Scenic lakes, easy access, and three-season availability make this one of the most versatile backpacking trips in Desolation Wilderness.

Day 1:

This trip is a great early season trip while you are waiting for the snow to melt in the high country or it could be a good first backpacking trip because of its proximity to the trailhead and the fact that it's a relatively easy hike.  Also, you get to camp by a beautiful lake with a dramatic peak rising from the far shore.  For how close and easy this hike is, you get a lot of bang for your buck!  

The first thing you'll want to do is obtain permits.  Permits can be reserved in advance at www.recreation.gov or in person the day of the hike by visiting an El Dorado National Forest Ranger Station.

Once you've obtained your permit, drive to the trailhead which is located in Meeks Bay, just across Highway 89 from the Meeks Bay Resort.  You'll see a small cabin which is now a Ranger Station and a dirt parking lot.  Please note, you can't get permits at this Ranger Station, it's for information only.

The hike begins with a mellow, relatively flat hike for the first mile as you stroll along Meeks Creek.  After about the first mile you'll begin to climb briefly and then the trail will flatten back out.  The next 3.1 miles will be like this with short, steep pitches followed by flat, mellow trail until the next uphill climb.

After hiking about 4.1 miles, you'll reach the shores of Lake Genevieve.  Lake Genevieve is a lovely, tree-rimmed lake.  You could camp here and find a good campsite nestled among the trees surrounding the lake, but more scenic Crag Lake is just about half a mile ahead.  

Once you get to Crag Lake, follow the trail around the eastern side of the lake looking for camping spots.  We hiked about halfway around the lake and found a great spot nestled among some rocks between the trail and the lake's eastern shore (see below).  From here we had a great view of the lake and the peak rising from its southern shore (see below).

Crag Lake serves as an excellent base camp for exploring nearby lakes like Hidden Lake and Cliff Lake.  Or, you can just relax and swim or fish.  Fishing at the lake seemed to be okay if you had a rod and reel setup or if you are a fly fisherman.  We saw some people having good luck fly fishing from the southernmost point of the lake where the creek feeds into it.     

Day 2:

Day 2 is just a reverse from the hike in.  On the way home, if you are heading back down Highway 50, I highly recommend stopping for lunch and beers at Verde's Mexican Rotisserie in Meyers.  They have great burritos and tortas which are amazing after a nice long hike.

Pack List

Required

  • Permits: www.recreation.gov
  • Map
  • Compass
  • Sun Protection
  • Extra Layers
  • Headlamp/Flashlight
  • First Aid
  • Fire Starter
  • Food
  • Water Bottle/Bladder

Recommended

  • Shelter/Tent
  • Adult Beverages
  • Camera
  • Swimsuit
  • Fishing Pole
Show More
RT Distance 11.1 Miles
Elevation Gain 1220 Feet
Activities Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Easy Overnighter

We wanted to get away for a quick weekend, and Crag Lake delivered. Trailhead is right off the main highway and easy to find, hike wasn't too hard at all (pretty good incline, but not long), and the camping was great. Lake was warm and perfect for swimming and there was a gorgeous little stream right behind our campsite. Highly recommended for beginner backpackers or those looking for a quick and easy overnighter.


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