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Martis Peak Lookout

Tahoe National Forest

Tahoe National Forest Links:

December 11th, 1999

8.0 miles
1745 vertical feet
Total Time: 5:38

Rating: 7/10

Directions:   View Driving Map


Jean and I parked at the edge of Martis Peak Road, just north of Brockway Summit on Highway 267. There was just one other car there, which surprised me since the book I was using for reference said it would be crowded.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. It was absolutely crystal-clear. Not a cloud in the sky. The temperature was mild and there wasn't much of a wind.

After strapping on our snowshoes we headed east up the fire trail -- a forest service road. It was covered with snow, but much of the way the snow as thin -- only an inch or two deep. The snow was thicker on the sides of the trail, but the trail itself was flattened out by snow cats.

The trail

Trees line the sides of the trail almost the entire way up. There are a few small meadows, but nothing really to speak of. There are some intersections, but it's fairly easy to look at snowshoe and ski prints to follow the main trail. After 1.3 miles, there's a left turn (going straight would bring you to a gate).

We stopped at the intersection for a bite to eat. We spread my poncho out on the snow, and we sank partway into the soft snow as we ate. A pair of snowshoers passed us while we were there, but they turned around shortly thereafter. Those were the only two basic snowshoers we'd see the entire day. On the whole, we would see 2 snowshoers, 2 backpackers carrying snowshoes, 4 cross-country skiers, 2 snow cat drivers, and 4 dogs.

The trail now curves around to the right and continues northeast, steadily upward. There's a mildly steep section of trail near the start of the trail, but after that it's very mild. After some time we finally reached the left turn for the final push toward the summit.

We shortly came to a gate. Going past the gate, the views began to open up. And then we reached the lookout itself. The lookout was recently restored and serves as a great little shelter. Windows let in and trap welcome heat. There's a table and bench for sitting on. There's also an outhouse nearby.

Martis Peak Lookout

But the main attraction is the view. Hidden from view the entire hike was this fantastic view of the Martis Valley, Lake Tahoe, and range upon range of snow-capped peaks. It's well worth the hike.

Martis Valley

Lake Tahoe from Martis Peak Lookout

After soaking in the view, we started descending the way we came. Martis Peak itself lies just 86 vertical feet and about 1/10th of a mile away from the lookout, but it didn't look very interesting. Trees appeared to obscure some of the view, and I doubted the views would be any better than from the lookout. Besides, no one else had gone to the peak (no tracks), and it was getting late. It was nearly 3pm by the time we started our descent.

Nap time in the lookout!

Two snow cats spoiled our peaceful descent. Other than that, we made it back uneventfully, in great time -- we descended in just over 1 1/2 hours, arriving back at the car with light still filtering through the trees.

Snow crystals glistening in the afternoon sun

It was a nice hike with a beautiful view at the top. The backpackers we passed planted the idea that it would be a great backpacking trip. It would be great to see sunrise and sunset from the lookout. The only downsides to the hike were the lack of more snow and the trees obscuring the views almost the entire way.


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