• Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    5.6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1900 Feet

Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

This is an absolutely breathtaking hike up to the serene, uncrowded Ropi Lake during which you'll pass by some of the best waterfalls around Lake Tahoe. Camping near Ropi Lake under the stars with Pyramid Peak looming in the not-too-far distance makes for a beautiful overnight outdoors.

The trailhead to begin this hike is located at: 38.8117 N, 120.1237 W. From Hwy 50 just south of Lake Tahoe, take Hwy 50 southwest for almost 11 miles, where you'll turn into the parking lot after crossing Pyramid Creek. There is a $5 day-use fee to park in the trailhead parking lot.

The hike is 5.6 miles round-trip, though plan on it taking significantly longer than an average hike of this distance. You'll experience impressive elevation gain (roughly 1900 feet), and a lot of scrambling on big boulders in parts. The trail is not well marked past the first half-mile at best, so it's advisable to hike near or along Pyramid Creek, keeping the water within earshot or eyesight along the way. About 1.5 miles into the hike, you'll get to the base of Horsetail Falls (you have to do some bouldering to get here, so be sure to wear supportive, good-grip hiking boots). As you continue to climb to the top of the falls, the views are out of this world. This is a hike for those who don't take issue with heights!

From here, continue northwest toward Ropi Lake where you'll also be treated to Ropi Lake Falls. It's a fantastic lake for camping with an abundance of beautiful viewpoints. As one of the smaller lakes in the Desolation Wilderness area, it offers an uncrowded, quiet place to overnight. There is an abundance of wildlife including black bears, so it's advisable to bring along a bear can for any food items. And don't forget your camera!

Pack List

  • Permit required for overnighters
  • Overnight pack: tent, sleeping bag & pad, dry-wick layers, water bottle & purifier, camp stove & matches, food & snacks, headlamp, bear can)
  • Fishing license and gear if you plan to fish
  • Waterproof topo map of the area
  • Hiking boots
  • Camera
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Hiking up Horsetail Falls is one of the most scenic and exciting ways to enter Desolation Wilderness. You probably shouldn't attempt this hike unless you feel very comfortable route finding, because there isn't a trail for the majority of the hike. When you get to the base of Horsetail Falls, make sure you climb on the west side of the falls. There is a cairn path about 200 yards west of the falls that will make you ascent a little easier and more efficient.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Beautiful Area. We did it as overnight backpacking trip. The lakes are just great places to camp. However, path finding can be tricky. There is no well marked trail on the upper section. But a bunch of stone man. About half way up stay on the left, move away from the river. Work your way uphill through the boulder fields all the way up. The upper section close to the river is steep and exposed. The trail is more a climb then a walk. Not soo easy with heavy backpacks, especially downwards. There can be bugs at the lakes in the night.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Emily Kent Explorer

A girl with a photo habit who loves nature a whole lot. A Minnesota native in northern California. Other loves of mine are my two little girls, my hubby, camping, hiking, surfing, singing, cycling, swimming and a good hoppy IPA. Instagram @emilyelizabeth.115

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