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Recently I had the great fortune of hiking to Lake of the Woods with two of our sons. We took a chance, late in the hiking season, to travel a small portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. This wonderful little trail offered a variety of terrain, lakes and foliage. While challenging, in my current athletic ability, this well-traveled trail gives the day hiker and backpacker stunning views and beautiful scenery.

We had the lake to ourselves for two days. Clear sky and beautiful weather with temps in the sixties daytime and low thirties at night, made for a fantastic trip!

We will be back to this little gem again!

Although not as immediately grand as Lake Aloha or Clyde Lake, Lake of the Woods is really just as beautiful and has the added bonus of feeling even more secluded and peaceful. Plus you can always add Lake Aloha to this hike as it isn't much further.

backpacking
2 months ago

Amazing trail!

hiking
2 months 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.

We did a two night trip here. We hiked to Grouse lake, which according our gps is 4.1 miles. It is a climb but all and all not to bad. We made our camp here. Gorgeous lake with brook trout jumping. The next morning we hiked up to Hemlock and Smith. My gps said 1.3 miles from grouse, Total elevation gain from Wright’s lake was 1704. Both were full of trout. All these lakes are worth the effort. The last section to smith is very steep, hard to find and follow the trail and has loose rock. The view to the west is amazing! I would consider the trail a mod/hard depending on your fitness. I’m 52 in ok shape and carried a 28 lb pack. It took me 2.5 to Grouse. From grouse to smith took about 45 minutes but some of that was looking for the trail at smith. One way the hike is approx 5.4 so total 10.8. Hard on the knees going down. Hiking poles are your best friend here

3 months ago

We just walked 2 1/2 miles out and back - to the top of the Meiss Valley - but the views are spectacular!

I did this loop clockwise. From the snow park it was 12 miles to Showers Lake.
That left me with only 8 miles to finish up on day 2. That 8 miles is tough either way you do it.
This hike offers great views and nice places to camp.
It's starting to cool off! We had high winds and temps in the low 40 to high 30's.

this was a easy hike,the last two miles was uphill,it was crowded this pass weekend,we camp near the lake,few hikers show up late with head lights on,and since it was dark they saw my camp first and decided to came feet away,had no respect for other campers

Well maintained trail. You can hear Jeepers at some places near Bucks Lake. Better in cooler temperatures as there is lots of sun/exposed trail on the back half.

From Smith Lake, we continued upward and climbed Crystal Range summits Agassiz Peak and Mt Price. My track is not the easiest way to do this, but it got the job done in a very eventful 10 hour hike. Our boulder hopping route to the notch on the ridge above Smith Lake was OK, but we would have been better served by then dropping down some into the Lyon’s Lake drainage instead of trying to traverse around the head of the canyon higher up. The large boulders up there made the walk extremely difficult, so we ended up dropping down anyway, but still not far enough to make for an easy passage through the head of the drainage. Climbing up the east side we did OK by staying low in grassy chutes and quickly made the ridge with a clear view and path to Agassiz and Price. We headed over the meadow to the low point on the ridge between the peaks, and once there decided to first bag Agassiz to the south. This was another mistake as the boulders high on the ridge were massive and the going up there very slow. A better approach would be to stay low on easier terrain until directly below, or maybe even a bit beyond, the peak then go straight up to it. We did make it our way, though, or at least to a few feet below the high point where we took a pass on the class 3 summit block. From there we dropped off Agassiz the way we should have come up, then by comparison, the half mile north to Mt Price was an easy class 2 walk in the park. From the summit of Price the views of Lake Aloha and so many other Desolation Wilderness lakes and peaks were spectacular and the sky was as smoke free as it had been in weeks. Our route for the return trip was OK though we initially aimed a little too high for the notch above Smith Lake when we might have done better staying lower on the Lyon drainage longer where the walking was easier. Another way to reach these peaks is to simply hike the drainage north from Lyon’s Lake then climb up the east side, as we did, to the large meadow west of the Price-Agassiz ridge. This hike would start at the Lyon’s Lake trailhead on Wright’s Lake Road and would be a few miles longer, but likely an easier hike. As it was, our route was 11.5 miles and 3638’ of gain. There’s no easy way to reach these peaks, but as the spectacular backbone of Desolation Wilderness, they are well worth the effort.

This is 3 stars because the description isn't accurate and the upper portion of the loop trail is inaccessible due to a rock slide. This trail is very busy, which means every 10 minutes you're stopping to let someone pass you on the narrow trail. You also won't see any wildlife with so many people wandering around. It's a really pretty area and nice hike if you like hanging out with a couple hundred strangers while you hike. I suggested changes to AllTrails for this hike description.

Did this Trail 2 weeks ago I'd rate it as moderate in difficulty. But epic in adventure. weather was perfect..

backpacking
3 months ago

Moderate trail with some recent modifications. The CCC went through and rerouted a portion of the trail in the area between Spider Lake and Buck Island Lake. The trail is well established except for that section. As of this review there are several cairns (rock stacks) to mark this section that goes over a lot of granite. If you take your time and look for the markers you will stay on trail pretty well.

3 months ago

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

Followed this along to Rockbound lake for an overnight backpacking trip. Absolutely gorgeous!

We were aiming for Aloha but decided to head down to Lake Of The Woods en route. So glad we did! Despite all the smoke from the CA fires, it was a beautiful lake that we pretty much had to ourselves :) I can’t wait to do it again on a clear day! Rocky trail would benefit from hiking poles....

4 months ago

Wow. A great hike.

Great not only dogs allowed but Lama’s

This trail has become one of our favorite trails in the El Dorado/ Tahoe area. The views from the Hemlock and Smith Lake are amazing (there was even some snow on the northeast side of the lake, where the granite wall prevents the sun from reaching).
The full trail (back and forth) is 9.8 miles instead of 5.5 miles as originally reported (we had a tracking device that recorded the distance and altitude gain; and if you check the full map here and add the distances, you'll see that it's close to 5 miles one-way).
As mentioned before, the trail is well-visible until a certain point (up to where it splits with the Twin Lakes 16E12); from that point on, it's essential to have some guidance (the AllTrails map works great), keep an eyes on the stacked rocks too.
On our way back, we saw some commotion due to someone getting lost (there are too many splits) and the Rangers and El Dorado Police had to be called (when we got back to the parking lot, we heard that they had found the guy).

If you are going on a weekend, chances are that the parking lot by the trailhead will be full. Don't park by the cabins or by the road or you will get a ticket. Park at one of the two Wrights Lake parking lots.

Great trail!! The wildflowers were waist deep and incredible!

Great hike, be sure to go past the lake about 1 mile during flower season for the best display in the entire basin.

Went to Lake of the Woods then Lake Aloha. Fantastic day hike. Took the water taxi both ways so it was only 7.3 miles. I've seen most of the eastern part of Desolation Wilderness and this was as good a day hike as I've done. Beautiful lakes, views, wild flowers. Highly recommend it.

hiking
5 months ago

Perfect trail up until the point where you go off the trail and head east towards the lake. Could not find a trail to the lake and it is very marshy and hard to walk. Would recommend remaining on the trail and going to Showers Lake.

This hike is superb - well worth the beautiful drive from South Lake Tahoe. Mid July wildflowers were off the hook - as were the views. Loved hiking up through an aspen grove at the start, then up and over a ridge with spectacular 360 views. Beautiful creeks, meadows, snow capped mountains peaks, iris fields, waist high lupine, endless awesomeness.

The instructions shown for parking for this hike are odd - just park at the well marked Meiss Trailhead lot. Follow the pct to showers lake. $5 day use - self pay post at the trailhead.

Amazing wildflowers today. Just stunning! Highly recommend this gem of a hike!

Beautiful hike. Wildflowers everywhere and they smelled wonderful. Pretty good incline at the end before arriving to the lake. Some spots of shade along trail but lots of exposed areas.

I would definitely rate this as hard, especially because the trail from Hemlock to Smith is marked as "primitive." I found it hard to catch the spot where you take a hard left up into the rocks. I wasn't sure if I was off trail, so I sat down until I saw someone else arrived who used their GPS to find the trail. After being at the top I came back down to find two hikers lost in the same spot that I was. Just keep an eye out for stacked rocks to the left to find that final steep ascent.

The parking lot at the trail head was open as of 7/7/18. The wildflowers were incredible! And the water running down beside the first part of the trail was serene. I dunked in at Smith Lake and felt so refreshed. Will be coming back soon to see it again.

Wildflowers! A great hike for July! Mile 1-2 and 4-5 is uphill, but doable even for me. So beautiful the entire time. About 8 tiny streams that you can hop over. Showers Lake is picturesque.
When you arrive, there is Carson Pass trailhead with bathrooms and a ranger station. It’s better to park across the street and pick up trail there.

This was a gorgeous hike! Meadows with lots of wildflowers and many lakes to look at along the way. It’s a rocky trail for the most part with narrow passings. Lots of overnight backpackers on the trail. Recommend really good hiking boots.

the most beautiful wildflower hike i’ve ever done anywhere in the world. Acres of lupine, angelica, corn flowers, paint brush, Jacobs Ladder, valerian, mariposa and more. Many reaching heights of 4’. The peak is now and it won’t last so go.

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