Explore the Alpine Lakes of Desolation Wilderness

Echo Lakes Boat Taxi

7-12 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Exploring Desolation Wilderness and one of it's most iconic lakes. Duration (4-6 hours - depending on length).

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. The taxi costs $12/person each way and is $5 each-way for your furry friend. The taxi leaves the dock at frequent intervals or as soon as there are 3 people ready to go. Once you're on the taxi, it will take you across Lower and Upper Echo Lake, which is approximately 2.5 miles, dropping you off at the Pacific Crest Trail. You'll need to self-issue a permit for day-use in Desolation Wilderness at the trailhead. With the permit in hand, the hike starts steadily 3.5 mile climb to the east side of Lake Aloha. After hiking for about a mile, you will be able to see Ralston and Tamarac Lake with Ralston Peak as a backdrop. Around a half mile past the Tamarac Lake fork, you will encounter a series of switchbacks that will take you to the Haypress Meadows. This is an incredible place to photograph wildflowers in the early summer. You will also pass trails for Lake of the Woods, Lake Margery and Lake Lucile on the trail to Aloha.

Shortly, you'll make it to an intersection where the sign indications both options go to Aloha. The left option will take you to the dam that created Aloha, while the right option will take you straight to the lake and some large flat granite slabs that make incredible lunch spots. Feel free to explore the PCT all along the shoreline of Aloha or take the short spur trail to Lake Le Conte if you have time. On your return through the Hapress Meadows, consider taking the spur trails to the other smaller alpine lakes in this area. Taking the short walk to Lake Lucile will be well rewarded with one of the most serene lakes in Desolation as well as an incredible view of the Glen Alpine Valley and Fallen Leaf Lake. When making your way back to the car along the Pacific Crest Trail, you can choose to pick up the taxi or hike back along the lakes for another 2.5 miles back to the car. There is a small phone booth that you will have to use to summon the taxi ride home.

If you're with non-hikers, they can still have a great experience exploring the Echo Lakes by riding the taxi roundtrip for $18.

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Day pack
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
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Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Features
Bathrooms
Forest
Lake
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Favorite trail in the Sierras! But a very crowded one.

so many options. so much fun!


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

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