Hike Pyramid Peak via Rocky Canyon
Lake Tahoe › Pyramid Peak via Rocky Canyon Trail
Added by Josiah Roe
4,000' of elevation gain in the shortest route to the summit of the highest peak in the Crystal Range, with epic views of Tahoe and the Northern Sierra's.
Pyramid Peak is the tallest peak in the Crystal Range and the Desolation Wilderness, just west of Lake Tahoe. On a clear day it can be seen from the Bay Area over 150 miles away. Named for its distinct shape, Pyramid a massive heap of glaciated granite slabs and talus, and the Rocky Canyon route to its summit is the most direct and the most difficult climb in the Tahoe area in terms of elevation gain, 4100' in 3.7 miles.
In Winter, most other routes to the summit of Pyramid are closed or difficult to reach, and the Rocky Canyon route provides excellent skiing down the SE ridge.
Other than the elevation gain itself, the trickiest part is finding the trailhead, which is obscured by a small hill and bushes on the side of Highway 50, where the trail begins.
When coming from the west on Highway 50, look for the "Mile 43" sign on the side of the road, just past Strawberry but before Twin Bridges. If you've hit Twin Bridges, you've gone too far. There is a pullout on the right side of the road, just after you cross over the creek that flows down Rocky Canyon. From the East, there is a "Passing Lane 4 miles Ahead" across from where to park. The GPS coordinates for parking is 38.807805N 120.136722W (WSG-84)
The trailhead is just east of the creek, up the road (towards Tahoe) about 10 yard across the road from the parking lot. You'll need to scramble up the hill in the dirt and through the bushes, but the trail will be immediately obviously once you get on top of the hill, no matter where you get on top of the hill. You're not the first person to do this.
As an alternative, about 150 yards east of the creek (towards Tahoe), next to the rectangular black and white sign marking mile 59.0 of HW 50 there is a green "T" on a rock next to the place where the trail starts.
Don't go bushwacking. The trail should be obvious immediately.
The first mile and a half is pretty brutal, marching up through the Canyon. Eventually you'll cross the creek to gain the SE ridge of Pyramid. Just keep heading up. The final 750' are a nasty talus and boulder scramble. My recommendation is to stay to the left (west).
Take a couple summit victory brews and enjoy the incomparable views of Lake Tahoe, the Desolation Wilderness, Lake Aloha and the Northern Sierras. Well done.
Water Sunscreen Food Good walking/hiking shoes Trekking poles A Desolation Wilderness permit from the ranger station at:
7887 Highway 50, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 Phone: (530)644-6048 Winter: Weekdays only. Monday through Saturday as of late April. Summer: 7 days a week, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through October.
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Can't wait to go back!
As the other two reviewers have mentioned, it's easy to get off-trail at times. The first time we attempted the summit it was mid-April and we were walking through 6-12 inches of snow, and eventually had to turn around because the cairns were completely covered. We returned in August and practically ran up to the top, legs screaming, heads dizzying from lack of oxygen - it was awesome!
Fifteen plus lakes from the top
This hike isn't for the faint of heart (or weak of legs) but the view from the top is so worth it. We counted something like fifteen lakes we could easily see from one spot up there, pretty incredible. Definitely make sure you take your time because the 3.7 miles out doesn't sound that bad, but the elevation gain makes it so you really start feeling the climb regardless. Google Maps actually has this trail mapped as far as I know, which helped us get back on track once or twice on the way up as it is a little hard to follow in some spots (just look for the cairns).
Granite for days
Such a beautiful hike, with great views all around. It's easy to get off trail at certain points like my group did, but it is quite fun and relatively safe to free climb the bigger rocks, just be careful of slipping when there is patches of snow on the ground. It is a rough hike if you don't give yourself enough day light, but regardless still an amazing adventure.
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