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Washoe Meadows State Park

Washoe Meadows Trail

2 to 4 miles round trip

Washoe Meadows State Park, located on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe, is a completely undeveloped park. Like Burton Creek State Park on the other end of the lake, its use—even its whereabouts—is virtually unknown except by local walkers, runners and Nordic skiers.

Lake Tahoe has long been the center of Washoe territory. The lake and environs are the geographical, indeed, spiritual focus of the tribe. As tribal elders put it: “We did not travel here from another place. We have been on this land since the beginning and have always lived here.” In fact, anthropological evidence suggests at least ten thousand years of Washoe occupation.

During an 1844 expedition, Captain John C. Frémont reported meeting a peaceful people, who used snow shoes and caught rabbits with nets. A flood of miners and settlers displaced and devastated the Washoe people. (For a moving account of Washoe life and their tragic collision with western frontier culture, read the Thomas Sanchez novel, Rabbit Boss.)

Washoe ancestral land centered around Da ow a ga (Lake Tahoe), sacred giver of life; the land included fertile valleys, the desert, and snow covered mountains. And, it included meadows as well—so it’s altogether fitting that a park be named after this long-neglected group of native Americans.

The meadow’s trail system is not way-marked, so try to stay oriented. Fortunately because it’s a meadow, you can see where you’re going, where you’ve come from.

Directions to trailhead: Best place to start your walk is at the trailhead off Lake Tahoe Boulevard. Follow Lake Tahoe Boulevard 0.4 mile past its intersection with Sawmill Road. You’ll see a gated dirt road on your left. Park nearby and walk down this dirt road.

The park also extends 1.5 miles along Sawmill Road, which leads to Highway 50; entering the park from this direction can be confusing.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at