Dardanelles Lake is located about 3 miles from the Big Meadow trailhead on highway 89 (South of Lake Tahoe). See map at the bottom of this page. You really have to watch for the trail and then the parking lot. Just keep your eyes open when you start making the big bend and you should first see the trail on the right and then the entrance to the trailhead on the left. It goes down steeply, making it easy to miss.
Leo and I almost didn't go on this trip as we had originally planed to go to Sunol for a quick one night trip close to home. Due to extreme heat forecasted for the area we decided not to go. The night before we had originally planned to leave we both decided that we wanted to get out there. So we decided to beat the heat and head to the mountains. We got to the trailhead at around noon. It was a little crowded due to some volunteers doing some work on the trail. They were out there is force the year before as well. The first section of the trail did need some work and is looking quite good now. The meadow section was also worked on to raise it above the marshy stuff. Leo and I had planned to hike in to Round Lake but we bumped into a father daughter backpacking duo who told us that they had been there the night before and there was a large group of Boy Scouts (30 of them supposedly). We decided to try the hike into Dardanelles as we had both never been there before. You can see on the map that there Is not too much more distance to hike than originally planned.
The trail actually starts on the other side of the highway, make sure you watch for traffic (you can't move that fast with a heavy pack on). The trail starts out pretty steep but it is a lot better than it used to be. Last year some volunteers redid the first section of the trail and it is really nice now. The picture to the right is at a trail junction before the meadow. I haven't made it to Scott Lake yet. You want to go right at this junction.
The meadow looked great, as usual. The snow was a little lighter in the peaks than it was just 3 weeks ago (see trip description for Round Lake). The trail was completely dry as well (thanks to the volunteers).
When you come to a steep and dusty downhill section make sure to enjoy the magnificent views. Watch out for mountain bikers racing down this hill as well. At the bottom of this hill is the junction for Dardanelle's Lake. We took the right and it goes a little more up and down than the trail to Round Lake (which is mostly up). It was a nice change though. The picture on the left is of some of the wild flowers blooming this time of year.
This picture is actually of Leo traveling back to the trailhead the next day but it is a good picture of this section of trail. There is a junction that is well marked that we took a left at to get to Dardanelles Lake. There are also 3 water crossings this time of year. They weren't too bad but I can imagine that when the water level is higher they could be a little trickier.
I love to see these "snow flowers?" I always call them that because they seem to be the first ones that spring out of the snow. I am not sure of there real name though. I only saw a couple of them on this trip. They are easy to spot as they stand out with the red color.
Leo and I made it to the lake. It is just as nice to look at as Round Lake but the swimming is not quite as nice. Leo and I both jumped in and swam for a bit. It is much warmer than Round lake was 3 weeks ago. I think the water doesn't flow out of this lake as fast.
We decided to set up camp on the first one on the left as you come into the lake. It is a nice site that overlooks the lake. There is but one tree for shade though. In the picture it is right next to the tent. There were a few others camping on Northwest side of the lake. It looks like the best swimming would be over on that side because of more granite. We didn't make it over there to check it out because we didn't want to crowd the people over there.
After dinner the bugs came out. We both had to use some spray to ward off the mosquitoes on the way in and that night was going to be more of the same. You can see the gnats in this picture but the mosquitoes came out not much later. We decided to have a small fire to help ward off our blood sucking friends. I am not sure if it helped or not but it made us feel better. We had no moon that night so there was a great view of the stars. I will end by saying this is a great lake to visit and leave you with some more pictures from the trip.