Explore the most popular camping 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.

hiking
12 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.

hiking
15 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.

did it on 9/29/2018. Last year I went on the Rocky Canyon route. This one is slightly less physical but much longer. The first leg is easy, reached Sylvia lake in less than 2 hours. The hard work is in second leg, took me more time as I got lost on the slabs while I was battling up to the peak. There is another peak with similar elevation north west Pyramid peak, it's between Mt Price and Pyramid Peak on google map. It seems doable and will try it next time

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.

Beautiful!! Offering different scenery’s

backpacking
22 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.

Not a real difficult trail, but a very LONG one. I love Desolation Wilderness and the granite cliffs and beautiful lakes. The last two miles back seemed to take forever, the hike is a little longer than I like for a day trip. It was so nice at Rubicon Lake I could have easily taken a nice long nap but I knew it was a long way back. I think backpackers are really onto something. Glad I had my l camera, love the scenery.

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
24 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.

This is a Desolation Wilderness classic. Reaching Pyramid Peak via Lyons Creek Trail is a route that is mostly gentle, if we go off overall mileage, but with a nasty one mile finale. Beginners who wish to rest can hang out at beautiful Sylvia Lake where the more experienced in the party can continue to the dramatic end.

I would divide this trail into three phases: 1) first two miles which are relatively flat and SUPER easy, 2) next few miles to Sylvia Lake which have gradual elevation gain and are also quite easy, 3) the last phase is where the mountaineering begins, involving some scrambling across boulders and vicious elevation gain. Well, "vicious" if you are new. There was once a time when I did not desire finishing off the last feet of gain - close but no cigar. These days I can hit the summit in about 3 hours.

At the summit you will be greeted by circular walls of wind-blocking rocks to relax in, either built by the forestry service or by considerate hikers. Yes, it is windy as hell - you are on top of one of the highest peaks in the area!

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.

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

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

We started at Wright's lake and hiked over Rockbound pass, past Lois and Doris Lakes and finally camped at Lake Schmidell the first night. Rockbound is an intimidating pass, but the 8 miles went by fairly quickly. Day 2 we hiked past McConnel Lake which was really just a swamp and on towards Horseshoe. We went northwest off the trail at Horshoe to climb a short ridge and over the other side to Zitella Lake. Lovely! Had it all to ourselves.Great swimming. Day 3 we continued on the loop with the intention to go through 4Qs lakes and Campers Flat and on up a last climb to Doris Lake. Got totally lost around Campers Flat. Downed logs, poor markings. We renamed it Campers Hell! Spent an hour trying to find the trail. Finally did after making a loop through heavy undergrowth, then cruised easily to the junction where the Velmas trail goes east. We continued on and then took the short climb up to Doris where we camped for the night. Good camping at Doris, but there was a huge party there and we camped pretty far from the lake. The next day we cruised back over Rockbound and back to Wrights Lake TH. This was a beautiful hike, but Campers Flat was a bust. Probably won't do that loop again. Zitella was fabulous!

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

Just completed this weekend. Turned it into a 3 day and 2 night excursion. Most of the creeks shown on the map were dried up, but there was plenty of filterable water at each lake, so it was no big deal. We decided ro tak the opposite route and to do 11 miles on the first day following the rubicon river trail before connecting back to the McConnel loop. We stayed at 4 q's lake the first nigh. There were a few groups already there, but there were plenty of spots so you wouldn't feel crowded. The trail can be difficult to follow at times, but keep your eyes out for cairn stones marking the way. We went through to lake Schmidell the next day and it was a tough 5 miles, but we stopped for a swim at Leland Lake. There is an awesome rock that you can dive off right of the southern portion of the norther lake. Its weird that these lakes aren't on the map, but they are 1 mile north of Lake Schmidell. We spent our second night at Lake Schmidell which was prettty crowded, but everyone kept to themselves. The weather was great and we slept out in the open our final night. This was an awesome adventure and I highly recommend it despite how technical the climbs can be.

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.

hiking
1 month ago

The trail is definitely not a “Hard” trail. It’s rocky but no elevation really. We hiked almost 6 miles back and couldn’t find Lake Aloha but we found plenty of other lakes and island. Definitely pretty view but if your the type of people who like your heart rate up for a strenuous hike this isn’t it. Mostly flat rocky trails. There is a lot of loose rock too so make sure your balanced and stable.

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked from the Glen Alpine TH on 08/29/18. Like most trials in the Desolation Wilderness, rocks and more rocks. Nice lake, but no signs of fish activity, BUT there were signs of bear activity. Evidently, a bear was at the camp site 50 yards from mine and climbed a tree to get to the food bags. The bear was approximately 25 yards from the the group camping there and stayed there devouring their food while they helplessly watched in fear banging on pots and pans and blowing whistles. After 45 minutes, the bear left fat and happy! Well, we are in their homes, and bears will be bears.

Spent 3 nights at Ropi, great camp sites and had the place to myself for two days - then the weekend crowds came !. Is easy to loose the trail hiking back out from Ropi so watch out the stone markings as the trail disappears at a few spots. Well worth the hike in but try to go mid week to avoid the crowds

hiking
1 month ago

relaxing easy trail to lake aloha. water level is a little low but was still pretty easy to find a secluded spot to hangout. trail was very busy. I took the dogs with me and it wore them out pretty quickly. I wouldn't recommend taking dogs with you on a clear day. not much shade for a majority of the trail and their paws got pretty beat up on the Rocky parts.

Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Aloha, Mount Tallac Loop Day Hike. This phrase on the description of this hike is what inspired me to do this hike: "This is a multi day backpacking trip that requires navigational and back country skills." I agree with the fact it requires more than beginner skills, but it can be done as a day hike. Trail is completely open and now one of my favorites in the southern Desolation Wilderness area. Stunning views of Crystal Range around every corner and a new lake it seems every mile or so, however, Aloha, Twin Lakes and Smith Lake now have company with Heather Lake top my list of backcountry lakes . Aloha is getting low now for the season, all other lakes still full-ish. I choose Tamarak Trail up towards Aloha and then finished with Tallac Summit. Not for a beginner as some terrain is very unstable, but if you've done Desolation hikes before, and felt you needed more, this is your one. Would have been a perfect overnight hike/camp.

We spent the night at Ropi and it was definitely worth the hike in. Beautiful lake with lots of trout. I recommend downloading a topo map before because we lost the trail a few times.

Great hike. My 5 yr old was able to do it all by himself no problem.

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