  I added a lot more photos to this post to help you envision being there yourself and for a little familiarity with the scenes as you go on your quest for the summit.

Okay, we love special trees and I feel compelled to put our 
favorite tree shots in, for us. : )
This trail was pretty straightforward although there was one large open area that we were a little uncertain about so we swung toward the left, or eastward, just knowing that was the general direction of our destination, and made it easily otherwise.  
DISTANCE: We did clock about 15 miles round trip, so it might have been shy of 17 miles to the summit.  It wasn't too steep and was, for me, a beautiful hike I want to do again next season.
DOWNSIDE OF THIS APPROACH: 1.  Mileage. There are shorter routes.  
2. A major downside of using this route, for us, was the mosquito fest along the creek near the trailhead, and with our timing we were there at feeding time!  The wet area was thick with skeeters, in your mouth, eyes, everywhere.  3. We came from out of town, so we arrived too late to summit,because we had a time limit on childcare. The best time to do this is when you are staying in town and can take your time.
BEST ABOUT THIS APPROACH: The bright side was I spent a lot of time photographing the wildflower wonderland. It is a reasonable approach since nothing but the summit is a really fast ascent.  It is easier on your knees and calves.  There was water along the way at two easy spots.  Bonus, more wildflowers.
More photos of our day: 

Partway up the Freel Summit Trail the views were already rewarding!

This is partly what to expect on the Freel summit trail.  Rocky, 
with those carved stone steps partway too.

My daughter at our high point along the Freel summit trail.

From Armstrong Pass Trailhead Parking

Once my foot heals, I will tackle this shorter, very popular trail, and make the summit, or maybe the Triple Crown instead.  It is day 14, and getting better.  Maybe even this coming week?...Doubtful.