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General Information: Ralston peak is located just west of South Lake Tahoe along Highway 50 before the tiny town of Strawberry. Easy route-finding, not too much vertical gain, and incredible backcountry views make this a great choice for anyone in moderate condition with some hiking experience.

Where To Start: Most people start this hike from the Camp Sacramento parking area.

As you drive west on Highway 50, look for the Sierra-At-Tahoe ski resort sign. A mile or so past Sierra-At- Tahoe, look for the small Camp Sacramento sign on the right. If you come to Twin Bridges, you've gone too far.

Click here for a trail map and elevation profile

Trail Description: Follow the dirt Forest Service road for a hundred yards or so keeping an eye out for a sign-board on the left side of the road. The last we checked, the sign was gone, but the frame for the sign was still there. You will see an obvious trail that starts at the sign board. The trail is wide and easy to follow as it climbs steadily up the side of the mountain through Red Fir forest. After a couple miles of climbing the forest begins to thin. The trail continues north towards Desolation and you can follow it until it splits near the ridge and then follow the ridge back to the east to the summit.

Alternatively, when the forest opens, you can see the gentle south facing slope of Ralston Peak off to the northeast and just head steeply up the decomposed granite slope to the summit. This is a bit steeper but more direct. On the summit, you get stunning views in every direction. You can see many peaks including Pyramid, Price, Dicks, Jacks, Tallac, Freel, Echo, the list goes on. You can also test you knowledge of Desolation Lakes (we counted 14!). The steep north face of Ralston is a classic cirque with the glacial lake at the bottom.

It is possible to ascend Ralston from the north and in winter, this makes for some exciting skiing/boarding. From Echo Lake, you can head all the way up to Haypress Meadows then south along the Ralston Trail until it intersects the summit ridge. You could even climb the steep ridge that runs northwest from the summit, but this is a far more strenuous and dangerous approach.

The ski descent in the winter can be fantastic, but remember that this south facing slope gets a lot of sun and the upper parts of the peak often melt off quickly except in big winters.

Environmental Concerns: Just the usual. Pack it in, pack it out.

Advisory: Avalanche danger here can be extreme and there is no Avalanche Control, so use good judgement, carry avalanche gear and know how to use it!

 

 

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