Hike to Snow Lake in Desolation Wilderness

    5 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

    Added by Jake Young

    This hike takes you off the beaten path to a secluded alpine lake in Desolation Wilderness. The ability to read a topo map and hike off trail is a requirement for this hike, but this trail will allow you to avoid the large crowds near the Emerald Bay area. 

    This wonderful alpine lake is a relatively short hike in Desolation Wilderness and is a perfect introduction to off trail exploration. This area lacks the crowds that other lakes in Desolation garner because most maps don't show the trail leading to the lake. Although there is a rough trail, the ability to route find, read a topo and hike off trail are required to do this hike. 

    This trail starts at the Bayview Trailhead near Emerald Bay. Shortly after the kiosk at the trailhead, you will see a sign with directions for Cascade Falls and Desolation. Take the trail on the left towards Cascade Falls. This trail will take you to the falls above Cascade Lake. After reaching the falls, start following Cascade Creek up the canyon. There is a poorly marked and poorly maintained trail that follows the creek, but it is extremely easy to find yourself off trail. Following the creek may require a few stream crossings and scrambling on boulders, but none of the hiking is very technical. After following the creek for about 2 miles, the canyon opens up slightly and will split into two drainages. The left (southern) drainage will take you to Snow Lake and the right (northern) drainage will take you to Azure Lake. Take the drainage towards snow lake and follow it until you reach the lake.

    There is a granite island in the middle of this lake that makes for a refreshing post hike swim. If you are going to camp at Snow Lake, the best site is on the southwestern edge of the lake. 

    A permit is required for both day hikes and overnights in Desolation Wilderness. Day permits can be obtained at the trailhead while overnight permits must be purchased at visitor center or booked online

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    Dog Friendly
    Easy Parking
    Family Friendly
    Swimming Hole

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    Rate this Adventure

    Wild and Beautiful

    No joke, the trail is not the easiest to follow and not for beginners. You can;t be afraid to get dirty and trek through the elements but so worth it. I have only been backpacking twice in my life but I had read up and prepared myself with a map and perseverance. We made it to the lake after following the creek. We found a nice place to camp and did a day hike over to Azure to round out beautiful, rustic, challenging yet very rewarding wilderness adventure!!

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    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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