Desolation Wilderness Trailhead and Mileage

Bayview rail overlooking Emerald Bay
Written by sierrarecmagazine
Trailheads on El Dorado National Forest (West) Side
Trailhead Miles One WayDifficulty
Twin Lakes to:Grouse Lake2.1Moderate/Difficult
 Hemlock Lake2.6Difficult
 Smith Lake3.0Difficult
 Twin Lake3.0Moderate
 Island Lake3.5Moderate
Rockbound to:Gertrude Lake4.2Moderate/Difficult
 Maude Lake4.7Moderate
 Rockbound Pass6.4Moderate/Difficult
 Doris Lake6.6Moderate/Difficult
 Lake Lois7.6Moderate/Difficult
 Lake Schmidell8.4Moderate/Difficult
Lyons Creek to:Sylvia Lake4.6Easy/Moderate
 Lyons Lake5.0Moderate/Difficult
Twin Bridges to:Avalanche Lake1.8Difficult
 Ropi Lake2.0Difficult
 Lake of  the Woods3.6Difficult
 Lake Aloha4.3Difficult
Ralston to:Ralston Peak4.1Difficult
 Lake of the Woods5.3Difficult
 Lake Aloha6.1Difficult
Tells Creek to:Forni Lake4.9Moderate/Difficult
 Lake #36.3Moderate/Difficult
 Lake #56.8Moderate/Difficult
Loon Lake to:Pleasant CG4.1Easy/Moderate
 Spider Lake4.5Moderate
 Buck Island Lake6.1Moderate
 Rockbound Lake6.7Moderate
 Rubicon Reservoir8.3Moderate
 Camper Flat13.7Moderate/Difficult
    
Trailheads on Lake Tahoe BMU (East) Side
Trailhead Miles One WayDifficutly
Echo Lake to:Upper Echo Lake2.5Easy
 Tamarack Lake3.8Easy/Moderate
 Haypress Meadow4.2Moderate
 Lake of the Woods5.3Moderate
 Lake Lucille5.2Moderate
 Lake Aloha7.5Moderate
 Clyde Lake9.3Moderate/Difficult
Glen Alpine to:Grass Lake2.3Easy/Moderate
 Susie Lake3.8Moderate
 Heather Lake4.9Moderate
 Half Moon Lake5.5Moderate
 Gilmore Lake3.9Moderate
 Lake Aloha5.8Difficult
 Dicks Pass5.4Difficult
 Dicks Lake7.3Difficult
 Mt. Tallac Peak5.7Difficult
Mt Tallac to:Floating Island Lake1.7Easy/Moderate
 Cathedral Lake2.5Easy/Moderate
 Tallac Summit4.6Difficult
 Gilmore Lake6.4Moderate/Difficult
Bayview to:Granite Lake1.3Moderate/Difficult
 Dicks Lake5.3Difficult
 Upper Velma Lake5.5Difficult
 Middle Velma Lake6.5Difficult
Eagle Falls to:Eagle Lake1.0Moderate
 Middle Velma Lake4.4Difficult
 Dicks Lake4.3Difficult
 Dicks Pass5.3Difficult
 Fontanillis Lake4.9Difficult
Meeks Bay to:Lake Genevieve4.6Moderate
 Crag Lake4.9Moderate
 Hidden Lake5.7Moderate
 Stony Ridge Lake6.3Moderate
 Rubicon Lake8.1Moderate/Difficult
 Phipps Lake9.4Moderate/Difficult

Wilderness Permits & Zone Quotas


Because of its beauty and accessibility, Desolation Wilderness is one of the most heavily visited wilderness areas in the United States. In order to protect its unique beauty and wilderness character, human access is limited and certain
activities are restricted in Desolation.

  • Permits are required year-round. A signed copy of your permit must be in your possession.
  • Fees for overnight camping are required year-round.
  • Day Use Permits: Day users may obtain a free permit from one of the offices, or may issue themselves a permit at most major trailheads during the summer.
  • Day use is not subject to fees nor limited by the quota at any time of the year.
  • Group size is limited to 12 people per party who will be hiking or camping together. Note: group size is also dependent on the number of people allowed in the zone.
  • Overnight quota is based upon the number of people entering the wilderness each day, and their first night’s destination zone.
  • Campfires are prohibited.
  • You must enter on the date specified on your permit and you must spend your first night in the zone which you have chosen. The rest of your stay is not subject to zone requirements.
  • Quota Period is from the Friday before Memorial Day through September 30.
  • Reservations: 70% of the quota in each zone may be reserved up to 6 months in advance through Recreation.gov.
  • Overnight users without reservations: The other 30% of the available quota is set aside for first-come, first-served visitors. These permits must be obtained in person at offices which issue Desolation Wilderness permits on the day of entry and may not be reserved ahead of time. During the off-quota season there is no limit to the number of overnight users and day of permits may be obtained at recreation.gov and printed at home or in person at offices which issue Desolation Wilderness permits.

Fee and Passes


Fee revenues pay for wilderness ranger patrol, trail maintenance, signing, site restoration, and wilderness education projects.

  • Overnight Wilderness Permit Fee: $5/person for one night, $10/person for 2 to 14 nights. The cost of a single permit will not exceed $100. Children 12 and under are free. Permit fees are paid at time of reservation. Permit fees may be refunded if changes or cancellation is done more than 7 days in advance of date of entry. All fees are non-refundable within 7 days or less of date of entry.
  • Pre-Paid Fee Card: $20 for an annual pre-paid fee card. The card covers only the overnight permit fee for cardholder and is valid for one year from date of purchase. You still must obtain a permit, subject to quota limits, and pay the reservation fee. Because a wilderness permit is a special use authorization,
  • Interagency Passes do not apply.
  • Reservation Fee: $6 per party/permit (non-refundable) for all transaction types (online, by phone, or walk-in/field reservations for a permit. Desolation Wilderness is managed via a zone quota system. All overnight permits are issued out of one database to manage the quota limits through the Recreation.gov site. Whether you walk-in, go online, or call in advance, you are reserving space in the quota.
  • Service Charge: $5.00 for a change to the date or for adding people. Additional permit fees may apply. No fee for cancellations. Changes to reserved permits can be made online, through the call center, or in person.
  • Trailhead Day Use Fee: Currently applies to Eagle Falls and Pyramid Creek parking areas only. A daily Trailhead
  • Day Use pass is $5 per vehicle per day. (This fee is waived for overnight permit holders. Be sure to obtain or print your parking pass and properly display in your vehicle. The Pass does not guarantee parking will be available.)
  • A $20.00 Annual Day Use Pass is available, valid at the facilities listed below where a parking fee is required. This Pass is valid for one year from date of purchase. Facilities include: Eagle Falls, Pyramid Creek, Carson Pass, Meiss, and Woods Lake Trailheads. Also covers day use fees at the Dru Barner Campground. (Parking at the Carson Pass and Meiss Parking areas is limited to June 1 to October 1st due to their operation as a State Sno-Park during the winter months.)
  • Interagency Annual, Senior, and Access passes allow the holder to park at the above listed facilities for free. Interagency Passes do not apply to the Wilderness permit or purchase of the Fee Card or Parking Pass.

For information on the Desolation, other wilderness areas or minimum impact camping, contact:

Placerville Ranger Station: Eldorado National Forest
8 miles east of Placerville on Highway 50. 4260 Eight Mile Road, Camino Ca 95709. Heading east on Highway 50 take
exit 54, turn right onto Eight Mile Road then an immediate right turn into driveway for Ranger Station. Phone: for hours:
(530) 647-5415.


Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Located two miles east of the Highway 50/89 junction in South Lake Tahoe on Highway 50. From highway turn right
on Al Tahoe Blvd and then turn right at first signal. 35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150. Phone for hours:
(530) 543-2600.

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sierrarecmagazine

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