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General Information: The Snow and/or Azure Lakes tour is an extension of the Cascade Falls Tour. It adds about 5 miles round trip of flat to moderate skiing up the Cascade Canyon through some beautiful forest. This is a lightly traveled area so this is not a ski tour for novices. Experience with topographical maps and backcountry skiing are prerequisites for this wonderful tour.

Where To Start: Emerald Bay is located a few miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89. The Bayview trail starts at the end of the Bayview Campground opposite Inspiration Point which is the scenic overlook located one mile before you get to Emerald Bay. The campground gate is closed during the winter and in fact, Highway 89 can be closed for long periods during the winter for snow removal and avalanche control.

Click above for a map and elevation profile

Be sure to call CalTrans for the latest road conditions and the Avalanche Center to learn of any current warnings. If the road is open, park at the Bayview Campground gate and ski back to the trailhead. A wooden sign points left to Cascade Falls, to the right...Desolation Wilerness (Granite Lake and Maggies Peaks).

Trail Description: Follow the sign to Cascade Falls, a very scenic ski tour in itself. After enjoying the views of the falls, cross Cascade Creek and ski up canyon across sloping, pillowy mounds. This is a terrific area for landscape and scenic photography and offers nice views of Cascade Lake with Tahoe behind. As you proceed up canyon (you may have to cross the creek again depending on the time of year) the canyon will get narrower. After 2 or so miles, the canyon divides into two drainages. The left (south) drainage will lead to Snow Lake while the right (north) will head more steeply up hill following a small stream to Azure Lake. If you have the time, it is nice to visit both lakes. But if you must decide, then Azure Lake is the nicer of the two. Azure is a small, deep glacial lake with precipitous rock walls that drop from a ridge at 9200' all the way to the lake.

To return, two routes are possible. The first, of course, is to simply reverse your tour back along the stream leading out of Azure Lake and then keep heading down Cascade Canyon and out to the trail head from Cascade Falls.

The second option is to make a loop of the ski tour by skiing around South Maggies Peak to the North. To do this, you head east towards Maggies Peak, then take a broad gully that comes down from the north. This gully tops out just east of Maggies Peak and on the saddle between the Cascade and Eagle Canyon drainages. Head east from here mostly along the ridge and you will soon come to the saddle between North and South Maggies Peaks. You can look down and see Granite Lake from this vantage point. Descend steeply to Granite Lake. Follow the outlet of Granite Lake down towards Emerald Bay and your car.

Environmental Concerns: Pack it in, pack it out! Do not drink the water in any of the streams or lakes as Giardia is prevalent in Desolation Wilderness and is miserable to contract.

Advisory: Desolation Wilderness is a big area and you could get seriously lost on this tour if you have little experience or simply do not pay attention. This tour can take a lot longer than you would think based on the mileage. Take plenty of water, food, and extra clothing. In addition, this tour crosses several possible avalanche areas. You should have more than a casual understanding of snow stability evaluation, check the avalanche forecast before you go, and, of course, carry avalanche gear and know how to use it. For more suggestions about back-country travel, go to our Tips Page.

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