Backpack to the "Waterfall Camp" in Desolation Wilderness

10.5 miles 840 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Jake Young

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: Recreation.gov.

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.

Read More

Tags

Chillin
Camping
Fishing
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

An Easier Route to Waterfall Camp

This is a blast from the distant past, being about 1958 to 1961, which was when I access this so-called Waterfall Camp on the northwestern end of Lake Aloha, Desolation Valley. The routes discussed here lead one north along the western shore of Lake Aloha, but the fastest route is either by rubber boat--are those still allowed?--or by scrambling across the rock fall just north of the small peninsula where the camp is located. I camped at what used to be called John Allen's camp, which had been developed in the 1930s by the neighbor below our cabin on Stanford Hill, Fallen Leaf Lake. John Allen's camp was located almost due south of Mosquito Pass at the north end of Desolation Valley, accessible only be a little visible trail off the Mosquito Pass trail. I believe the USFS demolished sometime after the 1960s-70s. One has to scramble over large rocks to access the peninsula. I did it (with a friend--I can't recall) without a backpack because it was just a day trip from my campsite. There was a copse of tall trees on the peninsula under which was a soft bed of decayed bark and dirt with several logs providing protection from the wind and whatever big critters I thought might be present. In fact, there were no bears in the Lake Tahoe region from the late 1940s thru the 1960s.

Hard, but beautiful hike

We did this hike on our second trip backpacking. What seemed to be an easy (from a map) 3 miles along the western shore of Lake Aloha turned out to be the hardest part of the hike. There are many large boulders to hurdle along the way. We decided to do a full loop of the lake by crossing back to the PCT along the north side of the lake. Be warned that this 1-mile stretch is covered in large rockfall and you will spend the better part of 2 hours climbing over boulders. Although the rocks are largest near the water, its easiest to stay low and make a path as close as possible to the water.

Found it !

The waterfall is next to the GPS point, but you need to continue a little bit north. We've been here last weekend, and you can see pictures and details on my blog ( http://www.iero.org/blog/2019/08/aloha-waterfall-camp/ ) or on my instagram ( https://www.instagram.com/iero_california/ ) Go there by the southern side. On the northern part, there are two much big rocks, it's very dangerous.

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!

Stay Nearby

South Lake Tahoe, California

Sprawling Home With Deck, Gym & Game Room

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •Situated on an extra-large private lot dotted with evergreens, this 3BR/3.5...

From $290/night

South Lake Tahoe, California

New Listing! Quiet Getaway – Near Bike Trail

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •This inviting 3BR/2.5BA house is set in a quiet residential area. Hiking an...

From $178/night

South Lake Tahoe, California

Updated Home With Fenced Yard Near Lake & Slopes

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •This delightful two-story 4BR/3BA vacation rental has all-new flooring, a r...

From $151/night

South Lake Tahoe, California

New Mountain View Haven W/ Balcony & Fireplace

• TurnKey photo-verifies this home is professionally cleaned with products approved by the EPA for use against COVID-19. •With 2,263 square feet of finely detailed living space, inspiring mountain ...

From $125/night

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Jabu Lake in Desolation Wilderness

    Although this hike can be done as a day hike, there are incredible camping spots near the lake. 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 wate...

  • Ski Ralston Peak

    Ralston Peak is a classic south Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing and snowboarding area, and is excellent for hiking in the summer, too. Please note, however, that backcountry skiing and snowboarding is dangerous – make sure you know the conditions an...

  • Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe to Ralston Peak

    This loop is best accomplished in 2 days, spending a night at either Ralston, Tamarack, or Cagwin Lake. Although this route is similar to hiking Ralston Peak in the summer, the trails are completely covered by snow so solid navigation skills are n...

  • Backpack to Lake Aloha

    You'll start the hike at the Echo Lakes trailhead, just off of Highway 50 in Lake Tahoe. The trail meanders past Lower and Upper Echo Lakes, slowly gaining altitude as you pass a smattering of summer cabins. The climb is enough to make you feel i...

    12 miles 1000 ft gain