Maintain trailhead entrances for Desolation are divided west & east side of the Crest. Westside has eight primary trailhead locations and the eastside has seven primary trailhead locations.
Westside: Loon Lake, Lyons, Ralston, Rockbound, Tells Creek, Twin Bridges, Twin Lakes
Eastside: Bayview, Echo Lake, Eagle falls, Glen Alpine, Meeks Bay, Mt. Tallac
For a complete Milage Breakdown to locations on each trailhead click below
One way to experience the most out of Desolation is to take advantage of their trail systems and make your backpacking adventure a thru hike or point to point trip covering more mileage and features on your trip. This list includes our favorite loop backpack trips with varied mileage and lengths.
Starting at Echo Lake pack into Choice of Lake Aloha, Lake of the Woods or Lake LeConte your first night. Day 2 Travel north past heather lake, Susie lake, Gilmore lake and over Dicks Pass to Dicks Lake. Day 3 travel past Fontanillis Lake, to the Velmas (Taking time to explore all three lakes) then travel out to Bayview Trailhead past Maggies peak and Granite Lake.
This 22.5 mile journey is a well traveled route, you will find pockets of solitude but will need to search for spaces to escape on most summer weekends.
This North to South Route will give you the full gamut of Desolation Wilderness Experience and is less traveled.
Day1 Backpack from Meeks bay Trailhead up to Stoney Ridge Lake. Day Two travel up over Phipps pass at 8’800 ft and down to Middle Velma. Day three Swing West on Velma Lake trail towards Mineral springs and then head South on Rockbound Valley trail to Clydes Lake.
After a great night a Clydes lake Travel East over Mosquito Pass into Lake Aloha Basin and choose to stay one more night at your choice of lake destinations in this area or travel 8 miles out to Echo Lakes. This 31 mile trek provides plenty of tree covered route as well as some of the least visited sections of the Wilderness region.
Ready to experience the Granite? There is a reason Desolation was once called the Devils Punch bowl. The Crystal Basin meets Desolation Wilderness on the westside of the crest here.
Day 1 – Take off from the Loon Lake trailhead traveling 5.8 miles day one just to reach Desolation Wilderness. Camp here at Bucks Island lake night one. day two travel up the Rockbound Valley past Rockbound Lake adn Rubicon Reservoir as you climb roughly 900 feet along the Rubicon river and choosing to camp near mineral springs or take a 1 mile jaunt to 4 Q’s Lakes to the west.
Day 3 Choice to add Loop at 4Q’s to Horseshoe lake and then over to Lake Schmidel, Lake Lois and or Lake Doris. Or Pass the loop and Continue up the Rockbound Valley towards China Flat, before Turning West and over Rockbound pass and into Maud Lake for camp. Day 4 Hike out to Wrights Lake.
This Thru hike is 24.1 miles. (28.8 miles if you add 4Q’s Loop detour)
This three to four day loop will test your leg strength as you travel to the highest points in the Wilderness.
Day 1 – Leave Meeks Bay Trailhead and travel up to Chain of lakes; Lake Genevieve, Crags Lake, Hidden Lake Stay at Lake of Choice here. day two travel up past Stoney ridg eLake and Rubicon Lake on way over Phipps Pass and down into the Velma’s. We recommend that you travel up to Fontanillis or Dicks Lake on this leg if energy is still with you.
Day 3 travel up past dicks lake and over Dicks Pass into Gilmore lake. Stop and enjoy Gilmore Lake. (This lake can be a bit of a party so don’t expect peace and quiet)
Day 4 travel up the backside of Tallac to the peak. and then down out to the Tallac trailhead.
Option here to leave gear at Gilmore, hike the peak and then travel back to Gilmore and travel out to Glen Alpine trail head instead.
This 26.7 mile trek will take you over Phipps PAss at 8800 feet, Dicks Pass at 9380 feet adn Mt Tallac at 9735 feeet.
Thru Hikes are not for everyone. Some just like to find a great location for a weekend away in the Wilderness. Here is our short list of Best destination Hikes in Desolation Wilderness.
Still on any given weekend in Desolation volunteer ranger will clean up and try to remove hundreds of illegally and ill advised campfires in Desolation Wilderness. Do your part and help us preserve wilderness by not starting a campfire in the Wilderness and discouraging others that you meet from doing the same.
Backpack Permits reservations are now available on recreation.gov
Please Note: Many of the trailheads, especially Bayview and Glen Alpine have become bear magnets and each summer there are multiple bear break-ins on vehicles which leave food or other scented items in their cars. This includes day hikers. Please clean all items with scent in a bear locker or in your pack that you carry.
Desolation Operates with Zone Quotas for all Backpacking Activity. Zone Quotas are to help with the wilderness enjoyment of the many, keeping crowds from congregating all in one area. Please be courteous and stay with in your Zone on the first night of your stay. Your Permits will display a Zone #. Some zones have small quotas, as few as two people, so please check the Zone Map and Zone Quota List below to determine if your destination allows enough people for your party size.
Dogs are welcome in Desolation Wilderness.
*Dogs should be on leash and controlled at all times.
Be considerate to other visitors and protect wildlife.
Please beaware the granite and surfaces you travel with your dog in Desolation can be extremely tough on your dogs paws. please check their paws often for cuts, wear and bleeding. Take care of your pets.
Also Dog waste should be treated as human waste and buried off trail and away from the water at least 6 inches deep. Dog bags are only good if you intend on packing them out. If you bring a pet, then bring the appropriate gear to clean up after your pet.
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