Best trails in Desolation Wilderness

3985 Reviews
Looking for a great trail in Desolation Wilderness, California? AllTrails has 54 great hiking trails, 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 31 hard trails in Desolation Wilderness ranging from 3.7 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!
Description
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 wilderness 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) bear spray for any potential bear or mountain lion encounters (although these are very rare). NOTE: Permits are required year-round. A signed copy of your permit must be in your possession at all times. We recently changed offices. Our updated information is listed below: Pick up permits for West side entry at the: Placerville Ranger Station 260 Eight Mile Road Camino Ca. 95709. Call for current days and hours: (530) 647-5415. Eight miles east of Placerville on Highway 50 and take exit 54 (Cedar Grove). Turn right on Eight Mile road. Pick up permit for East side entry at the Taylor Creek Forest Service Visitor Center, located three miles north of the Highway 50/89 junction at South Lake Tahoe, on Highway 89. Open summer only. Call for hours. Phone: (530) 543-2674. Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, located 2 miles east of the Highway 50/89 junction on in South Lake Tahoe. Turn right on Al Tahoe Blvd., then right at the first signal. 35 College Drive South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150. Phone: (530) 543-2600. While many California parks can be full of visitors, Desolation Wilderness truly lives up to its 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. brochure is on this link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3795175.pdf Eldorado National Forest website: Desolation Wilderness information: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/eldorado/specialplaces/?cid=fsbdev7_019062 Volunteers website that yields great information for the public as well: http://desowv.org/
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Map of trails in Desolation Wilderness
Park information
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Top trails (54)
#1 - Eagle Lake Trail
Desolation Wilderness
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(1235)
Length: 1.8 mi • Est. 1 h 1 m
Leading into the heart of Desolation Wilderness (a permit is required), the Eagle Lake trail offers forest, lake and far reaching views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra high country. At the Eagle Falls trShow more
#2 - Lake Aloha Trail
Desolation Wilderness
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(494)
Length: 12.5 mi • Est. 6 h 18 m
The hike to Lake Aloha is the ultimate day hike in Desolation Wilderness. The trail is fairly flat for most of the hike, with only two sections of significant elevation gain, and you will pass by 5 laShow more
#3 - Echo Lakes Trail
Desolation Wilderness
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(546)
Length: 5.3 mi • Est. 2 h 29 m
This is a great trail for anyone that is looking for a moderately challenging, incredibly scenic, and dog-friendly hike in South Lake Tahoe. During the winter, it makes for a wonderful snowshoe trip. Show more
#4 - Island and Twin Lakes
Desolation Wilderness
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(232)
Length: 7.1 mi • Est. 3 h 55 m
Possible winter road closures means you might have to park a bit further down the road to access trailhead. Extra parking is available along Wrights Lake and Wrights Lake Rd.Show more
#5 - Pyramid Peak Trail
Desolation Wilderness
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(305)
Length: 9 mi • Est. 6 h 22 m
Pyramid Peak Trail is a 9 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Twin Bridges, California that features a river and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is Show more
#6 - PCT: CA Section K - Echo Lake to Highway 80
Desolation Wilderness
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(23)
Length: 61.2 mi • Est. Multi-day
Permits are required in Desolation Wilderness.Show more
#7 - Middle Velma Lake Trail
Desolation Wilderness
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(88)
Length: 10 mi • Est. 5 h 28 m
Note: Parking Fee: $5Show more
#8 - Lake of the Woods via Pacific Crest Trail
Desolation Wilderness
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(76)
Length: 11.3 mi • Est. 5 h 45 m
Lake of the Woods via Pacific Crest Trail is a 11.3 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features a great forest setting and is rated as moderatShow more
#9 - Ropi Lake
Desolation Wilderness
hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(139)
Length: 4.9 mi • Est. 2 h 58 m
NOTE: The parking area at this trailhead is closed due to COVID-19. Users have reported that you can still park at the Pyramid Creek Trailhead and walk to this trailhead. There is no parking along theShow more
#10 - Gilmore Lake
Desolation Wilderness
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(72)
Length: 8.6 mi • Est. 4 h 42 m
Gilmore Lake is a 8.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number oShow more
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