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Desolation Wilderness

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General Information

Description - Because of its beauty and accessibility Desolation Wilderness is per acre, the most heavily used wilderness area in the country. Desolation Wilderness is 12.5 miles long and 8 miles and is accessed by 15 named and numbered trailheads under a quota system.

Attractions - Desolation contains 63,960 acres of subalpine forests, glacial lakes and valleys, and granite peaks. A portion of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail/Tahoe Rim Trail passes through the area.

All persons entering Desolation must obtain a wilderness permit all year-round. Day hikers may self-register at the trailheads, but overnight users must obtain the permits (fee charged) in person. Since Desolation is so popular, a wilderness permit quota system is in place for overnight campers. You can make a reservation for overnight permits. Fees are charged for both reservations and camping.

Recreation - As in all wilderness areas, travel is limited to foot or horseback access. Mountain bikes are not allowed. Campfires are prohibited to allow deteriorated sites to recover to a more natural condition.

Climate - A Mediterranean type climate extends over most of the Forest with warm, dry summers and cold, wet winters. Weather can change rapidly during all seasons of the year. Elevation plays a major role in temperature and precipitation. This precipitation falls mainly from October through April. At higher elevations, it comes mostly in the form of snow. A snowpack from 5-10 feet or more is usually present from December to May at elevations above 6,500 feet. Winter temperatures below zero and summer temperatures above 100 degrees indicate the normal seasonal spread.

Clouds can build up during the summer to produce spectacular thunderstorm activity. It is wise to pack for any season with clothing that can be "layered", ready to peel off or add on as the thermometer dictates. Always include some kind of rain gear.

Location - Desolation Wilderness lies to the southwest of Lake Tahoe and north of Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
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Filed By: Dan
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Awesome scenic hiking. The farther you stay from the tahoe intrances the less people you'll see. Check out Clyde lake and Phipps pass. At Echo lake off Hwy 80 you can take a shuttle boat across the lake to start your pack trip. A good 35 mile loop can be started from there. Go to lake aloha, over mosquito pass and head N along the Rubicon....Just before campers flat go E. on the Velma lakes trail, circle around and head back south toward Dicks and Gilmore lakes. Pass lake susie and you're almost back where you started. I advise making the climb up Dicks peak. Great view of Lake Tahoe.

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Additional Information:
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit - Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe's beautiful, sapphire-blue waters straddle the California-Nevada state line. The lake's elevation averages 6,225 ft, and surrounding peaks reach heights of up to 10,880 ft.
Lake Tahoe Region - Lake Tahoe lies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, straddling the California-Nevada state line. It is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the United States, offering almost endless recreation opportunities.
Pacific Ranger District - Chalked full of outdoor recreations, visitors are engulfed by the Sierra Nevada viewscapes.

Delolation Wilderness - Official agency Website


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