A low effort, high reward backpacking trip to Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness. This is a great trip for beginner backpackers! Distance: about 12 miles round trip. Elevation gain: 1000ft.

You'll start the hike at the Echo Lakes trailhead, just off of Highway 50 in Lake Tahoe. The trail meanders past Lower and Upper Echo Lakes, slowly gaining altitude as you pass a smattering of summer cabins. The climb is enough to make you feel it, but before you know it, it's over.

Once cresting the "pass" you'll traverse mostly flat and slightly downhill terrain into the lake basin. The trail continues on the east side of the lake up towards Mosquito pass, but you'll want to jump off on one of the side trails heading west into the lake area.

There is plenty of camping around here; I recommend wandering around the myriad inlets and ponds until you find a spot sufficiently isolated and with a fantastic view. Fair warning, the basin can get VERY windy and VERY cold at night.

Enjoy an amazing sunrise and sunset over the Crystal Range!

Pack List

  • 10 essentials
  • Camp stove
  • Warm clothing
  • Tent
  • Water filter
Show More
RT Distance 12 Miles
Elevation Gain 1000 Feet
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Lake
River

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

stunning alpine lake

We arrived at Echo Lakes trailhead a bit late in the day, so ended up stopping and camping at Lake Tamarack the first night, about 4 miles in. We went up to Lake Aloha for the second night-- absolutely stunning! However it was not easy to find solitude around here (main reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5). A very popular trailhead and lake, for obvious reasons. The early morning at Lake Aloha was the best part- day hikers and dogs were gone and the only people we saw/heard were far across the lake. It was my friend's first backpacking trip and I think it was a great first trip for her- elevation gain was not bad at all, and the scenery was just spectacular. We went in early August- the day was warm and sunny, but the evenings and mornings were cold and windy!! Can be done as a day hike, but worth staying and experiencing the calm if you can!

The heart of "Desolation Wilderness"

The Lake Aloha area is what I consider the heart of Desolation Wilderness. It's an easy to access destination that has the feel of desolation because of all the granite and lack of trees. It's also one of the few places in the Tahoe area that comes close to the big mountain feel of the central and southern Sierras. Lake Aloha can get very crowded in the summer but if you have a map and some basic off-trail navigation skills you can easily explore other lakes in Desolation Valley and find a lot more privacy.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

Nearby Adventures

More Nearby Adventures

Explore the Alpine Lakes of Desolation Wilderness

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.

196 Saves

Through-Hike from Lower Echo Lake to Mt. Tallac

This hike can be done as a backpacking trip or as I did it, a full day through hike. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. First you start by driving away from Lake Tahoe on Highway 50.

127 Saves

Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe to Ralston Peak

This loop is best accomplished in 2 days, spending a night at either Ralston, Tamarack, or Cagwin Lake.

70 Saves