Distance: 7-10 miles (roundtrip). Elevation gain: 2,735 ft. Great hike up with an awesome slide down. Good spot in the summer, even better in the winter. Stunning views of Crystal Range and Lake Tahoe.

Ralston Peak is a classic south Lake Tahoe backcountry skiing and snowboarding area, and is excellent for hiking in the summer, too. Please note, however, that backcountry skiing and snowboarding is dangerous – make sure you know the conditions and have avalanche equipment.

There are two main approaches to the top. The most used in the summertime is just off Highway 50, from Camp Sacramento. This short, steep hike (7 miles roundtrip) is good for a day trip, but not so good for skiing and snowboarding, because it is south-facing.

Skiing and snowboarding are best on the north side of the peak, where there is a large bowl full of great lines. A great approach starts out of the Echo Lakes (10 miles roundtrip). Drive to the Echo Lakes, near Echo Summit on Highway 50. Park at the trailhead just uphill from the lake.

In the winter, the Echo Lakes freeze over, and many people go there to ice skate. If you bring crampons, you can cross the frozen lake for the first 2.5 miles. Be careful of thawing ice conditions, and make smart choices if you decide to forgo the trail.

From the end of Upper Echo Lake, you can easily meet back up with the trail, where there is usually a good boot pack, a few days after a storm. Follow the trail to Tamarack Lake until you see signs for Ralston Lake, which makes for a great base camp, if you choose to spend the weekend and do a few lines. This trip is perfect for a two day-one night trip in winter, but note that because this is Desolation Wilderness, a permit is required to camp.

From Ralston Lake, hike the ridge to the west of the peak. This section of the hike can be hard, so a splitboard and skins, skis, or snowshoes are helpful. Follow the ridge until you reach your chosen line, which you can scope out ahead of time, from the lake.

Pack List

  • 10 essentials
  • Permit (if camping)
  • Backpack
  • Trekking poles
  • Gators
  • Snow pants
  • Snow jacket
  • Warm winter base layers
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Warm beanie
  • Waterproof boots
  • Snowshoes/skis/splitboard
  • Food and water
  • Jetboil or camp stove
  • 4 season tent
  • Sleeping ad
  • Snow shovel
  • Winter sleeping bag
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Avalanche probe
  • Crampons
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Activities Snowboarding, Camping, Skiing, Snowshoeing, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Winter


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