Saturday, August 19, 2023

Page Meadows

Page Meadows
2.5 miles round trip, 100 feet elevation gain
Difficulty: Easy
Access: Paved road to trailhead, no fee required

In early summer, Page Meadows puts on one of the prettier wildflower shows in the Lake Tahoe area, with nice blooms of common subalpine flowers in its flat grassy expanses at the foot of the rocky peaks of the Sierra Nevada. This easy hike to those meadows is right outside Tahoe City on national forest land and is thus easily reachable by most visitors to Lake Tahoe’s north shore. The downsides of this hike are that the mountain backdrop of the meadows ultimately pales to the huge granite peaks in the High Sierra- while this hike and its flowers and meadows are pleasant, its ultimately not spectacular. Hikers who are looking for some flowers in June and July around Tahoe may find this a worthwhile outing, although most hikers would be better served heading to the High Sierra further south or simply catching more patchy wildflower blooms on hikes to more exciting destinations around the Tahoe area.

There are four main meadows on the hike; there is no need to visit all four, although the third meadow in particular is quite scenic and it is worth going out at least that far if you're hiking here. While there is some initial elevation loss from the trailhead to the meadows, the trail through the meadows is quite flat.

I hiked to Page Meadows during an early July trip to Tahoe with Anna and some friends. Early summer is typically the best timing to see wildflowers here: later in summer, when the meadows dry up, the meadows are probably less scenic. A handful of aspens that grow near the meadows also make this a fairly popular spot to see fall colors in October, while snowshoers also come out to this flat and open terrain in winter.

There are a number of ways to approach Page Meadows, but the fastest hiking approach is from Silver Tip Drive in Tahoe City. To reach the trailhead from Tahoe City, we took Highway 89 south from the Truckee River bridge for 1.8 miles and then turned right onto Pine Ave. After following Pine Ave for a quarter mile, I turned right onto Tahoe Park Heights Drive. I followed Tahoe Park Heights Drive uphill for three-quarters mile, which had some nice views of the lake as it climbed; after crossing Skyline Drive, Tahoe Park Heights Drive became Big Pine Drive. After continuing briefly on Big Pine Drive, I turned left onto Silver Tip Drive and followed it to its dead end. The trailhead was at the end of a residential street; there was no formal parking lot, just parallel parking along Silver Tip Drive at the dead end, and there were no restrooms here. 

The trail started out on a four-wheel drive road that continued past the end of Silver Tip Drive. After briefly heading uphill, the trail began to drop gradually downhill through the forest. The road was a little dusty and was occasionally used by 4WD trucks, which made it a little less pleasant. Blooming lupine lined the road but spotting the rarer snow plant was a highlight here: these parasitic plants do not photosynthesize and instead feed off the nutrients of other plants and are typically spotted earlier in the summer.

Snow plants in the forest
At 0.3 miles, we came to a junction with the trail leading down to Page Meadows. We followed this trail off to the right from the 4WD road; this trail descended slightly more through the forest but reached the edge of Page Meadows after just a hundred meters, with the forest opening up to an expansive grassy clearing.

Approaching Page Meadows through the forest
Arriving at the first meadow, we skirted the eastern edge of the meadow, which was lined by forest on all sides. During our visit, the first meadow was primarily grassy and had just a smattering of wildflowers; the center of the meadow was still flooded from the winter's snowmelt.

First meadow

At a half mile from the trailhead, we came to a junction: the right fork led away from the meadows toward the Tahoe Rim Trail, while the left fork traveled west towards the other meadows. We took the left fork, which led across the heart of the water-logged first meadow. The trail was slightly elevated but the meadow itself was still flooded here; we spotted tadpoles swimming in the murky water amongst the grasses.

Tadpole in the marshy meadows
Continuing west along the main trail, we followed the boundary between the forest and the first meadow. There were frequently small, dense patches of wildflowers, including pansies, columbine, and penstemon; the flowers dotted not only the meadow itself but also populated the forest understory.


The trail passed through the second meadow at 0.8 miles into the hike; much like the first meadow, this one was ringed by forest with a few mountains visible in the distance, poking above the trees. While the first meadow was fairly busy, the number of hikers began to thin as we hiked further.

Page Meadows
At a mile from the trailhead, we came to the third meadow, which was the prettiest of the meadows during our visit. Rocky peaks peeked out behind the forest that lined the meadow and the center of the meadow had a profuse bloom of purple penstemon. An unmarked spur trail branched off to the left and cut through the meadow, leading through the dense patches of the purple flower; we, however, stayed on the main trail and continued heading west across the meadow.

Penstemon blooming around the trail
A small clearing just beyond the third meadow delivered the hike's densest profusion of wildflowers: here, we saw penstemon blooming alongside paintbrush and a variety of other wildflowers.

Wildflower profusion
The trail reentered the forest and came to a junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail at 1.3 miles from the trailhead. Here, we took the left fork and headed south briefly to the final meadow, which was still mostly flooded and had limited wildflowers during the time of our visit. After enjoying the views here, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead.

Last of the meadows
This hike through Page meadows was fairly popular due to its proximity to Tahoe City and residential areas. Tahoe has many spots with better scenery, so Page Meadows is not my highest recommendation in the area, but it is an easy and short hike with nice wildflowers at the right time of year if that's what you're looking for.

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