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"Waterfall Camp" in Desolation Wilderness

Echo Lake, California

4.7/5
based on 13 reviews

Details

Distance

10.5 miles

Elevation Gain

1522 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Jake Young

Backpack to this secluded destination that's hidden from most of the traffic in Desolation Wilderness. At waterfall camp, you'll have the opportunity to explore over 50 waterfalls. If you choose not to take the water taxi, add 5 miles to the overall trip.

Although this hike can be done as a day hike, it is an awesome place to camp. There is a lot to explore and you will want to spend as much there time as you can. The easiest way to start this hike is to start at the Echo Lakes. There is ample parking above the marina and you even have the option of taking a water taxi across the echo lakes to cut off around 2.5 miles of the hike. The taxi costs $12 round trip.

Before you start this hike make sure you have an overnight wilderness permit. You can get these at the ranger stations and visitor centers in the Tahoe Basin or buy them online at this address: Recreation.gov.

This hike starts by steadily climbing the PCT towards Lake Aloha. On your way up, you will see trails turning off to Tamarack Lake, Lake Lucile, and Lake of the Woods. If you want to extend your trip, these are fantastic places to camp and are extremely accessible. Continue on the PCT for roughly five miles until you reach a fork where the sign indicates that both routes go to Lake Aloha. Take the left fork towards the dam at Lake Aloha. The rest of the hike is off trail and some route finding is needed. There are multiple dams on the southern part of Lake Aloha and crossing them is the easiest way to reach the other side of the lake. In certain sections, there are remnants of trails and these can be followed to point you in the correct direction. Once you have reached the western shore of the lake, start heading north following the water line. There are many small "fingers" of water that jet out from Lake Aloha that can disrupt your path and make you back track. It is important to do a small amount of scouting before you commit to one route.

Traverse the western shore until you reach the northwestern portion of Lake Aloha. This part of the lake resembles a bay and has enormous granite cliffs surrounding it. Keep walking around the western shore until you find an area where a considerable amount of water is flowing into the Lake and there is a sharp juxtaposition between the granite flows and a lush green area. Many topo maps will actually show the small pool that is present at the top of the waterfalls. The camp is almost directly below Mt. Price.

Once you reach the waterfall area, follow the waterfalls up the vegetated area. The best place to camp is above most of the waterfalls at a beautiful alpine pool. There is a roughly 15 foot sloping wall with black granitic extrusions that provide a natural ladder to get to the bench where the pool is located.

If you want to take sunset pictures, you will want to arrive much earlier than sundown because the crystal range will start casting shade relatively early. The sunrises here are incredible as the sun will rise above Lake Aloha which you will have views of if you camp on the bench.

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Features

Chillin
Camping
Fishing
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Lake
Romantic
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

"Waterfall Camp" in Desolation Wilderness Reviews

Despite the doubts of some other reviewers, the Waterfall Camp is real! And I'm so happy I found it. Like some other reviewers, I highly recommend heading along the south shore of Lake Aloha then north along the western shore. Once you get to the lush green part, it's hard to miss the waterfall. It's a truly magical place to camp. The traversing of rocks, boulders, and water is NOT an easy trek, only do this if you're experienced in backcountry and up for a challenge. It's worth it.

One of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. I’ll definitely be back in the coming years and plan on making this a yearly trip. You have to be willing to put in work to get there and it’s not easy. Straight out of a movie and pure magic!!!

This is a blast from the distant past, being about 1958 to 1961, which was when I access this so-called Waterfall Camp on the northwestern end of Lake Aloha, Desolation Valley. The routes discussed here lead one north along the western shore of Lake Aloha, but the fastest route is either by rubber boat--are those still allowed?--or by scrambling across the rock fall just north of the small peninsula where the camp is located. I camped at what used to be called John Allen's camp, which had been developed in the 1930s by the neighbor below our cabin on Stanford Hill, Fallen Leaf Lake. John Allen's camp was located almost due south of Mosquito Pass at the north end of Desolation Valley, accessible only be a little visible trail off the Mosquito Pass trail. I believe the USFS demolished sometime after the 1960s-70s. One has to scramble over large rocks to access the peninsula. I did it (with a friend--I can't recall) without a backpack because it was just a day trip from my campsite. There was a copse of tall trees on the peninsula under which was a soft bed of decayed bark and dirt with several logs providing protection from the wind and whatever big critters I thought might be present. In fact, there were no bears in the Lake Tahoe region from the late 1940s thru the 1960s.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Nearby

Hike to Jabu Lake in Desolation Wilderness

Ski Ralston Peak

Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe to Ralston Peak

Lake Aloha

Explore the Alpine Lakes of Desolation Wilderness

Hike the Echo Lake Trail