Backpack to Smith Lake, Desolation Wilderness

Lake Tahoe Twin Lakes Trailhead, Desolation Wilderness

Added by Miranda Leconte

Overnight permit required! Visit http://desowv.org for everything you need to know, this hike can easily be a day hike if you're not a backpacker and Rangers check permits OFTEN with the Max group size is 12. No campfires allowed at all in this Wilderness Area (year-round), the Fishing is great at Grouse Lake and Hemlock Lake, both of which you hike past to get to Smith Lake. Wrights Lake road is not plowed, so access is limited in winter/spring and In late May/early June, access permitting, there should be brightly colored wildflowers everywhere and water flowing in every creek.

To get to the Twin Lakes Trailhead from the Bay Area/Sacramento, head east on HWY 50 past Kyburz for 4 miles until you see the left-hand turnoff for Wrights Road. If coming westbound on HWY 50, this will be a right-hand turn 5 miles past Strawberry. Follow this paved road for 8 miles (watch for potholes) until you reach Wrights Lake. At the fork, turn right and continue for a mile past the cabins until you get to the Twin Lakes Trailhead parking area.

Mileage/Elevation: It is 2.8 miles from the trailhead to Smith Lake. When you get to your car after your trip, you'll have hiked a total of 5.6 miles and experienced roughly 1750ft of elevation change.

This trail consists of initial gradual incline on wide open granite and winds its way through small pine forests until you reach the junction for either Twin Lakes or Smith Lake. Keep right to head to Smith. This is where the trail shoots upward and is notably steep until you reach your destination. You'll hike past Grouse Lake and Hemlock Lake (both great for catching brown trout) before you reach Smith Lake. The best spot to pitch your tent is up on the ridge just north of the lake!

Pack List

  • Overnight Wilderness Permit (http://desowv.org/files/obtainingpermit.pdf)
  • First Aid Kit - always
  • Map - I recommend Tom Harrison's Desolation Wilderness map
  • Backpack
  • Tent - camp at least 100ft from water
  • Sleeping bag/pad
  • Headlamp
  • Water filter
  • Warm clothes - this area is high in elevation & it can get windy
  • Trowel - bury human/dog waste at least 100ft from water
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera (optional)
  • Rain gear (optional)
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Activities:

Backpacking, Chillin, Fishing, Hiking, Photography, Swimming

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

5.6 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1750 Feet

Rating:

Features:

Cliff Jumping
Dog Friendly
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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How to Get There

5 months ago

Epic

I love desolation and this trip was phenomenal. I passed maybe 5 people tops. Swimming in the glacial waters and enjoying the stunning surroundings made this trip truly enjoyable.

5 months ago

Added by Miranda Leconte

U.S. Forest Service dweeb who can't seem to stay inside (@mirandaleconte)

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