Hike to Snow Lake in Desolation Wilderness

Rate this Adventure Lake Tahoe Bayview Trailhead

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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

Pack List

  • Hiking Boots
  • Food
  • Water
  • Backpack
  • Photography Equipment
  • Swimming Suit 
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Activities:

Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Fitness, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:

Intermediate

Season:

Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:

Out-and-Back

Distance:

5 Miles

Features:

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
River
Romantic
Scenic
Swimming Hole
Wildflowers
Wildlife

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Added by Jake Young

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

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