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General Information: The Echo Lakes trailhead is one of the most popular entry points to Desolation Wilderness. By starting a 7300', you reduce to a minimum the amount of climbing you have to do to get into the backcountry. It also provides the most direct route to Lake Aloha and Rockbound Valley, two popular destinations. For those wanting a shorter hike or backpack, three lakes along the trail to Lake Aloha offer both beauty and solitude(except on summer weekends): Tamarack Lake, Ralston Lake, and Lake of the Woods.

Click here to view a map and elevation profile.

Where To Start: Echo Summit is located south of Lake Tahoe on US 50. Coming from Lake Tahoe, just after the burned building of "Little Norway", take a right turn on a paved road following the sign for Echo Lake or the Sno-Park. Turn left on the road for Echo Lakes Resort. During the summer, parking is available at the Echo Lakes resort. In the winter or if the road is not passable, park in the Sno-Park lot (fee required Nov.- May). The trail starts to the right of the main dock at Echo Lake.

Trail Description: To save some time, you might consider the water taxi service offered during high summer. For a few bucks, you can cut off about 2.5 miles each direction. Just ask at the dock. If you are hoofing it, the trail starts just right of the dock. It first heads along the north shore of Echo Lake through pine and fir forest, passing tiny summer cabins. While there is nothing spectacular about this part of the hike, it is certainly pleasant enough and mostly flat.

The trail eventually passes the end of Upper Echo Lake and begins to climb out of the Echo Lakes basin toward Haypress Meadows. To the left is Ralston Peak, a fun ski descent in the winter, and a beautiful example of an alpine mountain all year long. After leaving Echo Lake the trail gains about 400' over the next 3/4 mile where the trail splits. To the left, the trail takes you to the Ralston cirque and Tamarack and Ralston Lakes. Both of these lakes offer pristine scenery, relative solitude, good camping sites, and quick access a Ralson Peak ascent. Continuing west/northwest, you will come to Haypress Meadows. The trail climbs steadily through a sparsely forested area. At Haypress Meadows, you have climbed about 1000' above Echo Lake and come roughly 2 miles from the lake. The trail splits again here. Heading west/southwext takes you to Lake of the Woods while continuing west/northwest heads back to Lake Aloha. Lake of the Woods is one of our favorite lakes in this part of Desolation. It sits in a basin close to a prominence that overlooks Horsetail Canyon. Rocks and trees combine to create the perfect environment for peaceful relaxation. To the west, Pyramid Peak and the other peaks of the Crystal Range dominate the landscape. The area between Lake of the Woods and the cliffs of Pyramid Peak is made up of a series of undulations with the depressions filled with water making small ponds. Watch out for bugs in July!

Environmental Concerns: These lakes get a lot of summer use. Please dispose of waste at least 100 yards from any water being sure to bury it at least 6 inches deep. No campfires are allowed in desolation wilderness due to the fragile nature of the environment. Giardia is a common water parasite that is present in all Sierra lakes and streams so be sure to filter, treat or boil water.

Advisory: Watch for rapidly changing weather in this part of the Sierras. Be prepared and follow good winter backcountry travel techniques including avalanche safety if you head on to steeper terrain.

Pyramid is farther than it looks. If you are thinking of attempting an ascent plan ahead and visit our Pyramid Peak page to find out more.


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