Looking for a great trail in Desolation Wilderness, California? AllTrails has 44 great hiking trails, trail running trails, views trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. Gearing up for a challenge? There are 27 hard trails in Desolation Wilderness ranging from 5.5 to 61.2 miles and from 5,895 to 9,980 feet above sea level. Start checking them out and you'll be out on the trail in no time!

hiking

views

forest

lake

backpacking

nature trips

wildlife

wild flowers

camping

bird watching

dogs on leash

trail running

dog friendly

fishing

walking

river

waterfall

snowshoeing

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.

snowshoeing
snow
4 days ago

Beautiful views of Emerald Bay. Snow mostly pretty packed now but plenty of it. Snowshoes are helpful but not required.

In lieu of traversing the “snow wall” mentioned by another reviewer, you can go right up a shallower slope and then round a turn back left. I *think* that this is actually the intended trail, but I havent done it in the summer to know for sure.

River is very full and roaring. Small Eagle Lake mostly frozen and snow covered but very serene.

Did this is warmer months. Pretty easy and good views.

hiking
5 days ago

Very snowy, but we made it to the lake. There is a large snow wall that stop most people, but we managed to climb it and saw only 2 other people on the trail. Had the lake to ourselves. Beautiful!!

awesome trail.

It was my first hike in years. Out of shape 63 years old. It was a long hike to the Lake of the Woods, my legs were too tired to go down to the water. I could handle the 350’ hike up, so I just enjoyed the view from above. Hope to do it again and go all the way down to the water. Important to listen to your body.

hiking
11 days ago

I was surprised to see so many cabins around the lakes. It’s a moderate hike, very manageable for beginners. It was my first hike and I did w no issues.

snowshoeing
scramble
snow
27 days ago

Excellent hike with deep, firm snow. towering rocky peaks all around and a frozen lake with a view at the end

Took 7hrs to snow shoe up the mountain yesterday and only 3hrs to get down. There is a lot of snow on the mountain, snow shoes and poles are a must. All Trails did a excellent job helping us keep the trail.

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

hiking
rocky
1 month ago

1 month ago

A bit of a monster for this 74 year old. I had a difficult time navigating the last 300 yard boulder portion. I watched a younger guy just glyde over this section of the climb. lots of wind in the Boulder field. 4300 ft elevation climb in 3.1 miles. I thought the Mt Whitney section from the base of the switchbacks to the top was easier.

Did this trail back in the beginning of November but I did it all the way to Middle Velma Lakes and Dicks lake then back up to the bayview junction and took the longer more scenic way down via the bayview trail.
When you get to Velma lakes they are all diffrent but the best and largest is Middle Velma its clear with alot of small islands in it!
Great trail and experience beautiful view of Emerald Bay, Cascade lake, Granite lake and Lake Tahoe on the way down! Still one of my top trails to do again in early Summer.

hiking
2 months ago

Really pretty trail with views along the way. Did it 2/1/19 with yak tracks and hiking boots and we made it, just slipped on the snow a couple times. Lake is frozen over and it’s beautiful! Keep in mind it looks like you are supposed to pay $5 to park at the trailhead (but there weren’t any fee envelopes left when we went so I’m not sure if that’s a thing or not anymore.)

hiking
snow
2 months ago

hiking
muddy
rocky
2 months ago

snowshoeing
3 months ago

Super short but with some good ups.. especially in the snow. It seems fairly popular on the weekends but not obnoxious. The lake is frozen - people were walking all the way out to the island with no issue today.

snowshoeing
3 months ago

This is an easy snowshoe trek from the Sno-Park lot to Lower Echo. We also shoed across the length of Lower Echo. Powder is deep in spots, and the lake is mostly frozen. Absolutely enchanting. Such a gorgeous hike. Today’s weather was terrific, along with ideal road conditions.

Completed on 1/11/18. This hike was definetly a low-effort, high-reward kind of trek. There were a ton of incredible views, from Lake Tahoe to mountain peaks to frozen Eagle Lake. A little sketchy in a couple of spots, but definitely doable with some snowshoes and poles. Highly suggested! Didn't see anyone on the way up and only a few hikers on the way down.

snowshoeing
3 months ago

Very scenic trail. Starts relatively flat along the length of echo lake, clearly defined trail, spikes used in this section since compacted. As you turn to start the loop, switch to snowshoes required. still relatively easy to follow, a few icy spots. I had service the whole time to check map. Pretty consistent incline to peak. I did an out-and-back to echo peak due to time constraints. 3 hrs to peak and super quick on return. Icy road heading in to trailhead with traffic at peak hours, had to walk the last halfmile due to snow. Great experience, panoramic views and easy to navigate.

snowshoeing
3 months ago

This one was fun, as it had some fresh snow had to use snowshoes after the first 1k feet of climbing - barely had any tracks to follow, not a well marked trail by any means (which makes it fun)

Recommendation is to use the all trails app to make sure you're close to the trail. Thank you for putting the cairns or else we'd never be able to find the trail!

hiking
3 months ago

I just hiked this one today (12/29/18) and really enjoyed it. Beautiful views.The lake was frozen over so plenty of hikers walked out onto it. Very cool. Some parts of the trail were really icy and can be tough to hike on. I saw plenty of people slip and a few younger kids and older adults had difficulty with icy steps.

3 months ago

Great scenery!

backpacking
3 months ago

Pretty hike! Get to the parking area early to get a spot and make sure you park in an appropriate spot, as the rangers do ticket. We went in mid-November....Lake Aloha was great when we went plenty of water, but very cold when the sun went down. I imagine it would be absolutely perfect in the spring and fall!

An easy hike with amazing view.

Amazing view of the frozen lake!! Our first Christmas Eve hike

Closed for at least a year due to fire damage

hiking
4 months ago

Didn't follow the advice of "best used from June until October." Hiked this in mid-December without snowshoes or poles. Doable without snow equipment but I still recommend it. Tough hike but the view from the peak is well worth it.

4 months ago

great hike

it was a great snowy winterland. it was a wonderful trek and not to long. it is also pretty well marked except after the waterfall. then it got tricky so I decided not to continue and headed back down.

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!

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