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Echo Lakes Trail

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

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Echo Lakes Trail

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  • Parking is at the large parking area about a quarter-mile before Echo Chalet.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • The Echo Lakes hike is along the Pacific Crest Trail.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • Echo Chalet lodging and a small market are open during the summer season.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • The boat dock and informational sign marking the trail at Echo Chalet.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • All hikers are required to fill out a free backcountry permit available at the informational sign.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • A concrete walkway along lower Echo Lake is a popular spot for fishing and taking in the view.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • Another sign with a map marks the dirt trail along Echo Lakes.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • The trail skirts just above the lakes. While there are several steep paths down to the water, much of the shoreline is private property.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • Climbing the trail carved into granite along lower Echo Lake.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • Picturesque views of the lake and the Desolation Wilderness.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • Tall trees in the wilderness backcountry.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • The trail enters forested stands of pine trees along the lakeshore.- Echo Lakes Trail
  • The boat dock at upper Echo Lake marks a destination, and it also serves as the water taxi stop during its seasonal operating schedule.- Echo Lakes Trail
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Scenic. Option to swim. Can continue further into Desolation Wilderness.
Cons: 
Can be crowded. Little lake access.
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Region:
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes, with restrictions
Net Elevation Gain: 
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
7,540.00 ft (2,298.19 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

The Echo Lakes hike follows the Pacific Crest Trail along the lakes' northern edge. The moderate difficulty of the trail combined with the views it provides of the lakes and other destinations within day hiking distance along the PCT ensures that it is a year-round destination for many. 

The trail begins across the street from a parking area slightly before reaching Echo Chalet, a seasonal lodge offering cabin rentals and a small store at the edge of lower Echo Lake. Hikers must fill out a free permit before embarking on their hike, which can be done at a sign near the trailhead. From here the trail gains slightly in elevation before maintaining its path just uphill from the edge of the lakes. Those wanting to swim will have to veer down a steep slope and make their own way to the water. 

The trail passes through a wind-sculpted landscape of trees and stone, and portions of the trail are carved straight out of the granite boulders lodged into the mountainside. 

Several cabins - accessible only by boat! - mark the lake edge, and views of the long narrow lake surrounded by the textured peaks of Desolation Wilderness become increasingly incredible as you hike on.

At about 2.25 miles in, a signed trail splits off and descends to a boat dock. As well as marking one of the few areas where the trail reaches the water, this spot makes for a great place to swim and acts as a pick-up point for the seasonally-operating water-taxi from Echo Chalet. As such, tired hikers can opt to pay for the boat ride back to the trailhead, or they can plan a hike deeper into Desolation Wilderness using the water-taxi option to shave off some distance. 

The shores around this far end of Echo Lake can make for some great swimming or lounging. From here hikers can turn around and retrace their route to the trailhead.

Vault toilets, water, and a store that is open during the summer season are all available at Echo Chalet. For water-taxi info, call 530.659.7207.

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(19 within a 30 mile radius)

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