Lake Aloha

Desolation Wilderness

Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, California

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Lake Aloha


  • Starting the hike, you'll face a few miles of ascent to get to Aloha Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • Permits are required for backpacking in the area.- Lake Aloha
  • The trail to Lake Aloha.- Lake Aloha
  • Lake Aloha.- Lake Aloha
  • Lake Aloha.- Lake Aloha
  • The glaciated basen that holds Lake Aloha.- Lake Aloha
  • The chipmunks (Neotamias) are fearless, so keep an eye on your food.- Lake Aloha
  • Camping at Lake Aloha.- Lake Aloha
  • Sunset over Lake Aloha.- Lake Aloha
  • Follow the markers for Pacific Crest Trail. However, if you are camping for the night, you will need to stay in your zone. You will find the most secluded campsites if you follow the lake around to the right.- Lake Aloha
  • Beginning the second day.- Lake Aloha
  • The view of Echo Lakes.- Lake Aloha
  • Echo Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • Echo Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • Follow signs for Triangle Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • The second campsite of the trip at Triangle Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • Unidentified wildflower (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Lake Aloha
  • Splashing around in Triangle Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • If you have time, take a day hike to the peak of Keith's Dome (8,646').- Lake Aloha
  • Incredible views from the top of Keith's Dome.- Lake Aloha
  • Rest up before the grueling downhill the next day.- Lake Aloha
  • Follow signs for Lily Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • A pleasant meadow turns into a 3-mile, 2,000-foot descent.- Lake Aloha
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- Lake Aloha
  • Continuing the big descent from Triangle Lake.- Lake Aloha
  • Viewpoint over the Desolation Wilderness.- Lake Aloha
  • Viewpoint over the Desolation Wilderness.- Lake Aloha
  • - Lake Aloha
Overview + Weather
Amazing views. Secluded campsites. High alpine forest.
Gruelling descent. Some crowding.
Lake Tahoe + Northern Sierra, CA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
2,011.00 ft (612.95 m)
Parking Pass: 
Overnight Per-Day
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
12.60 mi (20.28 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
6,572.00 ft (2,003.15 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


Originally known as "Devil's Basin," Desolation Wilderness is a part of the El Dorado National Forest. It became protected in 1931, and since then it has become a haven for backpackers and day hikers. In some places, barren granite contrasts with crystal blue lakes that are peppered throughout the park. In others areas, red fir and lodgepole pine forests cover a multitude of trails that crisscross through the wilderness, the largest trail being the iconic Pacific Crest Trail.

Typically completed as a three-day backpacking trip, the hike begins at the Fallen Leaf Lake (or Lily Lake) trailhead. After the first, relatively flat fire road section you will climb out of the forest and toward Aloha Lake, an intensely beautiful body of water sitting at over 8,000 feet. Depending on the time of year, this lake can be a little crowded. You will find more secluded campsites if you turn to the right at the trail junction by the lake. If you have the time, you can even continue to Clyde Lake, which will be more secluded.

The next day, follow the PCT until you see signs for Triangle Lake. This spot only has space for two campsites, so be prepared for a quiet night. This day is short, so if you have the time, climb up to Keith's Dome to experience 360-degree views of Lake Tahoe, Lake Aloha, and the two Echo Lakes.

The final day is a bit more grueling. You will descend 2,000 feet in less than 3 miles. The trail is often exposed, and you will be doing a bit of rock hopping to get down. Follow signs for Lily Lake. (Note: This section of trail is not always well maintained, and the trail itself does not show up on many maps. If you have bad knees, you may not want to attempt this. Instead, make the trip an in-and-out.) After leveling off, you will eventually emerge a quarter mile from the parking lot.

Visit the Ranger Station at Pollock Pines to reserve camping zones beforehand, and arrive early to guarantee a spot. You will not need a bear canister in the Desolation Wilderness.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(21 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(78 within a 30 mile radius)

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