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.

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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
16 hours ago

My first hike EVER! It was tumultuous for me as an amateur but I pressed in and got to the beautiful Eagle Lake and it was totally worth it!!

10-15-18 Parking lot is closed, but it is only 1/4 mile to the trailhead. Cascade Falls is to the left and this trail (to the right) appeared to be labeled Desolation Wilderness. The notice posted at the trailhead stated that from 8-29-18 until 12-31-20 the Desolation Wilderness is closed unless you have a permit (see photo). THERE ARE NO PERMITS IN THE BOX. Cascade Falls was awesome!

hiking
2 days 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.

I have mixed feelings about this hike.
The trailhead is somewhat easy to access (located at the very back of bay view campground). Limited parking especially on busy weekends.
You get incredible views of Emerald Bay from several view points on your way up.
There are lots of switchbacks on your way up. LOTS of elevation gain!
Granite Lake is lovely and a very nice place to take a breather.
There are two peaks:
The northern peak has better views of emerald bay. I did not see a clear trail to this peak.
The southern peak is about 200ft higher in elevation, has better views of desolation wilderness. The trail to this peak is very clear.
Dog friendly!

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

Pretty poor trail markers. I would recommend going clockwise to have better luck staying on the trail. I read another hikers recommendations about having to scramble up some rock and step through some plants. I did that too and got totally completely off the path. If you stay on the path it is completely unnecessary to rock scramble and get scratches on your legs. It’s pretty around the lake but pretty a bit frustrating to keep seeing dead end signs on the roads and have to back track your route.

need better trail markers nice hike you gotta do it

A little steep at some points, but views at the end make it worth it

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 view from the top!

hiking
11 days ago

This was an amazing trail. It's a great deep dive into Desolation with visits to multiple lakes and sweeping views, despite not including scaling a peak. Each leg of the trail is more spectacular than the last, and it's gorgeous from the start. The view of Lake Aloha from the top of Mosquito pass is stunning. There's still plenty of water in parts of Aloha despite it being so late in the season. I'm looking forward to doing this one again early next summer.

This is an amazing hike! Anyone with some hiking experience can do it w/o a problem! It drizzled all the time but we still enjoy it very much! On a clear day the views must be breathtaking as they were on a rainy day! I totally recommend it!

hiking
12 days ago

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

hiking
13 days ago

Completed this trail with two friends and small dog. Nothing major for the majority of the way. Typical desolation hike in that the trail is a lot of large rocks and dirt.

Trail head at the end of the parking lot with a vehicle gate across it. First two miles are pretty uneventful with only the soda springs and old resort to be seen. Preservation work is going on at the resort. Please be considerate of that.

The rest of the trail is switch back upon switch back until you reach the top. Coming from the east coast, I was fairly used to this.

The lake is as beautiful as the pictures show. Crystal clear, blue, rimmed with mountains. The water is still as glass and cold as ice.

Stayed up there for about an hour.

Total trip about 6 hours.

*beautiful fall walk.
*plenty of water for the dogs.
*another person described this hike as flat, then uphill, flat, then uphill....it is nice that way- and the uphills feel effortless rather than strenuous.
*saw a fox.
*lakes were lovely.

Great trail this time of year, only passed a couple groups of hikers. Perfect dog friendly hike

Good day adventure, completed in just under 7 hours. Used this trail as a prep for Mt. Whitney in 2 days.
Beautiful views of the multiple lakes and surreal autumn nature! The trail is quite exposed with little shade.
I would do this trail again as a backpacking trip.

Cool fall weather, light traffic on the trail – several small groups of backpackers. Crag Lake was a picturesque place for a mid-hike break and lunch. While we were eating, heard sudden yelling from a couple who were also on the shoreline eating about 20 yards away. We rushed over, they were yelling to scare off a bear. Unfortunately, all happened too quickly to get any photos.

Beautiful!! Offering different scenery’s

hiking
16 days ago

Note about the drive to trailhead: Fallen Leaf Lake Road is overdue for some maintenance, get ready for some giant potholes and bumps.

This is a trail I've overlooked for years. While the lakes aren't too remarkable you will have a pleasant time arriving to them - the series of switchbacks are mild and elevation gain is gradual. This is a good hike to introduce someone who isn't yet an avid hiker (the views may transform them). A benefit of this trail is that it connects to turnoffs that link to Mt Tallac and Lake Aloha.

The Desolation Wilderness hikes near South Lake Tahoe always seems to be the more crowded option. If you are in the mood for solitude you may want to go elsewhere.

A cavalcade of expertly placed stone steps that traverse several promontories with views across Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe. Trail leads to perfect alpine gem Eagle Lake. Cold but easily swimmable in late September. Moderate difficulty, short enough for families. Bring water. Highly recommended.

nice hike with great views of Lake Tahoe with a pretty little Lake as the reward.

backpacking
21 days ago

Beautiful hike. We hiked in to Middle Velma and spent the night, then hiked back out the next day. We drove up from the valley and started this cold turkey with no elevation acclimation so it sucked the oxygen out of us very quickly, especially since we all had on 40 lb backpacks. The climb up is like going on a stairclimber machine for 4 straight hours. For you novices, like me, the trail is rough, with rocks and granite steps and fallen logs and debris the whole way. Its not a nicely groomed trail that is easy to walk on. You better have sturdy shoes/boots to prevent ankle sprains. And I'm in pretty good shape as I exercise regularly. I was exhausted when we got to camp. But the lake was gorgeous. COLD water though. No bugs, just some annoying chipmunks that got into my snack stash. Next time I'll bring a pellet gun to deal with them... And we never saw any signs of bear, unlike some of the other reviewers stated.

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.

hiking
23 days ago

I did this trip on 8/23/18. This was my first time in the Desolation Wilderness and I loved every minute of it. The hike to Gilmore isn't too hard and the trail is easy to follow. Lake Gilmore is a beautiful lake and when I was there I was the only one around. I went to Mt. Tallac from Gilmore and it it sure easier than the North side of fallen Leaf Lake. Of course the views are spectacular and for me especially viewing the mountains looking toward desolation wilderness. i went back to Gilmore and returned the same way. Great hike and not too hard.

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!

Spectacular views on this well groomed trail!

Did this hike on 09/19/18 Great hike. My advice is to start at the trail head and move counter-clockwise around the lake. The beginning of the hike wasn’t too daunting. About 1/4 in though the path is extremely overgrown and parts you’ll need to scale rocks up and down, so be sure to wear good shoes and maybe long pants and long sleeves to protect your skin from rubbing against plants. Towards the halfway mark you’ll end up in a Standford Sierra Camp. We rested here for a bit and even managed to refill our water using their water refill station. Now I believe this is only supposed to be for campers, so proceed with caution if doing that. We also stopped there for a quick lunch as well.
Moving along you’ll end up next to a fire station and a small chapel. The chapel is quaint, but if it’s open it will also be a nice spot to rest. If you keep going, you’ll end up in Fallen Leaf Marina/Lodge. This is another very nice spot to rest, it has a cafe and clean restrooms. Had I known this was here I would have eaten lunch there versus packing one in (less to carry is always good).
After that, about 1/4 of the trail is on paved road, so make sure to step aside for cars. With the exception of two cars, most noticed us and gave us a courtesy wave when passing. This part might have been my favorite since I love looking at houses lol. After that, you’ll have to “trespass”. Honestly, just stay on the path and don’t venture beyond property markings. The last 1/4 if the hike or so isn’t the best maintained, so again, long pants and sleeves to protect your skin.
Overall, decent hike. Would do it again, the views were fantastic.

Lookout for: burned hollow tree and the lone standing fireplace.

a good portion of the trail is paved road on the one side, but otherwise it was a lovely, not terribly trafficked trail on the 4th of July weekend.

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