Echo Lake, Desolation Wilderness CA

• 4-star hikes
• 2.6 - 8.5 mile options
• Medium difficulty | Gain 300 - 1,200 ft (Peak 7,800 ft)
• Echo Summit, CA | Lake Tahoe
• Driving Directions: Trailhead

Take a scenic boat ride across the lake to begin your hike.

What a better way to start a hike than with a leisurely boat ride across the Echo Lake, nestling between some of the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada, above Lake Tahoe. Hail your water taxi from Echo Chalet on the shores of the lower lake, and you'll soon find yourself dropped off at the top of Upper Echo Lake right smack dab in the middle of Desolation Wilderness.

Hit the Pacific Crest Trail in the Westerly direction and head further into Desolation Wilderness to explore more lakes, each different and more secluded than the last. Initially the trail is well defined but after a signpost indicating the route to Tamarack and Ralston lakes over rocky terrain and areas smooth polished granite. On the return trip, skip the taxi and take the 2.6 mile trail that runs parallel to the Echo Lakes and leads back to the trailhead, rounding off an excellent 8.5 mile hike.

Echo Lake, Desolation Wilderness, Water taxi

Echo Lake Trail 4★
2.6 mi, Each Way, Medium, Gain 300ft
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

Desolation Wilderness 4★
Add 3.3 mi, Out & Back, Medium, Gain 600ft
Trailspotting Map at AllTrails

There are several ways to tailor this trail to match your hiking appetite, such as extending the route further to visit several more alpine lakes including Lucille and Margery lakes, Lake of the Woods or Aloha Lake. Alternatively, shorten the trail by taking a return trip on the water taxi by calling for the boat service from the telephone at Upper Echo Lake boat dock.

Late summer is the best time to visit, especially if you were thinking about taking a quick dip in one of the quiet Destination Wilderness lakes. Wilderness permits for both day and overnight hikes are required, both of which are available at Echo Chalet.

Boat dock by Echo Chalet at the East end of the lake.

Echo Lake and Desolation Wilderness from Mount Ralston.

• Trail Links: Official, Public Map at AllTrails
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