OverviewSouth Camp Peak is a generally under-appreciated summit in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Despite being an easily accessible named summit in the mountains east of Lake Tahoe, it gets far fewer visitors than neighbors like Genoa Peak to the south and Snow Valley Peak to the north.
Located about 1 ½ miles walk north from Genoa Peak 9150’, South Camp Peak is reached via an off-shoot from the Tahoe Rim Trail. Although it rises less than 300 feet above its saddle with Genoa Peak, it still has the distinction of being a named summit. When it is hiked, it is often combined with Genoa Peak.
The best trailhead for South Camp Peak is from Spooner Summit to the north, although it can be hiked from the south from Kingsbury Grade, especially if combined with Genoa Peak. From Spooner Summit, it is possible to hike South Camp Peak in about 4 1/2 miles.
Views from the summit include the north part of Lake Tahoe and some of the Desolation Wilderness to the west and the Pine Nuts and other desert peaks to the east.
The mountain can be hiked during most of the year, and is a good place to snowshoe in winter. The best months to hike are between May and November. However, the best time is probably in October and early November when it is usually without snow, temperatures are still moderate, and fall colors have formed.
Getting ThereThere are two primary trailheads for South Camp Peak: Spooner Summit and Kingsbury Grade North. There may be other alternatives worth covering from the west from Lake Tahoe or from the east from the Carson Valley. If anyone has additional information on those routes, please feel free to add information.
If you are coming from the Reno, you need to take 395 South to U.S. Highway 50 West to Spooner Summit. 395 South was recently expanded to avoid downtown Carson City. Drive to the Fairview exit and head west back to Carson Street (also 395 South). About ½ mile further is US 50 West. Follow this for about 9 miles to Spooner Summit. Spooner Summit is a trailhead, with parking on both sides of U.S. Highway 50. For Genoa Peak, the parking area is on the south side of Highway 50. There are parking spaces on the side of the highway, with additional spaces below, closer to the trailhead. The elevation here is 7150 feet.
Route from Spooner Summit
The well maintained trail winds up for about two miles where it crosses a dirt road. Follow the dirt road for a little over a mile as it crosses the Tahoe Rim Trail again. This is Genoa Peak Road. Follow it until it again reaches the Tahoe Rim Trail. Take the Tahoe Rim Trail for around 1 1/2 miles as you approach the base of South Camp Peak, and then head east from the trail for about 1/4 mile, straight up to the summit. The total distance to the summit is about 4 1/2 miles with an elevation gain of about 1800 feet.
Kingsbury Grade North
Instead of turning at US Highway 50 West, continue south for another 11 1/2 miles to Route 88 heading south. Continue 2 miles south and turn right (west) on Mottsville Lane. In a little over 3 miles, the road continues up Kingsbury Grade (Highway 207). Take Kingsbury Grade as its climbs uphill. Take a right onto North Benjamin Drive and follow as it turns into Andria Drive, which turns into Genoa Peak Road. All told it is about 2 miles to the Tahoe Rim trailhead at 7780 feet, located to the west of the road, or park near the trailhead and continue up Genoa Peak Road.
Route from Kingsbury Grade
This is usually hiked in conjunction with Genoa Peak. Take Genoa Peak Road from the parking area for about 3 ¼ miles up where the road starts to descend slightly. After a little over ¼ mile descent, a road on your right heads up to Genoa Peak in about ¾ mile. Head back down from Genoa Peak, and continue up the road until you find a place to head off trail back towards South Camp Peak. This will take about 1 ½ miles. Head back down to the road, and follow about 4 miles back to the trailhead. The round trip distance is about 11 ¼ miles, with an elevation gain of about 1800 feet if hiking both summits.
Red TapeThere is no red tape. Parking is free and the land is publicly managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
There are no permits needed to hike on the Tahoe Rim Trail or any fee to park at the Tahoe Meadows. When the pass gets heavy snows, roads may be closed. Roads may also be closed during the summer due to fire danger.
During the summer, bikers are frequent on the Tahoe Rim Trail. While some sections of the TRT are closed to mountain biking entirely or on certain days, mountain biking is permitted on this entire section of trail between Spooner Summit and Kingsbury Grade. Biking is allowed on Genoa Peak Road.