Backpack to the "Waterfall Camp" in Desolation Wilderness

Echo Lake Trail, Echo Lake, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    10.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    840 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Cliff Jumping
Swimming Hole

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.

Pack List

  • Map
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Hiking Boots
  • Water and Food
  • Cooking Equipment
  • Photography Equipment
  • Swimming Suit
  • Backpack
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Reviews

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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!

4 months ago
4 months ago

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!

6 months ago
6 months ago

Mt. Price zone permit should cover this place. It is a pristine place. Please keep it that way.

6 months ago
6 months ago

Would it be possible to get the exact coordinate for the waterfall camp? Also, water taxi is now $14/one way and roundtrip tickets cannot be purchased. http://www.echochalet.com/taxi.htm

6 months ago
6 months ago

Thanks for sharing! We'll be going to Lake Aloha this month but will be coming from the North (via Heather Lake). Is it possible to reach this area following the western shoreline from the North?

8 months ago
8 months ago

Which overnight permit did you use? Aloha or Mt. Price?

11 months ago
11 months ago

this is one of the most incredible campsites i've spent the night at. the traverse around the lake is well worth it!

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Jake Young Explorer

Adventurer, Photographer, Impact Investor. I work with companies that want to have a positive impact on the world around them.

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