Explore the most popular camping trails in El Dorado National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Definitely not my favorite hike! According to my phone and two others that I went with, the hike ended up being an average of 6 miles, 15,000 steps, and 90 flights of stairs. Beautiful lake but even in October there were icicles forming all around the lake. I am not a very skilled hiker but I do love to hike. I have done several hikes this year that were just as difficult but had more scenic views than this one. Very uphill and then right back downhill. I am glad I did it and it was beautiful but not a hike I would do again!

First 4 miles uphill, the rest is downhill, except for short push up the Castle point. Great for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing, bouldering, it’s a great hike with great views! December 13, 2018, no snow on trail, some water in the streams.

Great hike! Took around 4 hours with a few stops! It was very windy at the top which made it hard to enjoy the view but I would definitely hike it again with warmer clothes! The trail was easy to follow with the exceptions of one or two spots.

Beautiful day for a hike. Trail is well marked, wear good hiking shoes and bring water. Great training hike.

hiking
25 days ago

Really beautiful throughout the entire hike. - varied terrain and good amounts of shade. I agree with previous folks, it’s windy and well marked. Tons of bear scat - didn’t see or hear any, but they are definitely around. I also saw and heard quite a few hunters first thing this morning.

A wonderful hike with a group of people today. We started at the trail head and went clockwise. A lot of climbing in the first 4 miles. Great hike and would do it again.

We did a two night trip here. We hiked to Grouse lake, which according our gps is 4.1 miles. It is a climb but all and all not to bad. We made our camp here. Gorgeous lake with brook trout jumping. The next morning we hiked up to Hemlock and Smith. My gps said 1.3 miles from grouse, Total elevation gain from Wright’s lake was 1704. Both were full of trout. All these lakes are worth the effort. The last section to smith is very steep, hard to find and follow the trail and has loose rock. The view to the west is amazing! I would consider the trail a mod/hard depending on your fitness. I’m 52 in ok shape and carried a 28 lb pack. It took me 2.5 to Grouse. From grouse to smith took about 45 minutes but some of that was looking for the trail at smith. One way the hike is approx 5.4 so total 10.8. Hard on the knees going down. Hiking poles are your best friend here

Great hike with beautiful views. The trail is well marked. The lake was amazing and had several great spots to fish or relax in the sun.

backpacking
1 month ago

Camping here was pleasant, but only because we were able to find a spot away from the crowds as there were probably 7 or 8 other groups of people camping here. The lake was swimable and drinkable (with filter), but kind of scummy compared to other Sierra lakes I've visited. If your primary goal is swimming, I would look elsewhere. The hike itself, although short, was enjoyable and offered surprisingly diverse scenery. The trail was easy to follow, but would be a bit more difficult if there was snow. Our hike began with a hail storm at the trailhead haha, but it was clear skies and sunshine after that blew through. Despite the fire ban, one of the groups camping here (a dozen large young men with fishing poles) decided to have a large fire. It was disappointing and frustrating to witness. Please obey the restrictions in place. You don't have to burn things just because you're camping.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice hike. Easy to find the trailhead. The trail is well used and easy to follow. Already frost in the morning.

About 3 miles one way, with the usual detours. A beautiful little lake.

pretty trail
very windy up on Thunder Mountain, make sure to grab some layers and ear muffs (or whatever protects your ears:) )
I think I ended up doing the loop backwards because I got the crazy incline in the beginning along with beautiful mountain views and then gradually descended too 7,100 followed by some uphill action at the very end to get back to the parking lot.

Well maintained trail. You can hear Jeepers at some places near Bucks Lake. Better in cooler temperatures as there is lots of sun/exposed trail on the back half.

From Smith Lake, we continued upward and climbed Crystal Range summits Agassiz Peak and Mt Price. My track is not the easiest way to do this, but it got the job done in a very eventful 10 hour hike. Our boulder hopping route to the notch on the ridge above Smith Lake was OK, but we would have been better served by then dropping down some into the Lyon’s Lake drainage instead of trying to traverse around the head of the canyon higher up. The large boulders up there made the walk extremely difficult, so we ended up dropping down anyway, but still not far enough to make for an easy passage through the head of the drainage. Climbing up the east side we did OK by staying low in grassy chutes and quickly made the ridge with a clear view and path to Agassiz and Price. We headed over the meadow to the low point on the ridge between the peaks, and once there decided to first bag Agassiz to the south. This was another mistake as the boulders high on the ridge were massive and the going up there very slow. A better approach would be to stay low on easier terrain until directly below, or maybe even a bit beyond, the peak then go straight up to it. We did make it our way, though, or at least to a few feet below the high point where we took a pass on the class 3 summit block. From there we dropped off Agassiz the way we should have come up, then by comparison, the half mile north to Mt Price was an easy class 2 walk in the park. From the summit of Price the views of Lake Aloha and so many other Desolation Wilderness lakes and peaks were spectacular and the sky was as smoke free as it had been in weeks. Our route for the return trip was OK though we initially aimed a little too high for the notch above Smith Lake when we might have done better staying lower on the Lyon drainage longer where the walking was easier. Another way to reach these peaks is to simply hike the drainage north from Lyon’s Lake then climb up the east side, as we did, to the large meadow west of the Price-Agassiz ridge. This hike would start at the Lyon’s Lake trailhead on Wright’s Lake Road and would be a few miles longer, but likely an easier hike. As it was, our route was 11.5 miles and 3638’ of gain. There’s no easy way to reach these peaks, but as the spectacular backbone of Desolation Wilderness, they are well worth the effort.

on Lake Margaret Trail

hiking
1 month ago

Hiked this as a day hike with some friends and the kiddos, ages from 6-14. All had a great time and loved it. It’s a relatively easy hike now the kids are older and would be a good hike for an overnight with kids to get them into backpacking. The trail does split of to the left fairly early on (about 1/2mile) along the small river with a fallen tree as bridge, at this point there were no markers to say where the trail went and could be a little confusing. Other then that the trail is easy to follow and really fun! Lake was cold and refreshing! Not too many beaches but enough rock to share. We’ll be back!

The trail was a waste of time. the waterfall was not as expected and the trail itself was very rough and unsafe.

on Lake Margaret Trail

hiking
1 month ago

Did this Trail 2 weeks ago I'd rate it as moderate in difficulty. But epic in adventure. weather was perfect..

Great hike and views all around.

backpacking
1 month ago

Moderate trail with some recent modifications. The CCC went through and rerouted a portion of the trail in the area between Spider Lake and Buck Island Lake. The trail is well established except for that section. As of this review there are several cairns (rock stacks) to mark this section that goes over a lot of granite. If you take your time and look for the markers you will stay on trail pretty well.

hiking
1 month ago

backpacking
1 month ago

There are quite a few deceiving turns for this trip.

My boyfriend and I backpacked to Granite Lake in June 2018. After turning off of the main highway, the dirt road that you turn down doesn't look like the correct way, but it is the correct path. Then you go through a neighborhood past cabins; make sure you look at your map because you might miss your turn.

While hiking up to the lake, we did take a wrong turn, so we backtracked. It wasn't way off course, though, and we didn't mind since we were hiking anyway. However, if you're one who is strongly against going off course, look at the app frequently.

We got to the lake and set up camp along the back side. We were the only ones there, so it couldn't have been any better. There is ample water to filter from since there are many streams and a rushing creek. It really is beautiful up there! However, we went during the WORST possible time: mosquito season. Gosh, we had never seen such large mosquitoes in the densest clouds making the loudest buzzing. We'd look up and they'd swarm around us. They did clear up at night, though.

We had plenty of firewood and an established fire pit. The night and lake were still except for the few duck visitors. There were also a couple of beautiful blue jays, and we could hear a bird with a distinct song. It was literally three notes: B-A-A.

If you're looking for a beginner backpacking destination, this place is worth considering!

Great hike. First part nice and gentle going down to the lake through the woods followed by a steep but progressive climb of 2000 feet to the top. It’s very dry and dusty now but the view over the Sierras remains spectacular.

Followed this along to Rockbound lake for an overnight backpacking trip. Absolutely gorgeous!

hiking
2 months ago

Do you need a permit to backpack overnight here? It would be great if AllTrails had a section with permit requirements for each trail.

off road driving
2 months ago

Awesome

Wild flowers are now pretty much gone. Granite Lake is a nice little alpine lake but Hidden lake is nothing more than a glorified pond. If you are hiking for the exercise then walking to Hidden Lake is worthwhile. If your going to see a nice classic Sierra lake don’t bother. At least the mosquitoes are gone.

hiking
2 months ago

Great trail beautiful scenery and a very nice lake ☺️

hiking
2 months ago

beautiful hike. my 79 year old dad found the trail a little tough though, lots of rocky sections. also is more like 5+ miles, 5 according to the sign and 6 according to my GPS.

hiking
2 months ago

In response to the review "no facilities and services", I don't think you should have to expect any since it's only 2.3 miles in, it's dispersed camping, and there are facilities within 2 miles each direction from the trailhead. Trail is easy to follow if you use the AllTrails app; I literally just took a snapshot of the trail since I don't have the pro version. If you think you're getting off trail - yes, it may get a little confusing going over the rocks - look for the stacks of stones and the dirty part of the rock where people drag their shoes through....you don't need mountaineering experience. Anyway, nice trail, not much elevation gain. We camped there 2 weekends ago from a Saturday to Sunday and still only saw 3 or 4 other campers. Only advice is to please not camp close to the water even though someone else has cleared space to. The campers closest to us were only 15 ft from the water, did not leash their 2 dogs, and had a campfire. They were friendly enough, and quiet, but still...RESPECT THE RULES OF THE FOREST!

Beautiful lake, fun to swim, few mosquitoes and leeches. Great trail to get your kids into backpacking!

Load More