Echo Summit Recreation

Explore and discover a world of recreation and wonders along the HWY 50 corridor through Echo summit.

Rich with history and a gateway to Lake Tahoe the Echo Summit area is a well traveled route most weekends in the Sierra. However, it is also some of the most overlooked recreational areas because of the attraction that Lake Tahoe provides visitors.

Desolation Wilderness

Access West and South Desolation Wilderness.

Access Desolation via Wrights Lake, Loon Lake or Horsetail falls. Or travel to the top and access the southern region of Desolation via the Echo lake trailhead or Ralston Peak trail. Each trail provides a variety of difficulty levels and plenty of beautiful lakes and wilderness areas to explore.

The Crystal Basin

Explore the deep forest and granite treasures of the Crystal Basin

The Crystal Basin is often overlooked by travelers. With in the boundaries of the Crystal Basin, explore Loon Lake, Union Valley Reservoir and Ice House Reservoir for great fishing, camping and OHV recreation I. Eldorado National Forest.

Echo summit
Echo summit
  • Sly Park and Jenkinson Lake – wonderful camping, boating, and equestrian trails
  • The Crystal Basin – sparkling lakes for camping, boating, and fishing; miles of scenic trails
  • The Desolation Wilderness – a hikers’ and backpackers’ paradise with pristine mountain lakes and soaring granite peaks
  • Echo Summit – mountain bike in summer, ski in winter; visit the 1968 Olympic training site
  • Strawberry – enjoy a weekend at a historic lodge

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Sierra at Tahoe ski resort is a fabulous place to ski and board away from the Tahoe crowds. The resort has 3 Express Quad Chairs and check out the 2,212 vertical feet, 2,000 acres, 14 lifts, 47 trails, innovative progressive terrain parks and plenty of steeps, groomers and backcountry terrain for you to enjoy.

Snow Play

Sierra at Tahoe’s Blizzard Mountain is next door for those who prefer sledding and tubing to the big hills. A pair of lifts carry sliders up the hill. Nearby right at Echo Summit is Adventure Mountain snow play area with 16 machine-groomed sledding runs and plenty of space for making snowmen or just playing in the snow. A secure parking lot, a lodge with restrooms and food service, and sled and tube rentals make it a great place for families to spend the day.

Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiers and snowshoers will find miles of groomed trails at Echo Summit, all leading out from the convenient Echo Lake Snow-Park. Or for the more adventurous, head out to Loon Lake in the Crystal Basin where many more trails have been marked. A warming hut there is open on weekends.

Summer Recreation

Wrights Lake Eldorado National Forest20180922_174613
Wrights Lake Eldorado National Forest

Backpacking, Day Hikes, Bicycling, and Mountain Biking

Echo Summit has a variety of outdoor recreation possibilities.. Backpackers set off into the Deoslation Wilderness to favorite destinations like Lake Aloha, while day hikers find interesting trails from easy nature walks at Gerle Reservoir to summit assaults on mountains like Pyramid Peak. Echo summit has miles of great mountain biking trails and cycling routes.

Mountain Biking Top Mountain Biking trails

  • Lovers Leap- Distance: 1.6 miles one way Elevation changes: 1,000 feet (5,900′ – 6,900′) Starting Point: Strawberry Canyon Road trailhead off Packsaddle Road
  • Bryan Meadows and Round Meadows – Distance: 4 miles one way Elevation changes: +1,600 feet (6,900′ – 8,500′) Starting Point: Sayles Canyon – Bryan Meadow Trailhead off Sierra-at-Tahoe Road.
  • Fleming Meadow- Distance: 8.8 miles of connecting roads and trails Elevation: 3,700 feet Starting Point: Off Mormon Emigrant Trail near Jenkinson Lake.
  • BASSI falls – Distance: 2 miles one way, Elevation changes: +200 (5,000′ – 5,200′) Starting Point: Millionaire Camp near Union Valley Reservoir
  • Ice House Bike Trail – Distance: 3.1 miles one way, Elevation changes: Total climb +80 feet (range 5,400′ – 5,480′), Starting Point: Ice House Road and Forest Road 12N06 (200 yards north of Big Hill Lookout turnoff))
  • Van Vleck Trailhead to Loon Lake, Distance: 4.5 miles one way, Elevation changes: +200 (6,300′ – 6,800′), Starting Point: Van Vleck Trailhead on Cheese Camp Road near the Van Vleck Bunkhouse (not the winter trailhead near Loon Lake)
  • Echo Summit to Strawberry (Pony Express Route) – Distance 9.4 miles, Elevation Change: +1100, -2,600, Start Point: Echo Summit and PCT Junction near the top of the summit.

Horseback Riding

Horseback riders take advantage of the several equestrian camps in the Crystal Basin or at Jenkinson Lake. No shortage of trails await exploring. Horse camps located at Loon Lake, Wrights Lake, Tells Creek, Fleming Meadows

  • Bloodsucker Trail- Trailhead: Southern end of Wrights Lake Equestrian Campground Possible Destinations: Bloodsucker Lake (2 miles), Lyons Creek Trailhead (4 miles), Lake Sylvia and Lyons Lake (5-6 miles)
  • Red Peak TrailTrailhead: Van Vleck Trailhead near Tells Creek Equestrian Camp Possible Destinations: Lake No. 3 (5 miles), Lake No. 5 (5 miles), Lawrence Lake (6 miles), Barrett Lake (6 miles), Bassi Loop (14.5 miles)
  • Loon Lake South ShoreTrailhead: Loon Lake Equestrian Campground Possible Destinations: Top of the Ridge (4.5 miles), Buck Island Lake (5.5 miles), Rockbound Lake (6.3 miles), Rubicon Reservoir (8 miles)
  • Pacific Crest Trail – SouthboundTrailhead: Echo Summit Possible Destinations: Showers Lake (8 miles), Carson Pass (13 miles), Round Lake (12 miles) From Echo Summit ride south on the Pacific Crest Trail. The first 2.5 miles to Benwood Meadow are quite gentle. Then begin a steep climb from 7,500 feet to 8,700 feet in less than two miles.
  • Fleming Meadow Trail System: Nearly nine miles of interconnecting trails and roads near Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park, just south of Pollock Pines.
  • Rockbound Trail: Heads north from Wright Lake across Rockbound Pass into the Desolation Wilderness. 7 miles to Lake Lois.
  • Silver Fork – Caples Creek Loop: From the Fitch Rantz Bridge near Silver Fork Campground, ride up Caples Creek to Government Meadow and then up the hillside, picking up the Silver Fork Trail to complete your 9 mile loop.

Boating and Fishing


Anglers have plenty of waters to explore up and down the slopes of Echo Summit. The lakes in the Crystal Basin offer great boat and shore fishing, while the nearby streams are favorite haunts of fly fishermen. For those seeking a little more adventure, the Desolation Wilderness is littered with lakes. Some of them are popular spots, but others a little more out of the way are rarely fished.

union reservoir crystal basin eldorado
union reservoir crystal basin eldorado

Boating /Kayaking

Echo summit area has numerous options for getting on the water. Union Valley and Jenkinson lakes are favorite locations for watersports like waterskiing, wakeboarding, and jet skiing. Loon, Echo, Wrights lakes tend to be a little more Kayak Friendly. And whitewater raftering on the American River is a must do for local rafting opportunities.

Scenic Route

The American River Canyon

As you drive up Highway 50, take time to stop along the way for waterfalls and scenic features. Just 2 miles east of the Pacific Ranger Station Bridal Veil Falls tumble from the cliff right beside the highway. Farther up is spectacular Lovers Leap. With binoculars you can follow the progress of rock climbers on the face of the rock. Also plan to spend some time at Strawberry, a historic spot along the road. A little farther up, just past Twin Bridges, pull into the parking lot for a view of Horsetail Falls, pay a small day parking fee and take a short hike up to the Desolation Wilderness boundary following Pacific Creek and by several smaller water cascades.

Fishing Loon Lake
Fishing Loon Lake

Camping along Highway 50

Off the main highway, Crystal Basin makes an ideal place for families to spend days or even a week or two camped on the shore of one of the many lakes that are scattered about the basin. Rent cabins along the American River or camp near Lovers Leap near Strawberry. Dispersed camping is also available through out this region.

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