Red’s Meadow and the escape to Mammoth Lakes are the first major excursion from the Sierras. South Lake Tahoe has a similar feel. It’s a large town, far away from the trail, but a welcome break for entertainment and resupply.
After leaving Red’s Meadow again, you are thrust right back into the wild Sierra, but this time there is a more pastoral feel with the many large meadows and less extreme landscape. There are still ample snowfields and abundant water everywhere. Large evergreen trees shade you from the sun for most of this section, but the northern part is a ridge walk above treeline for the most part. The sun is beating down on you, but the breezes are fantastic and there is still an abundance of water and life. The desert is all but a distant memory at this point.
But then Sonora Pass pops up out of nowhere. It is a true high-mountain pass and covered in volcanic rock and snowfields. It’s not nearly as harsh as the Southern Sierras, but it is a bit of a wake-up call that you are still in rugged mountains. As you inch closer to South Lake Tahoe, views of the grand lake get closer and closer until you can sense the excitement of town, edging its way to the trail. I spent only the day in Lake Tahoe, but this is a full fledged town that offers whatever a weary hike needs.