Placeholder Routes & Places


Backpack - Desolation Wilderness

Five-day/four-night High Sierra adventure overlooking Lake Tahoe, CA. Expect expansive alpine, granitic vistas and numerous crystalline lakes. High-country wanderings, excellent swimming and abundant wildlife await. Leader's Permission Only--requests accepted starting March 20th.

  • stenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 55.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 12,000 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 10,000 ft
  • Pace: 1.5-2.0

Meet at Lower Echo Lake TH early  to mid-morning.  Exact time TBD

This Trailhead and Desolation Wilderness Area are located near the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, CA.  This is a full, two day drive from the Seattle area.  Participants may also consider flying into/out of Reno, NV and renting a car.  Camping options near the TH will be discussed as an option the night before.  Carpools are possible.

The Desolation Wilderness is one of the top backpacking destinations in California and offers a lot of "bang for your buck" with a great pay-off of granite grandeur and alpine lakes with easy access and moderate elevation gains throughout.  I have procured the necessary permits for up to eight (8) people. This five-day/four-night route is designed in a "Trunk and Option" style with  42.5 miles  total of trails between campsites/TH, plus 12.5 miles that are optional.  Each day has some extra exploration off the main trail to a ridge, peak, hidden lake, etc. for those wanting more.  Others may prefer extra time at camp or fishing, etc.  This trip will have a more laid back vibe (then my typical trips), with each night camping at a different gorgeous lake.   The hiking altitude will vary between 8,000' and 10,000'.   A bear canister is required here--that can hold four days of food. 

See the route here:

 Special Note:  This trip will be coordinated with a proceeding,  longer, more strenuous eight-day trip on part of the JMT (John Muir Trail), also in the California Sierras ((Aug. 17th-24th)  See that posting for more details.  Qualified and selected participants may do both trips if desired.  If you desire to do both trips, let me know in your JMT request and your application there can serve for both trips.  There will be a two night, one whole day rest period between these two trips.  Preference for this trip (Desolation Wilderness) and early registration will be given to folks also doing the JMT trip.  For those only doing the Desolation Wilderness trip describe here, there are many, many other diversions and trails in the Lake Tahoe area if you want to spend extra days in the area on an extended vacation. 

This is a Leader's Permission Only trip.  Please do not send requests for permission before March 20th.  I will disregard early requests.  In requesting permission please address all of the following questions/concerns: 

1) Tell me about your backpacking history.  Have you done long trips of about a week or more?  Please describe details and date.  Can you gain 2,000' in a day with a full backpack?  

2)  If you have not been on backpack trips with me in the last three years, please give a reference of someone at the Mountaineers I can consult with about your backpacking and appropriateness for this trip.

3)  What sort of conditioning, earlier season backpacking trips will you be doing before this trip, this year, to demonstrate proper conditioning for this five-day trip?  Do you have any health issues that could affect your ability to do this trip comfortably and successfully?

4) Desolation Wilderness requires Bear-canisters for all backcountry camping--there are reported to be a lot of black bears here. Do you have/will you bring a Bear-canister that can hold four-days of food for days 2-5? The first day's food we will consume and not need to store.

5) This trip involved camping and hiking at relatively high elevations (8,000-10,000').  Our camps will all be at about 8,000'.  Do you have any troubles with hiking at these elevations?  Have you experienced altitude sick in the past at these elevations?  Are you willing to camp/hotel the night before the trip somewhere  in the Lake Tahoe Basin area  to acclimatizes?  The elevation of Lake Tahoe is about 6,200'.

5) This trip requires a lot of logistics, permits and financial investment.  On a scale of 1-10, what is your commitment to making every effort to come on this trip if you chose to register? Please do not request permission now and decide later if you really want to come.  Do the work upfront to decide if you can really do this and then stick to it.  If you can't make this sort of commitment then this trip is likely not for you.

6) The permit fee is $11 (dirt cheap) per person.  Will you reimburse this to the leader within two weeks of registration?

7) Are you also applying for the eight-day JMT trip that proceeds this trip?

8)  Is there anything else you would like me to know?  Is there any more information you need from me in your decision process?

Thank you all.  I hope you can join me.  This should be a great adventure in a unique mountain range.  Rob


Desolation Wilderness

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

The Ten Essentials plus overnight gear which may include:

  • Tent with footprint/ground tarp
  • Stove and fuel
  • Food for five days
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water filter
  • Bear canister 
  • Cooking pot/pan with plate and utensils
  • Toilet paper and shovel or blue bag to deal with waste
  • Recommend:  trekking poles
Trip Reports