nature trips

wild flowers




dogs on leash

trail running

dog friendly





no dogs

The Desolation Wilderness is within the Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, in El Dorado County, California. The crest of the Sierra Nevada is found here. This wildernes area is in the Sierra Mountain range where rugged natural wonders rule. Alpine lakes, boat-in campgrounds, and bald eagles are just a few of the amazing things that await visitors. The lowest elevation in the park is about 4,000 feet and Pyramid Peak reaches up to 9,700 feet. At these elevations, weather can change quickly and cold can set in. Campers, hikers, and snowshoers should be prepared with adequate clothing, water, and (optionally) mace for any potential bear or mountain lion encounters (although these are very rare). One good option is to make a stop at the ranger station in Fresh Pond on your way in to pick up a free wilderness permit and get the latest wilderness conditions. In winter, day permits are available at the Pacific Ranger Station near Pollock Pines. Day use is not subject to fees or limited by quota, while overnight use has a quota from from the Friday before Memorial Day through September 30 of each year. 30% of the quota is available first-come, first-serve the day of entry and may not be reserved ahead of time, while the other 70% can be reserved at recreation.gov While many California parks can be full of visitors, Desolation Wilderness truly lives up to it's name, giving visitors the freeing feeling of being out in the wild. This wilderness is also dog friendly, and overnight camping is free and easy to come by. As a huge plus, poison oak does not grow at these elevations, so you can relax a bit more while spending time off trail. Kayaking on Echo Lakes, off road driving west from Lake Tahoe, or basking in Horsetail Falls and Bassi Falls after a good snowy season are just a few of the adventures you can choose from.

Challenging. Start early in the day. Expect to lose the trail several times and backtrack. Be cautious when heading back down, as it is easy to get off trail and onto a steep ledge, ... then difficult getting back on trail.

2 days ago

If you aren’t afraid to take a couple knee-deep steps into snow, keep going to Lake Aloha. The last 1.5-2 miles is snow, but I did it in my trail running shoes. The trail is well-marked from many hikers making this trek. The lake is frozen but beautiful!

Fantastic views. Very busy with a lot of dogs. Wonderful hike.

3 days ago

10/10.. amazing views from Maggie’s peak saddle and maggie’s peak.. Hiked 5/19/18 and the snow starts just past Granite lake. We went all the way to the top, got some snow in our boots but nothing we couldn’t get out and the view was more than worth it. The view of desolation wilderness from Maggie’s peak saddle spot was amazing as was the view from the very top.

Super pretty - views changed every few minutes. The lake is stunning!

4 days ago

Is there trekking through snow now? What time should you get there on a Saturday to get a parking spot?

Went a week ago and reached Island Lake wearing hiking boots. Snow coverage made navigation difficult especially as it became darker, so bring a GPS to re-trace your steps. I recommend wearing microspikes and gaiters as the trail was covered with compacted snow in many areas. Use the natural landscape such as creeks, melting snow and treeline for navigation. Dirt road to Twin Lakes had a couple hills with deep snow patches so bring chains just in case. The view of the mountains from Island Lake was incredible!

It was a bit challenging since the trail was covered in snow. We had to trail blaze through snow since we lost track of the trail multiple times. Lake Gilmore was still frozen, but such a gorgeous site. Watch out for running water underneath the snow so you don’t fall. Difficult, but well worth it if you take your time.

11 days ago

Great for pictures. Good exercise. Not difficult. Moderate traffic. 50 • when we started, about 35 with light rain, sleet, and snow as we approached the lake. May 11th. Highly recommend

on Eagle Lake Trail

12 days ago

Short but sweet trail! It was quite easy and passing the falls and lake was quite nice. I would rank it on the easy end of the moderate ranking. The higher up you go, the better the views. When we went there was a fair amount of people, but not enough to disturb or enjoyment.

I agree with other reviews in that parking was a problem if the lot is full.

13 days ago

What a gem! This trail is one of the best I've been on. It is a great hike for the family. It will be challenging for kids so maybe do a little train up with them first. There are a plenty of "stairs" to climb and places to stop off and enjoy the view. The lake at the end is an extraordinary reward for your effort. The only detraction from the experience is the lack of parking. Arrive early and you are rewarded with a spot next to restroom facilities and the trail head. Arrive after the lot fills up and you get to park precariously along the road and start your hike early.

13 days ago

Started today at lower Echo Lake, with intentions of Aloha and back. Made it to about Tamarack and had to turn around. Trail is very Wet, which not a problem, some snowpack still but hard enough to walk across. Got to just pass Tamarack turn off and stepped into some snow and fell knee deep. Tons of snowmelt, but still an awesome hike! SO close to being ready! Saw about 10 other hikers out. Parking lot was clear enough, even cars.

14 days ago

Great view of tahoe! Brought my 5 year old son and we took our time to get to the lake. It was worth it when we got there. It was a bit hard for my son since the first mile is uphill along with muddy paths and rocks so wear good shoes to avoid injury. But overall it is a great place to see if you are ever in the area. Before you enter the parking lot there is a waterfall across the street that you can climb down to. Great for pictures.

15 days ago

This is a great trail. I saw many people trying to complete the trail in flip flops and just want to say you definitely need good hiking shoes. There are plenty places to slip and trip here. In my opinion this trail is almost all uphill and can be quite strenuous, we are hikers and I think maybe it's the distance only being 1.7 keeping this a moderate instead of hard.
Getting to the lake is so worth it. I would recommend this trail to anyone visiting Tahoe.
Also I agree with everyone else get there before 8:30am for a parking spot.

Solitude seekers may already be second-guessing themselves when they pull up to the Velma-Eagle Lakes parking lot, often bloated with drivers frantically looking for a spot, international visitors, and idle North Face sportswear types posing for photos at the sign (oh yeah, I totally just went there). Note: You are allowed to park along the road in some spots. $5.00 fee needed for day-use during the on-season.

Appearances can be deceiving, fortunately. The hassle to find a parking spot and navigate crowds early on is well worth the hike. The amount of people will drastically go down after you cross a bridge which is about 0.5 miles along the trail. (Let's say 100 visitors are on the entire trail. After the bridge it will be 20. Then after a full mile maybe 10). The reason for this is that the elevation gain is a butt buster right at the start, though a well-marked trail and stone steps help accommodate.

I did this when there was lots of snow and completing the full loop is a challenge, largely because the trail is often buried. I diverged, half intentionally, and ascended a ridge a few miles in, with spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake at the top. Others happened to be up there as well, and they seemed to be improvising their navigation too.

Give yourself plenty of time in the day if you intend to do the whole loop. Plan carefully before venturing off into the snow (Nov-May).

Had a one night camp in Lake of The Woods. The lake es beautiful offering many great views of Pyramid Peak and greenery.

24 days ago

Parking - Plenty of parking if you get there early. We arrived at 8:00 am and basically had our choice of parking spots. When we left around 1:00 pm the lot was packed and people were circling to get a spot. Get there early.
Paying - Since the location is still closed, there was no fee. I believe the usual fee is $5.00 per vehicle and there are self-pay envelopes available when the trail is open.
Hiking - Awesome! Easily discernible trail with plenty of signage and carved steps. Take a few minutes to go up to the Vista Point. It offers a great lookout towards Emerald Bay and then loops you right back onto the main trail. The majority of incline is when hiking to the lake, which made hiking back to the car nice and easy. Be cautious over the few patches of snow and ice remaining.
Shooting - There are several cool scenes to photograph: a walking bridge, trail lines, Eagle Creek, and of course Eagle Lake. Get a great reflection shot by walking right up to the water's edge and holding your camera low near the surface of the lake. The shots turn out pretty well.
Eating - Definitely pack a lunch, some snacks, and water. You're going to want to enjoy the view with a meal and there are plenty of granite slabs to setup for a picnic. Always pack out what you pack in.
Highly recommended trail and views. It won't be my last time, that's for sure!

24 days ago

Hiked upper and lower Eagle Falls today. Short hikes so you can finish both in one day! The lake and waterfalls are breathtaking! I suggest arrive early. Parking lot is small and will be hard to find parking as this is one of the most popular trail. Good luck and enjoy the hike.

26 days ago

Stunning views and rock formations. A bit of snow melt on the trail, but still very do-able. Had a great day, and glad that we took the time to walk this trail!

Great hike many areas to take pictures spectacular views. April 24, 2018

26 days ago

As a kid growing up in NorCal hiking was just what you did on a day off be it to a lake, along a river, to a beach, or some trail in the Sierra’s or Costal range. I happened to have had the added bonus of having avid hikers for parents so the adventures were endless and I personally have hiked everything from “Are you sure we can call that a hiking trail?” to “Okay, am I going to make it out alive?” type trails.

I’m over 40, it’s the end of April so still snow in higher areas, I just had my sneaks on, no polls, and haven’t hiked more than a nature trail in ages. I would say I’m out of shape but that was pretty much my point of coming up here for 10 days and plotting out trails to do every day I was up here. I am getting back into hiking and decided to start off with some easy trails to test the waters of what I felt I could do. I call these trails the “Are you sure that we can really call that a hiking trail?” After a few of those I decided it was time to do a real trail.

Yes this is a real hiking trail it is not a nature trail, not for strollers, babies, tots, or little kids unless that kid is an avid hiker I’d probably go with a well behaved 10 and up who understands the rules of the trails. While it’s not going to kill you it does have some challenges along the way especially if there is still snow on the ground. You don’t need snow shoes but sneaks are probably not the best idea I’d go with an actual hiking shoe unless you plan to only make it to the lower falls or only do the loop (part of the “Are you sure I can call that a hike?” portion of the trail) anything above that grab a backpack, water, hiking shoes, and something to eat once you reach your destination and please be sure to stop, look around, and take in the scenery. There is plenty of wild life around if you stop to pay attention.

There are several places to go once you get further up the trail basically it’s about how far and how hard you want it to get. The higher you go the harder it gets. This is after all one of the entrances to Desolation Valley. However I can’t say it’s well marked as there are points along the way where you have to really watch where the trail picks back up. If your plan is to only make it to Eagle Lake then I’d say even the out of shape hiker should be able to make it to this point. For the avid hiker this part of the trail will be pretty easy. For those with short legs plan for high rock steps and to feel it in your thighs. Do come earlier and definitely avoid the weekends probably summers if you want to find parking and enjoy the trail with less people.

Overall for this out of shape over 40 year old it was perfect for getting back into a sport I’ve long missed doing regularly. It wasn’t boring, it wasn’t a stroll, it did require some thought, it had a good incline, it gave a slight challenge, but it wasn’t so difficult that I had to turn back. It was exactly what I was looking for and the view at the lake was worth the journey.

29 days ago

Great hike to beautiful lakes. We swam even though the water was freezing!

1 month ago

Great little hike, decent incline with a beautiful, clear blue lake at the end. Bring a picnic! Get here early or go mid week as it gets crowded and parking can be difficult. Make sure to park legally, they will tow you. Trail is marked well but the trails that link up from this trail can be hard to spot.

Echo Lake to Lake Aloha to Gilmore Lake to Dick’s Lake, exit Bayview Trail. This was a great summer trip with adults and twelve-thirteen year olds. Beautiful lakes, marmots, pika, osprey, and flowers in August.

1 month ago

Ample parking available, fee and permit required (both supplied at trailhead). Lot filled up by mid-morning on a Sunday in early April, so arrive early, especially in the summer.

As of 4/8, the falls are at peak flow. The trail up to Vista point and the Eagle Creek Bridge is mostly clear of snow. Past the upper falls, the trail is ~90% covered in snow, but easily followable due to heavy traffic. Snowshoeing is an option, but it's entirely doable in hiking boots and trekking poles.

The lake is still frozen over with some flowing water near the Eastern tip of the lake. Snow covers the surrounding bowl and peaks, while the Eagle Lake Trail continues up (to Dicks Lake) through snow and ice. We turned back after reaching the lake despite our initial plan to ascend to vista point at 7,300; snowshoes would help that climb.

Though the waterfall was great and the gorges remarkably powerful, the trail was travelled and lacked the Tahoe backcountry feel. It's a great opportunity (especially when the snow melts) for families, dogs, etc. to visit an alpine lake, but full-day hikers should look elsewhere. Nearby Dicks/Fontanillis Lakes, Lake Aloha via Ralston Peak, or Tallac via Gilmore Lake are quality alternatives.

Keep in mind that the trailhead is near Lower Eagle Falls, Vikingsholm, Emerald Bay, and Cascade Falls. Pairing this hike with nearby landmarks would make for a full day.

1 month ago

Lovely loop walk, currently still covered in snow so wear good shoes!

1 month ago

Absolutely beautiful trail! We tried it out last weekend (beginning on April) and brought snowshoes. I don’t think you necessarily NEED snowshoes but I think it made it a lot easier and more fun because we were sliding around or falling into the slush. This trail is dog friendly and my dog had a BLAST. The views on the way to the lake are breathtaking, and getting to the lake was so gorgeous. My dog got to swim around a bit and it was just a 3-ish mile hike round-trip. There are a few parts that have slight incline but overall it was a pretty mellow hike. I will definitely be back!

Beautiful and a butt kicker! We did this as a point to point hike starting out at Echo Lakes parking lot and ending at Inspiration Point overlooking Emerald Bay (via the PCT/TRT and Granite Lakes TR).
The early morning start of the beautiful sunny day was clear but cold - my beanie and gloves came in handy!
The trail starts out on granite following along the Echo Lakes (where You'll see many private homes along the shoreline), then the trail takes you in/out of woods at Woods Lk and Lk Aloha. You then pass more beautiful pines, some wildflowers and a couple more alpine lakes (Heather and Susie Lks). I would suggest filtering water at Susie Lk, as the trail actually passes right next to it and Gilmore lake would take you .5 mile up and off trail. The next few miles are up, up, up and over Dicks Pass. Make sure to bring your camera!...and your trekking poles - as the descent from the 9,400' Pass will be hard on your knees.

High return on investment in this short hike to a beautiful lake. Right now there’s a lot of packed snow and some ice on the second half of the trail. Micro spikes were helpful.

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