Backpack to the "Waterfall Camp" in Desolation Wilderness

Echo Lake Trail

Backpack to this secluded destination that's hidden from most of the traffic in Desolation Wilderness. At waterfall camp, you'll have the opportunity to explore over 50 waterfalls. If you choose not to take the water taxi, add 5 miles to the overall trip.

Although this hike can be done as a day hike, it is an awesome place to camp. There is a lot to explore and you will want to spend as much there time as you can. The easiest way to start this hike is to start at the Echo Lakes. There is ample parking above the marina and you even have the option of taking a water taxi across the echo lakes to cut off around 2.5 miles of the hike. The taxi costs $12 round trip.

Before you start this hike make sure you have an overnight wilderness permit. You can get these at the ranger stations and visitor centers in the Tahoe Basin or buy them online at this address:

This hike starts by steadily climbing the PCT towards Lake Aloha. On your way up, you will see trails turning off to Tamarack Lake, Lake Lucile, and Lake of the Woods. If you want to extend your trip, these are fantastic places to camp and are extremely accessible. Continue on the PCT for roughly five miles until you reach a fork where the sign indicates that both routes go to Lake Aloha. Take the left fork towards the dam at Lake Aloha. The rest of the hike is off trail and some route finding is needed. There are multiple dams on the southern part of Lake Aloha and crossing them is the easiest way to reach the other side of the lake. In certain sections, there are remnants of trails and these can be followed to point you in the correct direction. Once you have reached the western shore of the lake, start heading north following the water line. There are many small "fingers" of water that jet out from Lake Aloha that can disrupt your path and make you back track. It is important to do a small amount of scouting before you commit to one route.

Traverse the western shore until you reach the northwestern portion of Lake Aloha. This part of the lake resembles a bay and has enormous granite cliffs surrounding it. Keep walking around the western shore until you find an area where a considerable amount of water is flowing into the Lake and there is a sharp juxtaposition between the granite flows and a lush green area. Many topo maps will actually show the small pool that is present at the top of the waterfalls. The camp is almost directly below Mt. Price.

Once you reach the waterfall area, follow the waterfalls up the vegetated area. The best place to camp is above most of the waterfalls at a beautiful alpine pool. There is a roughly 15 foot sloping wall with black granitic extrusions that provide a natural ladder to get to the bench where the pool is located.

If you want to take sunset pictures, you will want to arrive much earlier than sundown because the crystal range will start casting shade relatively early. The sunrises here are incredible as the sun will rise above Lake Aloha which you will have views of if you camp on the bench.

Pack List

  • Map
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Hiking Boots
  • Water and Food
  • Cooking Equipment
  • Photography Equipment
  • Swimming Suit
  • Backpack
Show More
RT Distance 10.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 840 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

The Lost City?

My friend and I had planned a trip to desolation, and waterfall camp seemed like a great find! We went into the ranger station and she said that many people come in asking about this so called "waterfall camp". She continued to say that it's existence was questionable. The rangers have tried to find it and with no luck, even with their gps devices and expertise of the area. We were so psyched on the idea of "waterfall camp" that we did take a day to find it, even with the gps coordinates that were provided in the comments below. We couldn't! The lake was low so we thought we could enter from the other side, but we were stopped by a huge channel close to the gps location. Perhaps if we had entered from the west side we would've been successful, but the lost city of "waterfall camp" has yet to be proven real. I wish you luck on your journey.

Far from desolate

The entire region of Desolation Wilderness is incredible - you cannot go wrong here. We couldn't quite locate the waterfall camp, but nonetheless enjoyed our stay. Will be back in the future to track this down!

Amazing place! Here is where you find it.

My buddy and I went up here over Labor Day weekend. We chose to climb over Horsetail Falls rather than enter in at Echo Lake. Way less people this route, but much, much harder. We camped the first night at Pyramid Lake, then headed straight up from there to the west side of Lake Aloha. Waterfall camp is just as described by the author. Truly amazing! Lots of spots to camp or hang hammocks. Fresh, cold water everywhere. Shade or sun - you choose. There was still some snow when we went due to a heavy winter snowfall last season. I think late August/early Sept. is the perfect time to go. You gotta try it! Here are the coordinates I got from my watch for the Waterfall Camp (It's on the south side of the western part of Lake Aloha): N38° 51.969' W120° 09.610' That is the start of the camp. You can go way up in to see more waterfalls and find a good place for a tent. Here is a tip. Download the area on the Google Maps app before you head up there. Your GPS will still work without cell signal (though we had some signal around the Pyramid Lake Area - probably from Sierra Resort). Copy/Paste the coordinates into maps and save the location, then, you can pull it up on your phone. Boom - GPS topo map + location for the trip. Hope that helps!

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