dogs on leash
Waterfalls, alpine lakes, crashed aircraft, boat-in camping & bald eagles are just a few things found in these mountains Desolation Wilderness is an area in the Sierra Mountain range where natural beauty abounds. The elevation ranges from roughly 4,000 ft. to roughly 9,700 ft (Pyramid Peak). The weather can be extreme and flash storms happen unexpectedly. Camping, hiking, snowshoeing and rock crawling are just a few examples of the outdoor activities that we enjoy here in "Desolation". If you're used to the big city you'll find Desolation to be a freeing experience. This wild open area has few rules by comparison to most of California. It's pet friendly and you can plunk down camp in many waterside locations without paying a dime or dealing with neighbors. The elevation is above where poison oak grows and this means bush whacking is a little less worrisome. Ample lakes and trails can make for a whole lot of entertainment. Trail hiking, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and motorcycle touring are some of the most popular. The Rubicon is a trail that runs west from the Lake Tahoe shore and 4X4 drivers seem to have a blast there. Day hikes can be coupled with kayaking in places like Wrights's Lake, Loon Lake and Echo Lakes. In the spring, roughly March through May, snow melts in the high country and creates majestic waterfalls throughout this region. Horsetail falls and Bassi Falls are two of the best. In Tell's Creek, just off Icehouse Rd., there are remnants of a crashed B-17 that's a bit spooky to see. Paved bike trails span a portion of Union Reservoir and this provides a very fast way to see a large piece of the wilderness with a few hours of riding. A weekend in Desolation Wilderness can be a very affordable way to get away for a while. Be sure to visit the ranger station in Fresh Pond on your way up. You can get a free campfire permit here along with the latest printed information pamphlets for the area. The folks who work there can even help you plan your trip into this wonderful backcountry area. Tips Breaking an ankle or wondering into an area that you're unfamiliar with can mean an unexpected overnighter in the woods. Freak weather changes and even wild animals can create survival challenges for people and their pets. Having communication systems like radios and cell phones that are fully charged can make all the difference in getting to safety after an emergency situation in Desolation. Hazards: Mountain lions, bears, and coyotes rarely attack people but carrying a bit of pepper spray may help you feel more confident if you're confronted. Avalanches, whiteout snow storms and heavy rain storms can leave you cold and wet. Slippery granite near waterfalls have caused injury and death. Unlike in the Mokelumne Wilderness, cell phones actually work in Desolation Wilderness. There are cell phone towers on top of Big Hill and locations from Ice House rd over to Wright's Lake get excellent reception (at least with AT&T). At Loon Lake cell phones become useless though. When all else fails, an amateur radio license and a decent portable HAM radio can be a life saver. If you're a licensed HAM then you can use the 2 meter, 146.805 repeater in the event of emergency. An alternative to ham radios are the Garmin Rino series GPS/radio combinations. They will allow you to communicate with your group and even send your GPS coordinates to each other.
I didn't get to rubicon lake since it was time to return on my day hike but Crag lake and Stoney lakes were beautiful. The hike itself was easy. Took me 4 hours 20 min round trip and the total of 12 miles. Next time I will leave earlier so that I can get to Rubicon Lake.
Falls aren't as active this time of year, but still a good hike into Desolation. We climbed down the falls rather than following the trail back and you will find some cool views there. Make sure to take the upper falls trail and take in the view at the top.
Janet M. on Lake Aloha Trail
Amazing views on this hike. Beautiful!
Went on a backpacking and fishing trip here in August. If camping and you are able, do yourself a favor and try to go midweek, it gets packed on the weekends and suddenly Desolation Wilderness isn't so desolate.
A few tips: you'll want to wear sturdy hiking boots as the landscape is almost entirely granite shards of every conceivable shape and size. It's not hard to imagine turning an ankle. Bring rope to tie up your food well out of the way of marmots and bears. No fires permitted (for now) so a backpacking stove or a middle finger to the rules is a must (we used a stove). For anglers, black and yellow panther Martin was gettin em all day but very consistently at sundown. Some really beautiful brook trout in all the creeks and lakes here.
Would love to come back and explore the numerous other lakes out here. Great rock jumps into water too!