Explore Desolation Wilderness - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Desolation Wilderness Map
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This is a moderate trail only if you are agile and fit. I have a fit dog, Shepherd, and it was a scramble for him with a couple of spots where I had to lift him to get him over some rock and log obstacles. It is NOT suitable for horses by any stretch of the imagination. There are some semi-steep portions of this trail that are more rock than trail, littered with volleyball sized rocks along sloped granite faces in some places and precarious dead fall bridges in others. If you don't do rocks or high steps, this is not the trail for you. Horses would not be able to negotiate these obstacles safely, regardless of whether you dismount or not. If you have little ones it will be a scramble for them too. We went in mid-November so the bogs, marshes and intermittent streams were dry or frozen allowing us to avoid the bugs. If you are looking to back country camp be aware that there are a lot of dead standing trees that are potential widow makers. Also be aware that regardless of fire conditions, the amount of deadfall and standing dead trees in the area make this bowl a tinder box.

It was a great hike. We thought is was more like 9 miles. nice and shady. grant views of cable lake and emigrant lake was awesome. had a lunch at lake then headed back. we felt it was moderate skill.

What a hidden gem! This hike was a gorgeous trek through Desolation Wilderness across huge slabs of sparkling granite. At this time of year, the lakes were frozen, but so clear you could see through to the bottom. The views were spectacular even though it was a bit smoky due to a wildfire elsewhere in California. The trail can be difficult to keep track of, especially in the open granite areas. Keep an eye out for cairns to mark the way. While it wasn’t too strenuous, there was some loose talus and shale, making me wish I had my trekking poles on the way down. It is clear that this area is popular in the peak season, so we were happy to have the trail almost entirely to ourselves!

walking
10 days ago

*bring water for dogs- no water on the trail.
*uphill, then downhill, then uphill.....but not hard.
*gorgeous panaramas along the hike.
*we started late in the afternoon, and had it all to ourselves.( early November).
*no mountain bikes to be seen today.
*windy at the top- SPECTACULAR VIEWS!

hiking
11 days ago

Beautiful hike, just be ready for a steep ascent right from the beginning. Loved the views, it was a gorgeous day and there were still some fall colors to enjoy. We did get startled by some dirt bikes that came up on us quickly as they crested a hill. We heard them, but had no idea they were so close. We were able to grab our dog before she was run over, but be on the lookout!

hiking
11 days ago

This short(er) hike provided great bang for your buck. At only 6 or so miles, the views were spectacular and we reached the summit quickly. Likely for this reason, there was quite a bit of trail traffic, even given the time of year.

After an immediate and somewhat intense climb, the trail opens up along a ridge that provides beautiful views of Desolation Wilderness to the west. On one side there is a cliff/drop off that my overly curious dog would not keep away from - just something to be aware of with children or pets.

Once you get to where the peak is in sight, be sure to keep to the smaller and less noticeable trail to the right. On the left side, there is a wider and rockier path that leads to a false peak, and thanks to another hiker we met, we didn’t get stuck up there as some have!

Hiked November 3rd 2018, beautiful calm day, sunny and very light winds. Two of us and small older dog did the trek in under 4 hours with a stop at the top. Several other groups shared the trail but we mostly had the trail to ourselves. Great views of desolation wilderness, Lake Tahoe and beyond. We started late (noon) sun was fabulous, long shadows by return trip. Loon lake was glorious, mirrored reflections of the sky and golden glow everywhere.
A must hike!

This was an excellent hike from beginning to end. We began at Caples Lake and followed the trail along the lake until it veered up to toward the historic Emigrant Lake. I arrived to this weather worn Lake imagining the Mormon Emigrates hitting this wall of rock. It was fishbowl staring up at the back of Roundtop and Stagecoach across the Lake. We bushwhacked up to the Stagecoach Trail for another beautiful full vista view of both Caples Lake and Emigrant. I imagine the Mormans did the same and continued East to Utah? We on the other hand went West on the trail bushwhacking our way back down this steep terrain guided by the ski structures that eventually lead us the the “Emigrant Road SLCA” . It was breathtaking. The trees marked with these signs leading us back to the Lake for our final two miles back to our vehicle. I will hike this again. But I will bring a fishing pole.

Definitely a scenic hike. Had a lot of different pools to explore and involves a bit of climbing. Great for a quick trip to a waterfall.

hiking
16 days ago

This a great day-hike. The trail itself is not hard; just make sure you are wearing nice hiking shoes because of the loose rocks. This is a great time of the year to do it because of the changing colors of the trees. Lyons Lake is a must!

Probably the most beautiful lake in the Desolation Wilderness area. The stark, granite landscape and the crisp, blue waters of the lake make for a breathtaking sight.

Beautiful trail with amazing views

If you're an avid hiker, this is an easy trail. If you're new to it, moderate. Beautiful hike taking you through the forest of mixed trees of golden Aspen , pine and fur and alongside trickling creek and calming pools of water. Plenty of places to stop along the trail to hike in a little bit to have a picnic lunch by one of the many water pools.

The trail is not easy to follow but it's not hard to get back on when you realize you're going the wrong way. Just make sure the creek is to the right of you. As long as you can hear it, you're good. When you are almost to the falls, you'll be climbing up and over boulders. Make sure you have appropriate shoes that have good traction.

This trail is doable in runners or cross-trainers but the terrain is a bit tricky. Rocks, sticks, logs and one small part of trail where you're walking over a pooled water area covered with logs. I would recommend shoes that have ankle support. If you aren't careful, you can easily roll your ankles. I did this in trail running shoes and was fine.

Be sure to watch for cairns otherwise the trail is hard to see.

hiking
26 days ago

This was an okay hike for me. No amazing views on the trail except for at the lake itself since you're in the forest majority of the time. There are some small Aspen groves, which makes this hike better because fall foliage is always awesome. The trail is pretty easy to navigate and the weather was rather pleasantly cool today.

hiking
27 days ago

Favorite hike of the year so far! I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult hike, more like moderate. The uneven rocks in the middle section will wear you out quick though. Views are amazing and once you get to Lake Aloha you’re totally secluded. We did take a wrong turn at the little loop near the end and it wound up being a short cut. Pay attention to the markers and your map because it’s not super well marked

Beautiful hike!! The trail is very hard to follow but it doesn’t really matter, it is very difficult to get lost! Just follow the creek and you won’t get lost. This was a very fun hike, not too difficult at all and lots of area to explore. We ended up taking the very low creek/river bed back to the trailhead and it was a great way to take back. Beautiful and fun!

hiking
1 month ago

Super fun bouldering toward the upper part of the falls. The trail is not always real obvious, but you’re always in cell service and GPS works great. Lots of friendly people on the trail, too. The lower part of the trail is pretty shady and there are a lot of picture perfect places to stop along the way.

Best in winter/spring when the falls are flowing. Trail is a little difficult to follow.
Views are stunning at the top.

hiking
1 month ago

Was hard to follow at times. Loved the ability to stop and enjoy the water on the way back. Got caught in a little rain. Be careful! Rocks became slick pretty quickly.

Great little trail. Be sure that take a picnic lunch and swimsuits!

hiking
1 month ago

Awesome hike! Trail can be difficult to follow but well worth the time.

Beautiful!! Offering different scenery’s

backpacking
1 month ago

The trail is fun and well-marked. The hike to Sylvia is easy and to Lyons gets very steep but lasts only .4 miles. Sylvia Lake was a bit low but had clean filterable water. I climbed up Pyramid Peak which was great. There's an unmarked trail at about 85 degrees bearing from Sylvia Lake up to the peak.

Lyons Lake is beautiful and had more water than Sylvia. I recommend visiting both lakes and climbing Mt. Agassiz or Pyramid Peak for the great views.

hiking
1 month ago

This path is beautiful but beware.

If you are comfortable with steep climbs then go for it. My family and I love trails but we are from Florida and this was a big challenge for us.

I did make it to the top and the pond just perfect.

Very beautiful trail with panoramic views. We loved the trees with bright green moss. Nice trail for the dog too.

I did this hike on 8/28/18. The climb up from the trailhead is a pretty good pull but not too tough. The views at the summit are really nice. The trail to Velma Lakes is kind of barren and desolate, I'm thinking now I know why it's called Desolation Wilderness. At the first lake it was so beautiful I was really glad I had my camera. Went over to see Middle Velma then turned back and headed to Fontanillis Lake. Once again I was glad to have brought my camera! From there I stopped at Dicks Lake, then took the Eagle Falls trail back to The trailhead. What a wonderful hike and not too hard. I love the Desolation Wilderness.

Beautiful! One of my favorite hikes. You can either stop once you get to the falls or keep going and climb up to the top to Avalanche Lake and beyond. I’ve done this hike 3 times now and I will still keep coming back!

hiking
1 month ago

generally: gorgeous loop of many lakes (echo, lake aloha, lake of the woods) in desolation wilderness, with decent distance, manageable elevation, great scenery the whole way, decent trail conditions, would love to return and backpack (permits required in peak season, no fires)
parking: at upper or lower lot, free, no passes, road: mostly paved, doable in any vehicle
trail conditions: packed ground/rocky in some parts, easy to follow, not overgrown
scenery: gorgeous lake views the whole way
saw dozen + people on a nice weekend day, ferries run along echo lakes in summer, not running while we were there

hiking
1 month ago

It was a windy September Saturday when we hiked to Ellis Peak. Great trail with truly beautiful views all around. After leaving the peak make sure you look out for the smaller trail leading back to Barker Pass - crossing the Ellis Lake trail. Met a couple of friendly and helpful trail bikers, but it was mostly hikers on the route.

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