Explore the Alpine Lakes of Desolation Wilderness

Echo Lakes Boat Taxi, Echo Lake, California, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

Bathrooms
Forest
Lake
Scenic

7-12 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Exploring Desolation Wilderness and one of it's most iconic lakes. Duration (4-6 hours - depending on length).

This incredible hike offers you the opportunity to visit the heart of desolation without climbing more than about 600 feet of elevation. Begin at the boat taxi at Lower Echo Lake. The taxi costs $12/person each way and is $5 each-way for your furry friend. The taxi leaves the dock at frequent intervals or as soon as there are 3 people ready to go. Once you're on the taxi, it will take you across Lower and Upper Echo Lake, which is approximately 2.5 miles, dropping you off at the Pacific Crest Trail. You'll need to self-issue a permit for day-use in Desolation Wilderness at the trailhead. With the permit in hand, the hike starts steadily 3.5 mile climb to the east side of Lake Aloha. After hiking for about a mile, you will be able to see Ralston and Tamarac Lake with Ralston Peak as a backdrop. Around a half mile past the Tamarac Lake fork, you will encounter a series of switchbacks that will take you to the Haypress Meadows. This is an incredible place to photograph wildflowers in the early summer. You will also pass trails for Lake of the Woods, Lake Margery and Lake Lucile on the trail to Aloha.

Shortly, you'll make it to an intersection where the sign indications both options go to Aloha. The left option will take you to the dam that created Aloha, while the right option will take you straight to the lake and some large flat granite slabs that make incredible lunch spots. Feel free to explore the PCT all along the shoreline of Aloha or take the short spur trail to Lake Le Conte if you have time. On your return through the Hapress Meadows, consider taking the spur trails to the other smaller alpine lakes in this area. Taking the short walk to Lake Lucile will be well rewarded with one of the most serene lakes in Desolation as well as an incredible view of the Glen Alpine Valley and Fallen Leaf Lake. When making your way back to the car along the Pacific Crest Trail, you can choose to pick up the taxi or hike back along the lakes for another 2.5 miles back to the car. There is a small phone booth that you will have to use to summon the taxi ride home.

If you're with non-hikers, they can still have a great experience exploring the Echo Lakes by riding the taxi roundtrip for $18.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Day pack
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

Favorite trail in the Sierras! But a very crowded one.

over 3 years ago
over 3 years ago

so many options. so much fun!

over 4 years ago
over 4 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.

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

6 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves