Hike to Freel Peak
Lake Tahoe › Armstrong Pass Trailhead
Added by Jeff Driscoll
Experience the best view in Tahoe without the crowds from it's tallest peak.
Mt. Tallac may be one of the Lake Tahoe Basin's most famous peaks to hike because of its fantastic views of Lake Tahoe, but my personal favorite view in Tahoe is from the top of Freel Peak or Jobs Sister. Freel Peak is the tallest peak in the Lake Tahoe Basin at 10,881 feet.
From the top of Freel Peak or Jobs Sister, you can take in all of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding areas. You can see Mt. Rose to the Northeast, Castle Peak to the North, Tallac to the Northwest, Pyramid Peak and the Crystal Range to the West, and all of Meyers and the Tahoe Keys below you. To the South, you can see Hope Valley, the peaks near Carson Pass, Ebbet's Pass, and on a clear day even down to Sonora Pass. To the East, lies the Carson Valley sitting 1,500 feet lower than the surface of Lake Tahoe. From this vantage point, the lake appears to sit so much higher than the Carson Valley that it looks like the lake would just spill over into the valley if it weren't for the Carson Range standing in the way. Another bonus of this hike is if you are a peak bagger, you can bag 3 of the Tahoe Basin's tallest peaks, Freel Peak, Jobs Sister, and Jobs Peak.
To reach the trailhead of this hike, you'll need to get to Armstrong Pass Road (Forest Road 051), which is on Highway 89 between Hope Valley and Meyers. The location of this adventure will take you to the turnoff for it. The road is not signed so you'll have to pay attention, and you may pass it and have to turn around. If you are coming from Meyers, take Highway 89 towards Hope Valley, and as soon as you start descending from Luther Pass, it is the first dirt road that you will see on your left. If you are coming from Hope Valley, take Highway 89 towards Meyers and the turn off will be on your right side just as you begin climbing towards Luther Pass. You do not need 4WD for this road, but there are a few sections that are easier to navigate if you have more ground clearance.
Once you are on Armstrong Pass Road, take it for approximately 3-4 miles until you reach an obvious parking area with a turnaround spot. There are usually at least a couple of cars here, but if not it may take some trial and error to find the parking spot. If you continue all the way to the road's end, you will end up near Horse Meadow and have gone too far (this happened to me the first time). From the parking area, you will notice a small stream to your North, and you will see what was once a dirt road crossing the creek. Follow this road as it climbs and eventually turns into the trail to Armstrong Pass. You should reach Armstrong Pass in about 1 mile. I recommend picking up a Tom Harrison "Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Rim Trail Map" to help you navigate this part of the hike.
As soon as you reach Armstrong Pass, you will see a Tahoe Rim Trail Marker. If you head left it will take you towards Big Meadow, but you want to head right towards Star Lake (if you want to make this into an overnight hike, Star Lake is a great destination). Once on the Tahoe Rim Trail, you will follow it towards Star Lake for approximately 3 miles. This stretch of trail has incredible vistas across Meyers, the Tahoe Keys and looking West towards the Crystal Range. After about 3 miles you will reach a saddle between Trimmer Peak and Freel Peak. On your right, you will see a sign indicating the trail to Freel Peak.
Once you depart from the Tahoe Rim Trail towards Freel Peak, you will have another 1,200 feet of elevation gain over the last mile before you reach the summit. If you have not yet acclimated, this is where you will start to feel the elevation and your pace may slow down. The last 500 feet or so of the hike will be on very soft granite sand that will make each step that much more challenging.
Freel Peak's summit is a relatively broad summit to explore and take in all the different views. You will also find a summit register and a jar of ashes from someone wishing Freel Peak to be their final resting spot. Another common occurrence at the summit are the very friendly chipmunks that will do just about anything for a crumb or bite of your snacks. They'll even pose for some photo ops if you'd like.
From the summit of Freel Peak, you have several options of where to go next. You can head back the way you came, or you can head down to the saddle between Freel Peak and Jobs Sister. From here you can either summit Jobs Sister (recommended) or if you are completing the loop exactly as I did it, you can now start some off-trail hiking back to your car. From the saddle between Freel Peak and Jobs Sister, you will notice a faint use trail that drops off the South side of the saddle and back down towards Horse Meadow and the road you came in on. Follow this trail as long as you can but you will probably have to do some off trail route finding to determine the best way back to your car (this also depends on where you parked). Don't worry, this isn't too challenging, just make sure to use your map and eyes to avoid getting stuck in a few areas that are much steeper. Once you reach the bottom of the descent, if you do not see your car you will be able to find the road you came in on, and can follow it towards where you parked your car.
If you happen to be heading back to Meyers, I recommend stopping at Verde Mexican Rotisserie for lunch and a beer. It's located at 3141 US Highway 50. I hope you enjoy the hike, the views, and the post-hike food.
- First aid kit
- Hiking shoes
- Appropriate layers (depending on season)
- Hat (optional)
- Camera (optional)
- GPS (optional)
- Hiking poles (optional)
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Beautiful trail and views from the tallest peak in the Tahoe basin. Perfect first 10,000 foot climb for me! The top is a breathtaking 360 degree view. The last mile is a 1000 ft climb so take it slow and turn around to enjoy the constant views of the lake!
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