Rifle Peak Hike
The annual Squaw Valley Mountain Run is coming up and I thought what a better way to train than hiking to the top of Rifle Peak. I have lived in Incline Village for 25 years and have never summited this most prominent peak that you can see from all over town. I sent a text to my trusty friend Jenn at lunch, who is always up for anything, and we made a plan to hike it after I got off work.
I was done with work by 3:30 and swung by the store to grab some water and a beer and we were on our way. Neither of us had ever hiked the peak, so we didn’t know where we were going or what we were doing, but that sometimes makes adventures like that even more fun. Aside from some really bad information I found online, we were going off of what seemed to be intuition.
We pulled up to the trailhead on Marlene Street. You really can’t miss it. It is a fire road on the left side of the road as you are going up with a large green Forest Service gate in front of it. We followed the fire road down then up and to the right for a little over a quarter of a mile until we reached a water tower. From there, go around the water tower to the back, and the trail turns into a single track and goes straight up the mountain. I have summited a few peaks this year and I have to say, that this might be the steepest. Although not the longest, it definitely works your butt!
After about a mile of going straight up the mountain (which seems like forever), the terrain opens up and you find yourself in a setting that can only be described as a wonderland. I don’t know how else to put it into words. The mountainside is wide open and covered with nothing but mules ears and every other Tahoe wildflower you could imagine all the way to the peak. You can also finally see the peak from this viewpoint, which is shown below.
It is the tail end of wildflower season, and I can only imagine what it looked like two weeks ago. I already have a reminder in my calendar to hike the peak again next year in mid-June. It is just amazing. From here, you are about another mile from the peak, but it is a much more mellow hike, kind of. You hike through the flowers and then eventually meet up with the Tahoe Rim Trail.
Once the trail you are on dead ends at the Rim Trail, head West on the Rim Trail towards Rifle Peak. Continue to follow this flat and slightly downhill trail for about a quarter of a mile until you are at the base of the peak. At that point, look for a trail that heads up to the peak and follow that around to the backside, where you can walk up to the top relatively easily. No rock climbing required. All-in-all we went from car to peak in about an hour and a half.
The view up there is absolutely amazing. We hung out, took some silly pictures, cheersed a beer, and enjoyed the view for about an hour. After hiking up the 1,734 feet to get there, you will definitely want to hang out for a bit and soak in all the beauty that is Lake Tahoe. We were lucky and the day was absolutely beautiful for a hike. Hazy or not though, it is still spectacular.
Knowing that our sunlight was limited, we left the peak at about 6:30 and made our way back down. It took us about 1 hour to get back down and all I can say is quad killer! Also, be careful going back down. It is pretty steep and there are some loose rocks that if you step on, will take you down. I may or may not have fallen on my butt at one point.
I woke up pretty sore today, but still managed to get in a 6 mile run this afternoon. I am sure that I will still be feeling it tomorrow, but what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?
What peaks have you summited? I am on a mission to summit 15 peaks in 2015 and need some ideas. I’m only at four! Any good ones on the West Coast that you love? Leave a comment below. Happy trails!