Explore the most popular birding trails in Desolation Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

This is the trail for everyone. If you have visitors from other places this is perfect. Short walk to the falls, short loop trail to Eagle lake, then longer hikes to Velma lake and others. Nice shaded hike and would be perfect for summer. There was a family out today and they had a 2 year old walking, a little one in a pack and were past Eagle lake. Not a lot of altitude for people from sea level as well. Fantastic scenery from every angle. The trail gets five stars, the management get a thumbs down (no permits available) maybe they just are not important. Costs 5$ to park.

The lake is breathtaking! The only caveat was that the hike is short but you can add on, and the crowds.

Prettythe whole way up and down with great views at the lake

hiking
3 days ago

Favorite hike of the year so far! I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult hike, more like moderate. The uneven rocks in the middle section will wear you out quick though. Views are amazing and once you get to Lake Aloha you’re totally secluded. We did take a wrong turn at the little loop near the end and it wound up being a short cut. Pay attention to the markers and your map because it’s not super well marked

hiking
6 days 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!!

hiking
16 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.

Beautiful!! Offering different scenery’s

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
27 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.

I did this hike for my birthday in August. A bit challenging, especially the stone stairs past Upper Eagle falls, but very worth it! To date, this was my favorite hike. I suffer from chronic pain and this hike was a goal of mine and I completed it with just a few resting points. Amazing views!!

hiking
1 month ago

This is a challenging trail. Spend time on a good stair climber if you’re over 50.

hiking
1 month ago

Short, sweet, and easy, but absolutely gorgeous. Haven't done this in a very long time, but miss it terribly.

Don’t miss seeing lower Velma on your way through

Loved this trail and would be an excellent place to backpack and set up camp! Beautiful views... experienced all this area has to offer weather wise. It rained, snowed, hailed and then it was like it never happened! Incline is pretty hefty first part of the trail. Coming down got to experience the sound of Bear. Never saw it though. Started at sunrise at finished at noon which was perfect because it was very busy then.

hiking
1 month ago

Awesome and easy hike! Views are breath taking. I suggest getting there (if going on the weekends) early in the am between 8-9 am. You’ll beat the rush as anything past 10 am you can forget about finding a parking spot.

first 1/4 all stairs so that part is tough but it's an amazing trail the views are spectacular

This was my first solo backpacking trip and will be hard for the next ones to compare to this place! I didn't have a map or a solid plan but I started at Bayview early afternoon in August and make it to Dick's lake by sunset. Camped Dick's that night and did a loop of fontanillis and Velma lakes the next morning. Finished at eagle lake trail and hitch hiked back to Bayview. I plan on returning next year for a 2-3 day trip.

hiking
1 month ago

Amazing views along the entire trail but once you reach the lake it is really something else. Worth every step.

hiking
1 month ago

Perfect views
Easy trail
Enjoy it

hiking
1 month ago

Overall a great hike! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a perfect day hike... Took us about 3 hours to hike in and 2 hours to hike out.

There is parking directly at the trailhead. Arrive early (before 8:30am) to get parking there; otherwise, you may have to park along the road closer to Fallen Leaf Lake.

The first mile or so of the hike is incredibly rocky. Be prepared to have unstable footing over large gravel and cobble stones (no boulders, though). This was mildly annoying, but fine if you have good hiking boots and decent balance.

Once on the trail, the directions are not entirely clear. Once you get to the Glen Alpine Spring Resort, follow the sign that points toward “trails to wilderness.” Past that, you will come across three wooden direction posts on your way to Susie Lake. At the first post, follow the arrow toward “Gilmore Lake.” At the second post, follow the arrow toward “Lake Aloha.” At the last post, follow the arrow toward “Susie Lake.” Susie Lake is less than a mile past the last post.

The lake itself is beautiful! We hung a hammock along the shore to eat our lunch (plenty of shade and trees) and enjoy the A+ views.

Depending on the time of year, water is pretty scarce along the trail until you get to the lake (we hiked this at the beginning of September). We packed a water filter and replenished our water at Susie Lake for our hike back down the trail.

hiking
1 month 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.

Like Adam Ruff says below, it was the perfect overnight trip :). We started with the Tamarack Trail and camped at Susie Lake and did Mt. Tallac before heading home. It was surprisingly warm at night. This is a gorgeous place to visit and a great trail to explore it with. Note: The trailhead was tricky to find. It starts out winding uphill into thick vegetation. Be in good shape if you plan to complete this trail in two days.

backpacking
1 month 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.

hiking
1 month 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.

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

My friend and I just completed the Tahoe Yosemite trail starting from Echo Lake and ending at Meeks Bay. We spent one night each at Aloha, Fontanillis and Stoney Ridge Lakes. Once we turned off the PCT at Phipps Pass, we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. The weather during our trip was sunny and warm with fair visibility – mostly due to the current fire conditions. We didn’t use a tent since the weather was good but the gusting winds (10 – 15 mph) definitely woke us up at night. Good part about the wind is that we didn’t have a bug problem. I highly recommend this trail if you want spectacular mountain and lake views and don’t want to deal with crowds.

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