PHIPPS PEAK (9,234') CLASS 1-2
Location: 2.5 miles W of Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Drive: Take Highway 89 to the Eagle Falls parking lot which is 19 miles south from Tahoe City (junction of Highway 89 and Highway 28) or 9.3 miles north from the South Tahoe "Y (junction of U.S. 50 and Highway 89 north)." There is limited parking on the highway's west side. A self-pay parking fee of $5 (The America the Beautiful Interagency annual pass and the Golden Age Pass are still said to suffice, instead of this fee, and there seems to be an annual forest pass available for $20--USFS, July, 2013) has been imposed. A self-serve, wilderness day use permit station and rest rooms are available here. There is overflow parking 0.5 mile north.
Climb: Follow the main trail west up the rock stairs, then cross a high bridge. Shortly pass a wilderness "boundary" sign, and, after about a mile, come to a post signed "Velma Lake Eagle Lake" and go left. In a while further, come to a junction with a sign "Velma Lakes Eagle Lake Bayview" and go right. Go right again at a junction signed "Velma Lakes Dicks Lake Bayview." Cross a stream, and just past on the other side, a post reading, "Eagle Lake Upper Velma Middle Velma" marks a right turn. Go right again at another post "Meeks Bay Dicks Pass Camper Flat General Creek Trail." After another mile come to a final post signed, "Velma Lake Meeks Bay T.Y. Trail General Creek P.C. Trail," and go right once again. The trail route climbs up the south slopes of Phipps Peak, which is the big mass to the north seen from the vicinity of Velma Lakes. After climbing 1.5 to 2 miles further on the trail, head left cross-country up open talus to the right of a small knob. The highpoint will be slightly to the left (northwest) atop a class 2 rockpile.
Drive: Take Highway 89 to Meeks Bay trailhead, which is 11.2 miles south from Tahoe City (junction of Highway 89 and Highway 28) or 17.2 miles north from the South Tahoe "Y (junction of U.S. 50 and Highway 89 north)." Also, the trailhead is 0.2 mile north of the road east to signed "Meeks Bay Beach Campground (some nice facilities are provided here)." An indistinct, poorly marked dirt road heads west, with a gate, a big board signed "Desolation Wilderness Trailhead," and a self-issue, day use permit box. Park, where permissible, along or well off Highway 89.
Climb: Follow the dirt road, posted "14N42," west into the wilderness area. A sign indicates where to follow the trail right (uphill), and to not further take the dirt road. Pass several lakes, named Genevieve, Crag, Shadow, Stony Ridge, then Rubicon, while hiking up to signed Phipps Pass. As one levels out at the pass, leave the trail to go right (west) cross-country over slabs. Navigate left (southwest), then, zig-zagging up through the rocks, then get onto the upper sandy slopes. You may encounter faint use trails and ducks. Head southwest to the summit, which is a large, class 2 rockpile on the southwest side of the ridge.
WINTER SKI ASCENT: Both Routes A and B may have avalanche danger, so use extreme caution and careful planning. Due to the longer distances, an overnight tour may be preferable. Route B travels over gentler terrain.
TRIP STATS: Route A, 3,000 feet gain with an additional 350 feet gain on the return, 7 miles one way; Route B, 3,000 feet gain, 8 miles one way; winter ski ascent, roughly the same for both routes.
Notes: Many persons come
to view Eagle Falls from the large, Vikingsholm parking area north
of the Eagle Falls Trailhead. The low rock hill to the southeast
is a good viewpoint. A road leads down to Vikingsholm, an historic
building. This entire area is very busy in the summer months.
One may also start to connect with Route A from signed Bayview Trailhead, which has haphazard parking, 0.9 mile south of the Eagle Falls Trailhead. This will be slightly longer with more gain.
A large avalanche once closed the highway just north of the Route A trailhead. Highway 89 remains closed about here for much of many winters due to the danger.