Freel Peak Overview
Freel Peak From The Saddle
Many peaks ring Lake Tahoe in Northern California, but none rise higher than Freel Peak. Located at the southern end of the Carson Range, which runs north to south along the east side of Lake Tahoe, Freel Peak is the highest point in the Carson Range, the Lake Tahoe Basin and El Dorado County.
Rising almost 11,000 feet just to the south of South Lake Tahoe, along with its sister peaks Job’s Sister
and Job’s Peak
, the 3 peaks look like really tall sand dunes during the summer.
The round summit of Freel Peak can be seen Lake Tahoe, Carson and Hope Valleys; I have seen it from as far away as Highland Peak near the Ebbetts Pass Area
From the summit the views seem endless. To the south you can see Hope Valley on to Round Top
in the Mokelumne Wilderness
and the Ebbetts Pass area. Farther to the south you can see the Sawtooth Ridge in Northern Yosemite on clear days. Looking east you are rewarded with Job’s Sister and Job’s Peak in the foreground and the desert peaks of Nevada in the background. Just to the north of Freel Peak is Monument Peak
and Lake Tahoe. Farther north is Mount Rose
in Nevada. On the west side of Lake Tahoe is Pyramid Peak
, Mount Agassiz
, Mount Tallac
, all in Desolation Wilderness
and on clear days you can see them in the great central valley.
Freel Peak is great day hike or it can be done as an overnighter. The trailheads are all only two hours from Sacramento or three hours from the Bay Area. Reno and Carson City in Nevada are close by and there are many campgrounds and hotels all around Lake Tahoe. Freel Peak can be done by itself or you can do an easy traverse on a class 1 use trail over to Job’s Sister and Job’s Peak. Or you can climb nearby Trimmer Peak on the way down the Trout Creek route. If you are hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail (TRT), Freel Peak is the perfect detour since the summit is only one mile from the TRT.
Much of Freel Peak is above tree line, and is really sandy without much big rock. The plant life that grows up there is pretty sparse but it is up there such as the Tahoe Draba
. The trees that dominate below tree line are Lodgepole Pine
, Red Fir
, and Whitebark Pine
Overview of Principal Climbing Routes on Freel Peak
There are many ways to reach the top of Freel Peak. The well-rounded summit may be reached class 1 from all sides. The peak is covered in sand making is a slog to get up. Another concern is the rare and delicate Tahoe Draba
lives on the slops of Freel Peak. For these to reasons I recommend sticking to the trails.
· South Side Route: Class 1
This is the most direct and shortest route. It also has the least amount of
elevation gain. The trailhead is in Horse Meadow on the south side of
Freel Peak on a dirt road off of Highway 89. The route is nothing more
than a cross country accent of the south slope of Freel
· Horse Meadow to Armstrong Pass: Class 1
Same trailhead as the above route, but instead of heading up the south slope you follow a use trail up to Armstrong Pass and follow the Tahoe Rim Trail to the junction with the Freel Peak Trail.
· Trout Creek: Class 1
The trailhead is at a gate at the end of Oneidas Street. At the gate there is a well-defined use trail. Follow the use trail up the Trout Creek drainage until the reach a saddle at the junction if the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Freel Peak Trail. Follow the maintained trail to the top.
Freel Peak is not a technically challenging mountain. All the routes listed above are Class 1 walk-ups. Don’t let that fool you; Freel Peak is not with out challenges. The hike up is a sandy slog and combine that with the altitude and Freel Peak can be strenuous even for well-fit hikers. The sand that makes life hell going up also is your best friend on the way down. You can pretty much run down the sandy sides and you will find yourself back at your car in no time.
Photo by Mountainvoodoo
If you really need to rock climb while you are on Freel Peak, you might be happy to know there are several rock outcroppings on the north side. I’m not a rock climber so I can’t attest to the quality of the rock, but it is there. Freel Peak also looks like a fun mountain to ski down during the winter, but having never done that I can’t tell you for sure.
Getting To Freel Peak
· San Francisco International Airport
: is located in San Francisco and is about three and a half hours form Lake Tahoe. Not as convenient as Sacramento or Reno-Tahoe, but it would be a better option for international travelers. Other options in the Bay Area are Oakland International and San Jose International Airports.
· Sacramento International Airport
: is located north west of Sacramento, and is the biggest airport within two hours drive of Lake Tahoe.
· Reno-Tahoe International Airport
: is located in Reno and is the closest major airport to Freel Peak and the whole Lake Tahoe Basin.
· Lake Tahoe Airport
: is located in Tahoe Valley between Meyers and the city of South Lake Tahoe. It can actually be seen from the summit of Freel Peak, but it is a small airport and probably more expensive to fly into.
Getting to Freel Peak From Sacramento
· Trout Creek Trailhead
: Take U.S. Highway 50 east to South Lake Tahoe. This is a great drive in the summer time. During winter it is subject to closures during storms and when it clear it is clogged with traffic heading up to ski at one of the many ski areas that ring Lake Tahoe. Highway 50 make a nice gradual climb up the west side of the Sierra Nevada Range, passing the popular rock climbing areas Phantom Spires
and Lovers Leap
until it tops out at Echo Summit. You then begin a series of hairpin turns as you descend down into the Tahoe Valley. When you get to the town of Meyers look for a road called Pioneer Trail. Turn right onto Pioneer Trail and look for Oneidas Street and turn right. Shortly after passing a small group of houses Oneidas Street turns into a one-lane road for the next four and a half miles. When you see a gate blocking your way find a place to park along the road.
· Horse Meadow Trail Head
: Take Highway 50 as shown above but when you get near the Agricultural fruit check station just before Meyers take a right on to State Route 89. Follow Highway 89 for about ten miles. When you get on the other side of Luther Pass (pay attention to the signs, because Luther Pass would be easy to miss) look for Forest Service (FS) 051. Take a left onto FS 051 and follow it to a fork. Take the left fork to Horse Meadow.
· An alternate route from Sacramento would be to take Interstate 80 east towards Truckee and Reno and follow the directions listed below for Truckee. Interstate 80 is a nice route head up. It travels through Donnor Pass to other climbing and hiking areas such as Castle Peak
and Mount Lola
Getting to Freel Peak From Reno and Carson City
· Trout Creek Trailhead
: Take U.S. Highway 50 west to Stateline and South Lake Tahoe. When you get to Glenbrook Highway 50 turns south and follows the east shore of Lake Tahoe. Shortly after passing over the State Line (this will be easy to notice because the California side lacks the casinos.) turn left onto Pioneer Trail. Follow Pioneer Trail for about five miles and turn left onto Oneidas Street. Shortly after passing a small group of houses Oneidas Street turns into a one-lane road for the next four and a half miles. When you see a gate blocking your way find a place to park along the road.
· Horse Meadow Trail Head
: Follow the above directions but drive past Oneidas Street until you reach Highway 50/89. Turn left onto 50/89 and drive west, just beyond a Agricultural fruit check station turn left as Highway 89 and 50 split. Follow Highway 89 for about ten miles. When you get on the other side of Luther Pass (pay attention to the signs, because Luther Pass would be easy to miss) look for Forest Service (FS) 051. Take a left onto FS 051 and follow it to a fork. Take the left fork to Horse Meadow.
Getting to Freel Peak From Truckee
· Trout Creek Trailhead
: Take Highway 89 south from Interstate 80. This is a wonderful and scenic drive that takes you past Squaw Valley and along the west shore of Lake Tahoe. Shortly after passing the Tahoe Keys Highway 89 and Highway 50 connect in the city of South Lake Tahoe. Follow Highway 89/50 south past the Lake Tahoe Airport and Lake Tahoe Golf Course to the town of Meyers until you reach Pioneer Trail. Turn left onto Pioneer Trail and look for Oneidas Street and turn right. Shortly after passing a small group of houses Oneidas Street turns into a one-lane road for the next four and a half miles. When you see a gate blocking your way find a place to park along the road.
· Horse Meadow Trail Head
: Follow the above route, but drive past Pioneer Trail, just beyond a Agricultural fruit check station turn left as Highway 89 and 50 split. Follow Highway 89 for about ten miles. When you get on the other side of Luther Pass (pay attention to the signs, because Luther Pass would be easy to miss) look for Forest Service Road (FS) 051. Take a left onto FS 051 and follow it to a fork. Take the left fork to Horse Meadow.
One of the Natives
Not much in the way of red tape for Freel Peak. The Mountain lies on public land in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. There are no permits needed to hike in or camp in the backcountry. There are private inholdings on the Westside along Trout Creek called Fountain Place. Last I heard the owner doesn’t seem to mind hikers crossing their land, but please respect the property and don’t camp there. Depending on the time of year and hazard campfires may be prohibited.
Camping and Lodging near Freel Peak
Lake Tahoe is an outdoor persons paradise, but it certainly isn’t much of an wilderness area. The Tahoe area is dotted with towns and ski resorts and the associated baggage they bring. There are scores of campgrounds both private and public that ring around Lake Tahoe, where you can pull up or take a tent to. The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has an online list of campsites in the Lake Tahoe Basin
. There also campgrounds in Hope Valley to the south or Freel Peak called Kit Carson
and Snowshoe Springs
Since Freel Peak is surrounded on all side by public land there are many great backcountry camping spots, plus there are no permit requirements for camping. My favorite place to camp in that area is at Star Lake, which is three miles north along the Tahoe Rim Trail. There is also a few good looking spot along the Trout Creek route, but the water is just about gone by late summer. If you car camp at Lake Tahoe, I recommend getting reservations during the summer months. No matter where you camp at Lake Tahoe be aware that there is a Bear problem so you might be defending your food if you don’t secure well enough. The bright side is that the Bears are not the seasoned pros that you run into in Yosemite and they haven’t figured out how to break into cars yet.
Lodging at Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, along with being an Outdoors person’s heaven it is also a tourist magnet. Because of numerous ski areas, mild summers and casinos there are countless motels, hotels and cabins. They range from lowly motor lodges to casino motels to luxury resorts. This website
is useful in planning a trip to the Tahoe area no matter what time of year it is.
What a View!
When To Climb Freel Peak
Freel Peak can be climbed year round. I think the best time to climb and hike in the Lake Tahoe area is late July to late October. But late July (in normal years) most of the snow is melted out and Mosquitoes have cleared out for the most part. During the summer months temperatures rarely get about 80° F or drop below 40° F at night. By November the weather changes dramatically with high temperatures around 47° F and lows about 22° F.
Usually the heavy snows start in November. Highways 89 and 50 generally stay opened, only closed during strong snowstorms. But secondary roads that lead up to the trailheads close shortly after the snow starts. During the winter Oneidas Street is closed about a half a mile from Pioneer Trail, which add and additional four and a half miles and about 4450 feet to the hike or snowshoe. I don’t know for sure, having never doing it, but I’m sure FS051 closes during the winter as well.
Recommended Equipment for Freel Peak
For a Summer Trip I Recommend the Follow Equipment
· Map & Compass
· Sunscreen and Lip Balm
· First Aid Kit
· Food (extra food for emergencies)
· Headlamp and extra batteries
· Signaling Device (whistle and/or mirror)
· Gloves and Mittens
· Beanie, Sun Hat
· Wool or Synthetic Clothing
· Sleeping Bag - comfortable to 30F or 10F (in Winter)
For Winter I Recommend The Above Equipment Plus the Follow Equipment
· Down or Synthetic Parka
· Ice Axe
· Down Parka, Pants, and Mittens
· Double Boots or Over Boots
· Avalanche Beacon & Probe
· Snow Shovel
· Snowshoes or Skis
Freel Peak ConditionsCaltrans Current Highway Conditions
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
El Dorado National Forest
Updated Weather Information
Etymology"When William Eimbeck of the Coast Survey used the highest point of Jobs Peaks for triangulation in 1874, he called it Freel's Peak, for James Freel, a settler at the foot of the mountain."
Erwin G. Gudde, California Place Names
”Freel Peak California: El Dorado
The name "Freel Peak was first identified by Goddard as one among"Job's Group of Mountains." (Goddard, South.)
Boundary surveyors noted another name, "Bald Mountain." "Leaving the lake at its most southeasterly part, a trifle to the south and west of Lapham's Station, it [the boundary line]crosses the Kingsbury & McDonald road through Lake valley at a distance of about half a mile southerly from the station, and almost immediately commences the ascent of the high granite range dividing Lake and Carson valleys, being the eastern summit of the Sierras. The line crosses these mountains obliquely, crossing numerous deep ravines, perpendicular granite precipices and barren peaks, rendering progress very slow and difficult. It leaves Job's Peak and Bald Mountain, the highest peaks in the immediate vicinity within the State, emerges from the mountains into the valley of the West Carson about a quarter of a mile west of Carey's Mill....."(Sacramento Daily Union, December 31,1863. See Kingsbury Grade.)
"Job's Peaks" appeared on the Hoffmann map of 1873, the von Leicht-Hoffmann map of 1874, on the Map of the Comstock in 1875, and on the Map of the Carson Valley, 1883. In 1876 Lt. M. M, Macomb credited William Eimbeck of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey with naming the peak for squatter James Freel, an native of Illinois, a miner and rancher, who settled at the foot of the mountain. (Wheeler, Report, 1920-81; Gudde, 114; Maule, 6; Great Register.) " A small monument and a bottle containing record found on the summit showed that the peak had been visited September 15, 1874, by a reconnoitering triangulation party of the United States Coastal Survey." Wheeler, Report, 1280-81.)
In 1876-77 "Job's Peak," "Job's Sister," and "Freel Peak"were noted by the Wheeler Survey and were on the 1881 map. "Freel Peak" and "Freel's Pass" (summit of the trail from lake Valley to Hope Valley) are listed in the Wheeler Survey Report of 1877. The name Freel's ass" has never appeared on maps.
The mountain was also known as Sand Mountain "on account of its two peaks being covered with sand." (Edwards, 92.)
Barbara Lekisch, Tahoe Place Names
Additional Freel Peak Information
· USGS 7 ½-minute Freel Peak
and South Lake Tahoe
· USFS Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Map
· Tom Harrison Maps: Lake Tahoe Recreation Map
· California County Summits
Freel Peak Topo
· Keep Tahoe Blue
· Lake Tahoe Average Temperatures
· Freel Peak Wikipedia Page
· Carson Range Wikipedia Page
Useful Summitpost Links
· Lake Tahoe Basin
· Job’s Sister
· Job’s Peak
· Tahoe OGUL Peak List
· Sierra Nevada
· California County Highpoints