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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backpacking
2 days ago

This was a great hike beautiful landscape..up hill for about 4 or so miles then down a bit..and look for water falls..and if you have a dog please have shoes for them this will tear up feet

Don’t miss seeing lower Velma on your way through

backpacking
5 days ago

This is one of my favorite places in the world.... if camping, I highly recommend going past the end of the trail to this private campsite near several lake inlets. Truly stunning. The water was some of the warmest I’ve felt in the area in July

Great, gorgeous, trees, meadows !

hiking
11 days ago

Ok. Let's start the list

1. 6.5 hours for 12.41 miles on a artificial knee celebrating my 62 birthday
2. It is a moderate trail, only hard for those not accustomed to long treks or wearing the wrong shoes
3. Get there early if you want any decent parking spot. We arrived before 7am and still had to park up the hill.
4. Parking at the marina is only for 4 hours
5. It is dog friendly - we passed a few dozen dogs today. Be sure your fur friend is use to rocks
6. Aloha Lake is very low but the lower end is still holding water. The low water exposes a lot of rock formations which adds to the value
7. We had animal encounters - one small black bear - one mini bear (aka chipmunk) who felt he was obliged to check out our pack, our pants, our shirts, anywhere to find food
8. Take water - We took 4 quarts and used it all for 2 people
9. The trailhead starts at Echo Lake dam where the check-in point is
10. It is difficult to find the place to begin with so check you maps well

Now this really is the tale of 3 trails
1. The lower section travels along Echo Lake and Upper Echo Lake. It is mostly in trees. Mostly sand and small rock. Changes elevation very little as it follows along the shores. You will also walk behind a number of cabins which are interesting in the fact they are built there to begin with. The lakes are beautiful and offer different views depending on the sun and time of day
2. The climb - This middle section of the trail is rock, rock, and more rock. The rock is jagged in many areas which will bruise your feet if you not wearing good shoes. The climb is standard 2-3% forestry grade and not hard. Just a lot of rock. It is open but has a lot of interesting cedar tree formations growing in crevices. Just as you start the ascent up to the pass, you get the best views of Echo Lakes by far.
3. The top - fairly easy walk thru trees as you top out of the pass and start a slight descent into the Aloha basin. The rock is glacial and definitely different from the ascent. Trees are massive. We are puny in comparison. Once you arrive at Aloha, trails go every which direction, just stay to the right. The lake is low now so you need to go another few hundred yards down the shoreline to find open water. Majestic and grand views in all directions.

Enjoy.

backpacking
14 days ago

My first backpacking trip in 30 years and this was a great one - not too hard or too easy - and camping at Lake Aloha was wonderful.
The lake was quite low this time of year so would like to go back in June next year. The echo lake shuttle boat was not operational so we didn’t have the option to cut a few miles off to get back. Not that my daughter would have let me!
My favorite part of the hike was the forest after the switchbacks and also a little outing up the ridge to the west side of the lake.
I’m an older hiker and had planned to use a trekking pole but sadly it broke before I could use it and it wasn’t necessary for me even though there were some quite rocky parts.
Love this hike and will definitely do it again.

Beautiful hike with different degrees of difficulty along the way. I’d rate it somewhere between moderate to strenuous due to its distance round trip. Some parts of the trail along the Echo Lakes were gently sloping with packed dirt and rock. Past that the trail got steeper with only rocks underfoot. As you approach Lake Aloha the trail flattens and gets easier on the legs. The stark beauty of Desolation Wilderness opens up before you as the final destination approaches. There were a few dry shallow lakes along the way but Lake Aloha still had significant water as of Labor Day weekend. Our dog definitely felt beat after the 12 mile hike. Highly recommend booties for your canine buddies to protect against the sharp rocks.

Great hike. You hike with good view of Caples Lake for almost 2 miles and then head in and the hike is pretty up and down throughout with mostly tree cover and not a lot of unshaded areas. Nice wildflowers and a few streams. Trail pretty easy to follow out and back. Hiked on Labor Day and there were a few hikers up and down but not too busy considering the holiday. Take a lunch and relax once you reach Emigrant Lake or alongside Caples Lake when you get back down.

hiking
16 days ago

09-02-18: Overall this is a very nice hiking trail. The trail through Echo lakes is easy to traverse with a nice view, if you don’t mind see cabins all along the shoreline. Past Echo Lakes, the trail becomes more harsh and quite rocky for some distance until getting closer to Lake aloha where the trail smoothes out through the forest. Unfortunately at this time of year, the waters around Aloha were very low or completely dried up. Better to go earlier in the season. I recommend that dogs wear booties and some of the trail may prove difficult for smaller breeds.

Beautiful trail with a nice diversity of scenery. We hiked the first 8 miles to Lake Aloha the first day and spent the night there before hiking the remainder of the trail the next day. The backend of the trail near Echo Lake is a steep and rocky climb down - trekking poles and high ankles boots for stability would be helpful at this portion. Loved this trail and would definitely would hike it again!

hiking
17 days ago

The trail is definitely not a “Hard” trail. It’s rocky but no elevation really. We hiked almost 6 miles back and couldn’t find Lake Aloha but we found plenty of other lakes and island. Definitely pretty view but if your the type of people who like your heart rate up for a strenuous hike this isn’t it. Mostly flat rocky trails. There is a lot of loose rock too so make sure your balanced and stable.

hiking
18 days ago

Hiked from the Glen Alpine TH on 08/29/18. Like most trials in the Desolation Wilderness, rocks and more rocks. Nice lake, but no signs of fish activity, BUT there were signs of bear activity. Evidently, a bear was at the camp site 50 yards from mine and climbed a tree to get to the food bags. The bear was approximately 25 yards from the the group camping there and stayed there devouring their food while they helplessly watched in fear banging on pots and pans and blowing whistles. After 45 minutes, the bear left fat and happy! Well, we are in their homes, and bears will be bears.

Spent 3 nights at Ropi, great camp sites and had the place to myself for two days - then the weekend crowds came !. Is easy to loose the trail hiking back out from Ropi so watch out the stone markings as the trail disappears at a few spots. Well worth the hike in but try to go mid week to avoid the crowds

hiking
20 days ago

relaxing easy trail to lake aloha. water level is a little low but was still pretty easy to find a secluded spot to hangout. trail was very busy. I took the dogs with me and it wore them out pretty quickly. I wouldn't recommend taking dogs with you on a clear day. not much shade for a majority of the trail and their paws got pretty beat up on the Rocky parts.

Nice hike and beautiful lake,did a overnight hike there Aug 12 13....

Beautiful wildflower display right now in mid July!

I hiked this trail in July with a group of high school students of different levels of experience with the outdoors. The consensus was that it felt longer than 7.3 miles but it’s worth the effort. Take care crossing the road from the parking lot to the trailhead.
The highlight is jumping into the water and swimming out to the rocks across Lake Dardanelles. I later read that there are leeches but none of us encountered any. Pack plenty of water and snacks and lunch and make a day of it. It’s beautiful.

We spent the night at Ropi and it was definitely worth the hike in. Beautiful lake with lots of trout. I recommend downloading a topo map before because we lost the trail a few times.

Our dog really enjoyed this trail and the easy access to the lake water. Parking was a bit crowded but once we were on the trail it was great.

25 days ago

What a gem of a lake. well worth the hike.

backpacking
29 days ago

Great place to backpack for the first time. Definitely worth the effort to make it up to a beautiful lake. Our trail was about 8 miles there and 8 miles back. The lake was clear enough for you to see the bottom and was pure enough for you to even drink (we filtered our water.) Must come with family and friends and bring a chair for star gazing. We decided to take the water taxi back to enjoy the lake and view. It was 14 dollars and person and you can either pay with cash or card when you get back to the main dock.

1 month ago

Beautiful lake !

Gorgeous lake, easy trail at campground. Great birdwatching area, I saw Western Tanagers. Can be crowded at times.

hiking
1 month ago

Wonderful hike that hugs Echo Lake and then ascends to Lake Aloha, which is big and offers many islands to swim to. At the end of summer, I was still able to see snow on the surrounding mountains, and the reflection of the trees and clouds on the crystal clear water was beautiful. Much of the hike is on rocks, so wear sturdy shoes.

Fantastic hike! The meadows at the end of summer are mostly yellow and dead, but the lake was fantastic and secluded. The foot traffic is very light, and we swam in the lake to islands. The parking for the hike is kind of hard to find because you need to follow a very small road down from highway 89.

hiking
1 month ago

Took the water taxi, so 12 km of hiking on rocky paths from the Upper Echo Lake to the Lake Aloha.
Beautiful Lake Aloha but water level very slow, so didn’t get into the water.
Lake the Woods is awesome and better for swimming for today.

Difficult when hiking up from Lake the Woods back to the Pacific Crest Trail towards Echo Lake, high altitude causing low oxygen, this part will take a longer and certain persons may feel bad (as I did).

Be aware: 50 cents for the public phone for the return boat call.

Loved this backpack trip. Did a slight detour up to gilmore lake for lunch then back on trail to Half moon. Fairly steady incline the whole way there, so if you like hiking up with little relief this is your trail. Had place to ourself and actually camped at Alta Morris, a bit of scrambling to get to alta and loss of trail but geographic markers and following edge of half moon lake helped with direction across granite boulders. Alta was well worth it, had the whole lake to ourselves, saw two couples in the distance the whole weekend.

This was a great trail with amazing views. We took our dogs who did great. Went clockwise which seemed like the right choice at the end. The decent to adventure mountain was a steep decline. Adventure mountain was closed for the season but there is a small parking lot just before the gate. We parked at Johnson Pass rd. And added about another 2 mi. to the trip. I wasn’t a fan of the several freeway crossings or the fact that I camped right next to a coyote den in big Meadow. But other than that it was great!

hiking
1 month ago

Great view at the end. Take an invigorating shower under the small waterfall. Be prepared for lots of rubble.

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