Description: After filling out a wilderness permit, start hiking
up a dirt and gravel road past old summer homes. After about a mile,
the road turns into a single-track trail that winds its way, sometimes
steeply, up the rocky landscape. Along the way, you have open views
of pristine wilderness where rock, wind, water, and glaciers have conspired
to form some magnificent scenery. Cracked Crag juts its dark, crumling
bulk of stone and rock high above the surrounding wilderness with bits
and pieces of trees trying to maintain their tenuous foothold in this
trees thin out the higher you go and after another 2 miles of steady
climbing, the trail splits. To the right are Gilmore and Half Moon Lake
as well as Mt. Tallac, while the left trail leads to Susie, Heather,
and Aloha Lakes.
Lake: Gilmore is one of our favorite Desolation lakes. A deep, round,
glacial lake, surrounded by forest, Gilmore is set in a depression on
the back side of Mt. Tallac and offers wonderful fishing, serene forest,
and flat, comfortable camping. The wind, which often blows 30 - 50 MPH
on top of Tallac just 2 miles away, scours the trees over-head making
them sing and dance, yet on the ground, it stays remarkably calm. From
the trail split mentioned above, Gilmore is just over 1 additional mile
of steady climbing. The total distance from the trailhead is about 4.5
miles and involves 1900' of climbing.
Moon Lake: Half Moon Lake is much less visited than the other lakes
discussed on this page, primarily due to its extra distance and the fact
that there is no through trail. Set in the cirque of Dicks and Jacks Peaks,
Half Moon Lake offers high alpine beauty to those who like the stark,
rocky environment of Desolation. Half Moon Lake is close to 6 miles from
and 1500' higher than the Glen Alpine trailhead. This is not a beginner
hike or backpack.
& Heather Lakes: From the Gilmore/Susie trail split, Susie Lake
is only about 1 mile further over gently rising and falling rocky, broken
terrain. Heather Lake is 1.5 miles further still. Both Susie and Heather
Lakes are classic alpine lakes surrounded by rocky peaks with scattered
forest cover along some of the shoreline. Both offer flat, but exposed
campsites. From the trailhead, Susie and Heather are 4.5 and 6 miles,
respectively with elevation gains of about 1400'.
From the Glen Alpine trailhead, Lake Aloha is 6.5 miles with 1600' of
elevation gain. The trail is varied and interesting, but seems longer
than 6.5 miles so be sure to include extra time. Lake Aloha is a shallow,
island filled lake in an otherwise barren alpine environment with an almost
surreal feel. At times, the remoteness, the treeless landscape, the high
surrounding peaks of the Crystal Range, and a howling wind can chill the
blood of even experienced back-country travelers. It is perhaps the centerpiece
of the Desolation Wilderness and deserves a visit if you have the time,
experience, and energy.
Concerns: No trash service here...please pack it out. Always
stay 100 yards away from lakes and streams to go to the bathroom. Campsites
must be 100 feet from lakes and streams and wood fires are prohibited
anywhere in Desolation Wilderness.
All water from streams and lakes in Desolation Wilderness is suspect and
should be treated or filtered. Giardia, our resident micro-parasite, is
a bad-actor that you do not want to get to know!