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PCT: CA Section K - Echo Lake to Highway 80

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Desolation Wilderness

PCT: CA Section K - Echo Lake to Highway 80 is a 61.2 mile lightly trafficked point-to-point trail located near South Lake Tahoe, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until October. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 61.2 miles Elevation Gain: 10,954 feet Route Type: Point to Point

dog friendly

backpacking

camping

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

snowshoeing

bird watching

running

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

snow

Permits are required in Desolation Wilderness.

hiking
off trail
snow
1 month ago

Optimistically tried to attempt for Memorial Day weekend starting the afternoon of May 21st from Echo Lake. My sister in law drove me up and walked me in to the end of Lower Echo Lake where we had lunch on the big flat rock in the sun. She headed back and I moved on towards Lake Aloha. I had seen reviews to bring snow shoes for Lake Aloha and as I walked in a couple of different people coming back complimented me for taking them as they had to turn around due to significant post holing. About halfway to Lake Aloha, it was late afternoon and I strapped into my snowshoes. I definitely wouldn’t have made it there without it. Additionally, as there were no more footsteps to follow as everyone else turned around I had to rely heavily on my maps.me app on my phone to ensure I stayed relatively on the correct path through the trail. Lake Aloha was very desolate. Just me and lots of bear and cat prints. Despite it’s frozen beauty it was eery feeling and I decided to push on to a further camp site. As I hiked passed Heather and Susie Lake I was finally greeted with some rock trail and took the snow shoes off but met the snow again between Susie and Gilmore Lake. I setup camp near Gilmore lake around 7:30 p.m. Temperatures were cold and I should have thrown my rain pants and jacket on for an extra layer. I didn’t sleep much after seeing all of the animal prints in the snow but was undisturbed. Friday, I set off again in my snowshoes and an abysmal pace of 1 to 1.5 miles an hour having to frequently check my GPS to stay on course on my way up to Dick’s Pass. The snow was more frozen and stable and I did not cross any terrain that had me concerned about avalanches after the fresh snow the previous weekend. The top of the pass was so rewarding being able to have 360 degree views of the Upper Sierras and frozen lakes. I dropped down to Dick’s Lake and my Risk List started to grow. I postholed in snowshoes near a big boulder and had to dig myself out. Additionally, I used some snow bridges to cross some seasonal streams as I passed by Fontanillis Lake. Hiking by the Velma lakes was fairly uneventful and I had stretches of seeing the trail or being on snow. I resorted to just keeping my snowshoes on even when I could see the trail as the time to take them on and off would have slowed me down even further and the lovely noise on rocks made me feel better about scaring any large animals away. As I neared Phipps Creek a large seasonal creek appeared and I crossed it twice across log/snow bridges. I passed by Richardson Lake and still had daylight to burn so decided to continue on to Barker Pass for another camp site. And then I came upon my first true creek crossing at Miller Creek. I went up and down the creek looking for the best place to cross. Slow and deep or fast and shallow were my options. I finally picked a narrow, shallow, fast moving option and using my hiking pole for 3 points of contact. Safely side stepped across with water coming up to my knees. Risk list +1 again. At this point, I knew what I had to do if I turned around and that was not desirable so I decided to push on. I reached another seasonal creek and had to cross it by not only stepping across on boulders but hauling myself up and over leveraging strong tree branches and some upper body strength. I pushed on to find a flat camping spot on the way up to Barker Pass with mostly exposed trail through the snow and called it a day at 8:30 p.m. and setup camp with the last of the long day light. At this point, I decided my risk list was too long and it was time to make an exit strategy. I was pushing my luck with shoe shoe post-holing, heavy spring river crossings, having to navigate solely by my phone GPS and being a touch cold at night and now I had wet layers from the rivers. I had wanted to do a section hike and not a fully snowshoe expedition. I fortunately had an easy option to exit in 1.5 miles at Barker Pass and take Fire Road 3 down to Highway 89 to Lake Tahoe. When I woke up Saturday morning, my plans were solidified and I used my Garmin InReach to text my family for the early pickup. The 1.5 trail miles up to Barker Pass turned into 2.3 snowshoeing in the endless beautiful snowfields and I hike another 7 miles down to Highway 89 as the FR 3 is closed until June. The weather during my trip couldn’t have been better. Sunshine and a little wind. Upon arriving at Lake Tahoe I was greeted with more epic views and soaked up the warm sun while I waited for my sister in law to retrieve me. For future planning - If I see reviews that an overnight hike has any section that requires snowshoes I will postpone to a later date. For me snowshoeing is day trips only. I will return in July to finish the second half of the hike from Barker Pass to I-80 when the trail is snow free and the temps are higher. Gear wise - I would only change a few things. I felt very prepared with my camp gear, layers including vapor...

hiking
10 months ago

Started at Echo Lake. After getting acclimated to the elevation things went much better. Some long days but well worth the effort. Met very nice people on the trail.

Fri Oct 21 2016

This is a great section of the PCT with some nice views and alternate trails. The Warren Lake Trail splits from this trail rather quickly and is a hard but rewarding trail for those willing to work for some great views and quiet time!

backpacking
Wed Sep 14 2016

Finished this last week, “but in reverse “Went from North to South. There are some very challenging climbs, “as to be expected” and long days on the trial. The sites are amazing and the people I met were extremely friendly! I had gotten some blisters at the start which proved to be a challenge especially when there was a Backpacking taxi at the Barker Pass rest-stop that could have taken me into Tahoe for cheeseburgers and beer. I fought the urge and drove on. (Yea-Mountain house) The moon was getting brighter each evening and we hiked at night, if possible I highly recommend it, the trial is a bit dangerous for this activity as there are a lot of roots, rocks, and steps, etc. etc. But the experience was well worth it. As far a wild life I saw a coyote at drop off and tracks of deer or some kind of hoofed animal. I thought I saw what might be a print of a mountain lion but could be a dog or squirrel I mean how would I actually know….? The hike isn’t impossible for the average person; you will need to prepare for it. I have thought of the rating here and cant come up with what makes one trail hard to intermediate and or easy... This would be hard just by the length and the preparation required to be ready to go.

Mon Aug 08 2016

Hiked this 8/7/2016. This was a great hike with tons of wild flowers along the trail. The best part is finishing at Aloha lake but was pretty cold for a swim.

hiking
Sat Jul 09 2016

Very scenic ,a lot of beautiful wildflowers lots of shade, mellow terrain as far as up and down but lots of rocks and interesting rock formations. Great views of Donner Lake at the very beginning of section 15 -scenic point. Several water features for your animals to hydrate

hiking
Thu Jul 07 2016

The terrain wasn't very difficult if you stay on the trail. Going off to see the lakes and the beautiful granite slabs is the best part so the bush-wacking adds to the difficulty. I live this trail, it's heart for hiking and running and you get beautiful views of Donner lake the whole way.

hiking
Mon Jul 04 2016

Great hike with nice vistas. A bit challenging and steep first mile then gets easier.

hiking
Sat Jun 11 2016

Great views and wild flowers.

hiking
1 month ago

hiking
5 months ago

recorded Recording - Sep 22, 04:10 PM

hiking
9 months ago

recorded Recording - Aug 10, 03:45 PM

hiking
10 months ago

hiking
Mon Jun 10 2019

hiking
Tue Aug 30 2016

hiking
Sat Jul 16 2016