West Flank Peak 12960
East Whitney Rock Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Peak 1290 beyond Wanda Lake, Evolution Basin
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Mount Whitney
Carson Range growing shadows during Lake Tahoe Sunset from ridgecrest between Echo Lake and Summit
North of Muir Pass

 

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Permitting Authorities
Index
El Dorado
National Forest
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other trips links
&
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Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
"LTBMU"

Quick Links
All LTBMU Permit
&
Contact Information
South Lake Tahoe Backpacker
Resupply Resources


Long Distance

BACKPACKER RED ALERT


Desolation Wilderness
Permits
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Information

Quick References

A Quick Context
This trail guide covers the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from its Meeks Bay Trailhead in the Lake Tahoe Basin hiking South through Desolation Wilderness and the Meiss Country Roadless Area to exit the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap above Highway 88 running through Carson Pass.

Therefore our focus below is on the Desolation Wilderness and Meiss Country Roadless Area along the Western shore and around the Southwest corner of the Lake Tahoe Basin and its Federal Management Unit.

This Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide can be used to plan local backpacking trips around both Desolation and Meiss Country Roadless Area as well as the much longer Tahoe to Yosemite and Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trips backpacking South on both the TYT and PCT routes.

In either case we have to deal with the LTBMU to get our required permits.

Forest Service offers this 13 page PDF
about
Planning Backpacking Trips in Desolation Wilderness

All Desolation Wilderness Permits Information

Al's Long-Distance Backpacking Permit Advice

 

QUICK REFERENCE INFORMATION
Quick
LTBMU INFORMATION
TRAIL GUIDE
References

Federal Website
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Phone: (530) 543-2600
When the long boring recording begins you can press "1,"then "1" again to go directly to a human with backpacking & Wilderness information.

ALL LTBMU
CONTACT
INFORMATION

ALL LTBMU
PERMIT
INFORMATION


DESOLATION WILDERNESS
PERMIT INFORMATION

MEISS COUNTRY ROADLESS AREA
PERMIT INFORMATION

Meiss Country Roadless Area
LTBMU INFORMATION


USGS
Very Cool Lake Tahoe Facts

LTBMU History

MARK TWAIN
in
Tahoe


Desolation Wilderness
VARIOUS
Federal Website
Links

Desolation Wilderness LTBMU
general info

Desolation Wilderness LTBMU
use info

Desolation Wilderness LTBMU
rules & regs pdf

Desolation Wilderness SierraWild
general info

Desolation Wilderness
PERMITS

recreation.gov

Meeks Bay Trailhead
LTBMU



Tahoe to Yosemite
Trail Guide Information

Tahoe to Yosemite
Trail

INFORMATION

Meeks Bay Trailhead
Introduction
to the
TYT
Backpacking the North Sierra

Meeks Bay
Introduction
to the
TWT
Backpacking the Whole Sierra


TYT trip planning All TYT miles

All Desolation Wilderness
MAPS

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
MILES and ELEVATIONS


Northernmost Trail Guide
TYT
Converges
with
PCT & TRT

Phipps Pass Trail near Middle Velma Lake
PCT-TYT-TRT
Junction

Tahoe Rim-Tahoe Basin

LTBMU
Trailheads

Meeks Bay Trailhead

Echo Summit Trailhead

South Upper Truckee Trailhead

 

Tahoe Rim Trail Association
The "TRT"

Overview
All trailheads
on
Google Map

 

Index

 

On this page

All Lake Tahoe Basin Permits
Contact Information

All Desolation Wilderness
Permit Information Contacts

TYT in LTBMU

Main Attractions
Desolation Wilderness

Meiss Country Roadless Area


Additional Information

Backpacker's Forum
Comments or Questions
about
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit?

Backpacker Resupply
and
Resources

Lake Tahoe Backpacker's Resources

 

W
E
L
C
O
M
E

T
O

TAHOE
T
O

WHITNEY

 

Tahoe to Whitney
National Forest
Permit Pages

Lake Tahoe Basin

El Dorado National Forest

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest

Stanislaus National Forest

Yosemite National Park

 

Local Backpacker
Resupply Resources

Echo Lake Chalet

South Lake Tahoe
Backpacker Resources

 

Local and Long Distance
Hiking South
from
Lake Tahoe

Jurisdiction

Long distance backpackers who plan on hiking South from Lake Tahoe along the main Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail routes, or from any other trail head within the Lake Tahoe Basin are within the jurisdiction of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, the "LTBMU."

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit administers all of the watershed that drains into or feeds Lake Tahoe.

The History
of the
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

All permits for trips beginning anywhere in the Lake Tahoe Basin are drawn from the LTBMU.

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The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
in the
LTBMU

Hiking South out of the Lake Tahoe Basin

Southbound hikers on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail will be in the LTBMU for 41.32 miles from the trailhead at Meeks Bay until climbing out of the South Upper Truckee Headwaters to exit the Lake Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap in the far Southern corner of the Tahoe Basin.
The Carson Gap marks the Southern extent of the Lake Tahoe drainage and the Southern limit of the authority of the LTBMU for Backpackers hiking South on the long trails.

11.5 miles Southwest of the Meeks Bay Trailhead the TYT joins the PCT and TRT routes in the far Northern end of Desolation Wilderness. The TYT, PCT, and TRT share the trail South across the length of Desolation Wilderness and more than half of the Meiss Country Roadless Area to where the TRT turns Northeast at Meiss Cabin and our still unified TYT and PCT proceed South to exit the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

Miles and Trails in the Tahoe Basin
Meeks Bay TYT to PCT-TRT trail junction: 11.5 miles.
TYT-PCT-TRT Junction to our Carson Gap exit from the Tahoe Basin: 29.82 miles.

Meeks Bay to Carson Gap
The TYT across the Tahoe Basin
41.32 miles

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
TYT Miles and Elevations

The unified PCT and TYT cross 29.82 miles of the Tahoe to Yosemite's route's 41.32 miles from Meeks Bay to the Carson Gap together through dense forests, over great granite passes, and around the deep blue lakes bounding the Western shore of Lake Tahoe in Desolation Wilderness and the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

TYT-PCT
Desolation Wilderness
Miles and Elevations

South from the Edge of the Lake Tahoe Basin
From the Carson Gap overlooking Highway 88 we can see Elephant Back and the Round Top-Sisters massif. Our PCT to Ebbetts Pass and our TYT to Lake Alpine pass East and West of these features, respectively.

Our unified PCT/TYT route divides into two very different trails with very different characters South of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Miles and Elevations
South from the Lake Tahoe Basin
Highway 88 to Highway 4
PCT
Carson to Ebbetts Pass
27.88 miles
TYT
Carson Pass to Lake Alpine
26.28 miles

Highway 88 to Highway 4
Trail Guide Index

South from the Lake Tahoe Basin
This guide continues South covering both the PCT and TYT routes South to where they rejoin just inside the Northern boundary of Yosemite National Park for most of their remaining hike South to Tuolumne Meadows across the North Yosemite Backcountry.

The only variation between the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails across North Yosemite is where the TYT takes a different route over Bailey Ridge than the PCT. The TYT crosses via Tilden Lake up higher on the ridgeline than the PCT's lower route around Wilmer Lake.

The Permit Situation on the Ground
The Standard System
Potential Tahoe to Yosemite Trail hikers and anyone else interested in backpacking Desolation Wilderness must deal with the fact that Desolation Wilderness is often the busiest Wilderness Area in the United States.

This has induced Desolation Wilderness to institute a web-based permit registration system that is basically the same one used by Yosemite and Hoover Wilderness. These permit systems are administered through the Recreation.Gov and SierraWild sites.

Reservations Required?
YUP
This means that anyone hiking out of Desolation Wilderness must make sure to seriously consider having reservations for their backpacking dates, and certainly checking with the LTBMU about the permit situation at their desired trailhead for their Tahoe to Yosemite or Mount Whitney backpacking trip as long in advance of their potential start date as possible.

That would be six months in advance, which is the advance time one may make reservations for desired backpacking dates through the reservation system.

Fifty percent of the permits allotted for Desolation Wilderness zones and trailheads are made available for reservations six months in advance, while the other fifty percent of permits for a given date are available at the permit stations on the date of departure.

It is wise to assume that mid-Summer weekends and holiday dates are highly sought-after through both the reservation system and at the trailheads.


Long Distance
&
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
PERMITS

I have always gotten the LTBMU to send me a detailed custom permit for my Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacking trips. They don't like to send out permits anymore, and generally will not do it.

I am generally hitch-hiking to Meeks Bay from the San Francisco Bay Area to start a very long trip requiring a detailed, complex permit that is really hard to get correct through the reservation system.

So I call the main office in South Lake Tahoe, and they've always cut me a break and sent me the TYT wilderness and fire permits covering the complex routes I hike along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail and on down to the Whitney Portal, through the mail as far in advance as possible.

A big cause of my concern is the confusion of the reservation system with permits that extend far outside
of their normal area of concern.

My other reason is that it is really hard for me to get to one of their permit stations to pick up a pre-arranged permit while taking public transportation and hitch-hiking to the trailhead. It is even more difficult for me to expect to get a permit the day I am leaving at the Meeks Bay Permit Station. That may not happen, due to excess hiker traffic exceeding zone and trailhead quotas.

So I call them up and sweet talk them into sending me my custom, complex Tahoe to Yosemite or Tahoe to Whitney permit through the mail.

Hitch-hiking there, and arriving late in the day expecting to get a permit may well put me over the daily "quota" out of that trailhead into this hiking zone.

Make Sure about your Permit Six Months in Advance
We've put in too much time, effort, and planning for our Tahoe to Yosemite backpacking trip (if we are not hiking the whole Tahoe to Whitney) not to have our permit "in-hand" when arriving at the Meeks Bay Trailhead, whatever it takes.

I only obtain custom permits from the Ranger Station for long backpacking trips leaving the Tahoe Basin. We must use the standard reservation system if our trips through the Meeks Bay Trailhead remain within the Tahoe Basin.

Our Tahoe to Whitney permit needs to specifically cite around fifty campsites in every national forest, park, and wilderness between Tahoe and Whitney. One of the front office folks usually fills me out a custom permit over the phone or I send them my itinerary.
I generally get a permit that has a second page attached to the standard permit listing all my campsites and dates, and they send it to me long before my departure date.

This saves a tremendous amount of hassle with the online permit system, and at the trailhead.

Fee Area
The LTBMU charges various fees for Desolation Wilderness permits. Check the permits information pages for specifics. The LTBMU DOES NOT charge fees for long distance backpacking starting out of Desolation Wilderness.

The LTBMU waives their permit fees for trips starting in Desolation Wilderness that cross more than one National Forest. If we are only staying in Desolation Wilderness or remaining within the boundaries of the LTBMU we pay a fee. If we are hiking South into the El Dorado and points further South, out of the LTBMU, permits are free. Yeah!

Many Desolation Wilderness Trailheads
We can see on the Desolation Wilderness Map (click the black dots for detailed maps-the red dots for trail guide info) that there are many trailheads leading to the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails from Highway 89 running North and South along the Western Shore of Lake Tahoe.
We can start our Tahoe to Yosemite or Tahoe to Whitney hike out of the trailhead of our choice, our favorite local trailhead, or the classic start point of the TYT out of Meeks Bay.
Just take note of the fact that all of these Desolation Wilderness Trailheads are busy during Summertime, that all have limited access due to permit restrictions triggered by quotas, and that all access to Desolation Wilderness requires some degree of forethought to assure acquiring a permit for our preferred departure date.

Standard Practice?
It is wise to reserve our permit as far in advance as practically possible for any local or long distance backpacking trip starting anywhere in the Desolation Wilderness, and especially if we are starting our long distance Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacking trip out of Meeks Bay during mid-Summer.
This forethought also applies to backpackers who's short backpacking trips will remain in the Desolation Wilderness. My main concern as a long distance backpacker is to establish a firm start date by obtaining my permit so I can properly time the sending of my resupply packages with my start date.

The ability to obtain reservations-permits from Desolation Wilderness will factor into, and ultimately be the final factor determining our start date.

Our permit is the final product of working out or food needs, our itinerary, and our resupply plan. Once we decide to begin our hike to Tuolumne Meadows or Mount Whitney through Desolation Wilderness we should call the LTBMU and inquire about long distance permits out of Meeks Bay.

Long and short distance backpackers both need to take the popularity and resulting permit restrictions and quotas at Desolation Wilderness into consideration when planning the TYT out of Desolation, especially if you are hiking short backpacking trips remaining within Desolation.

If we do not hit up the LTBMU far in advance we may not get permits for our desired departure date. If we don't, or don't want to deal with the hassle of obtaining Desolation Wilderness we will have no problem at all getting permits for our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacking trip beginning out of Meiss Country Roadless Area Trailheads.

Continuing South of Desolation Wilderness
Meiss Country Roadless Area
2 miles South of Lower Echo Lake along the combined TYT and PCT we pass through the Echo Summit trailhead on Highway 50 into the Meiss Country Roadless Area.
The Echo Summit Trailhead on Highway 50 is an excellent potential Northern portal into the Meiss Country Roadless Area (map) for short backpacking trips out to Showers Lake, as well as good start point for Tahoe to Whitney hikers who want to avoid the crowds and permitting hassles at Desolation Wilderness, or those who cannot get a permit to hike through Desolation Wilderness.
We can move our starting trailhead 30 trail miles South of Meeks Bay to begin our trip out of the Echo Summit Trailhead.
Hiking South through the Echo Summit Trailhead marks the beginning of our final 12 miles of trail in the Lake Tahoe Basin. It's actually 10.65 miles to the pond marking our exit point through the Carson Gap, to be exact, with the remaining 1.39 miles covering our hike down to Carson Pass along the PCT, if we did not take one of the two TYT shortcut routes to Woods Lake.

Fire and Permits
Meiss Country Roadless Area
The Meiss Country Roadless Ares does NOT require backpacking permits, but it does require fire permits, even for camp stoves. As of the date of this writing during the Summer of 2013 fires are banned in the Tahoe Basin and along the whole length of the John Muir Trail. I expect these bans to spread and become a permanent fixture in all National Forests and Parks along the Sierra Crest and flanks as Spring turns into Summer.

Crazy Times
Fire conditions are historically crazy levels in the deep dry forests around the West shore of Lake Tahoe, as well as along the whole Western flank of the Sierra. The Forest Service's "fire permits for all" program was designed to do all they could to keep backpackers aware of the fact of crazy high fire danger conditions.

That was before this new, much drier seasonal weather pattern fully emerged. Over the past few years the forests and parks up and down the Sierra Nevada have moved towards completely prohibiting fires.

Though I don't make fires, I think it would be unfair to impose a blanket fire ban across the High Sierra. Most folks see the campfire as an icon of backpacking, and would be disappointed without one. I think that's crap, but that's just my opinion. I prefer darkness. Darkness allows full observation, while fires do no more than blind you, and draw outside attention to the fire.
Fires create a bubble of light that we cannot see outside of.

My attention is tuned to the sky, the terrain, and all the things running and flying around them.
I sit quietly and watch...

Fire bans should only begin when Spring's wetness departs.

People are freaking out and making laws to make up for over-development,
rather than stopping the irresponsible growth and over-development that created this tinderbox in the first place.

People think they make a few laws, then continue on with "business as usual." That is not going to work.

All the forests we have dried out are going to burn, and that's all there is to this issue. None of the ill-intentioned and stupid things we do to each other and the Earth do not just go away.

These actions collect up in ecosystems as they do in cultures, until they can take no more, and either we stop our stupidity, or our ecosystems and cultures will radically change or break.

The Long View
IF we are starting a long backpacking trip South from the Echo Summit or South Upper Truckee Trailheads in the Meiss Country Roadless Area we must draw a permit from the LTBMU, even though the LTBMU does not require permits for entering or camping in Meiss Country.
We will need a permit for the forests and parks we subsequently hike through to our South
after departing the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

The National Forests and Wilderness area we hike through South of the Lake Tahoe Basin will require a permit from the Forest administering our starting trailhead. That would be the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, if we start out of Echo Summit or the South Upper Truckee Trailheads.

LTBMU Staff is Real Helpful
Once we explain our circumstances and situation to the folks in the LTBMU office, either being why we need a permit for Meiss Country when that area does not require one, or why they should send us our custom Tahoe to Yosemite to Whitney permit starting out of Meeks Bay, they will generally expedite our custom backpacking permit specifying a start point beginning in the LTBMU and ending at our specified destination far to the South in the High Sierra.

I have uniformly talked to really really nice folks manning the phones in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit's various offices. Nice folks who want to help you get your permit.

Remember, we catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Remember, folks judge all backpackers by the behavior of each.

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Starting South
from other
Lake Tahoe Trailheads

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is the permitting authority for all long distance backpacking trips originating from the Meeks Bay, Echo Summit, or the South Upper Truckee trail heads described in this trail guide. These are excellent options for beginning long-distance backpacking trips South to Yosemite and on to Whitney, or for short trips around the Lake Tahoe Basin. (view trailheads)

You can start your long distance Southbound backpacking trip from your favorite trailhead in the Lake Tahoe Basin! If you start your Tahoe to Yosemite or Tahoe to Whitney trip anywhere in the Lake Tahoe Basin it is a valid "Tahoe to..." (fill in your destination) backpacking trip.

We don't have to start at Meeks Bay to hike from Tahoe to Yosemite along the classic route. We can put together our own custom routes from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite tying together different bits of the TYT and PCT routes, and further South beyond Tuolumne Meadows we can mix up the JMT with the PCT and other alternative routes hiking South from Tuolumne down to Mount Whitney.
We are only limited by our imagination, our fitness, our funds, and our time constraints. I did not say this would be easy.

But it's going to be a heck of a lot of real fun.

The LTBMU is a single authority and is not sub-divided into individual Ranger Districts, as are most National Forests. Backpackers enter the LTBMU when they enter the Tahoe Basin.

 

Federal Web Sites

LTBM

LTBMU
All Permits Page

SierraWild
Desolation Wilderness Information

Recreation.GOV
Desolation Wilderness Permit/Use Rules

Recreation.GOV
Desolation Wilderness Online Permit Ordering Information

Desolation Wilderness Permit Notes and Information
Just like in Yosemite National Park and other highly popular areas, 50% of the permits available for Desolation Wilderness during its quota period are available for reservation six months before our start date.

2015 Backpacking Calendar

Desolation requires day hiker and overnight backpacker permits year round.

Desolation Wilderness requires fire permits for camp stoves and lighters too.

Desolation Wilderness is a fee area for backpackers!

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Within the LTBMU

11.5 miles South of Meeks Bay the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail intersects with the Tahoe Rim and Pacific Crest Trails, which will accompany our Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route South to Meiss Cabin and the Carson Gap, respectively.

30.71 miles South of Meeks Bay the Tahoe to Yosemite, the Pacific Crest and the Tahoe Rim Trails exit Desolation Wilderness through Lower Echo Lake.

Two miles south of Echo Lake the Southbound backpacker enters the Meiss Country Roadless Area when passing through Echo Summit at Highway 50 on the way South to exit the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

At the Carson Gap the Southbound hiker exits the Lake Tahoe Basin after 41.32 miles of hiking through the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, if you started your trip at the Meeks Bay trailhead. Wherever you started, passing South through the Carson Gap marks the end of your hike in the Tahoe Basin.

On Down the Trail

Passing South through the Carson Gap the Southbound backpacker on the Pacific Crest Trail will be entering the Toiyabe National Forest administered Eastern section of the Mokelumne Wilderness (mostly, though we will also hike through a bit of the El Dorado at first), while the Tahoe to Yosemite backpacker will enter the El Dorado NF administered Western section of the Mokelumne Wilderness for the majority of the distance to Lake Alpine.
At Camp Irene the Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite hiker exits the El Dorado by crossing the North fork of the Mokelumne River to enter the Stanislaus National Forest. The Southbound PCT hiker stays pretty much within the Toiyabe National forest all the way down to the Yosemite boundary.

But first, both Southbound routes pass through the tiny Carson Pass Management Area when exiting the LTBMU along each of their respective routes.

If you're backpacking trip South on the Pacific Crest or Tahoe to Yosemite Trail routes start at the Carson Pass Management Area, you should consult with the Amador Ranger District of the El Dorado National Forest prior to departing.
They will tell you if the Carson Pass Cabin is open and issuing permits, and its hours of its operation. Or they will issue your permit. The Amador Ranger District administers the Carson Pass Management Area.

Here's some basic information about the Carson Pass Management Area.

The backpacker starting the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail South from the Carson Pass Management Area should consult the El Dorado National Forest, if all else fails, as the El Dorado NF manages the Amador Ranger District.

Overall

This Trail guide, besides covering the Pacific Crest Trail between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, also explores the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail, the John Muir Trail, and the various trail options that parallel those routes between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney that you may find interesting. As you can see, backpackers have many trail options hiking South out of Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney. Hiking options continue to open up down the trail.

Remember

Although parts of the LTBMU do not even require backpacking permits for trips within their limits, all long distance backpackers must obtain a valid permit from their starting trail head's Administrative Unit, the LTBMU in this case, even if the area you start from does not require a permit. Your long trip does require permitting.

Permits are required for legal travel down the trail after you exit the LTBMU and begin to pass through all of the subsequent Wildernesses and National Forests your happy feet will hike through on your way to Yosemite and on down to Mount Whitney.

I only say this because one time it took a long while to explain to the LTBMU person on the phone that I really did need a permit for my long trip starting out of the Meiss Country Roadless Area, though I did not need permitting for the short time I would be hiking across Meiss Country.

They sent me the required permit.

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NOTE
All AREAS IN THE LTBMU REQUIRE FIRE PERMITS FOR CAMP STOVES

back: permitting authorities index all Lake Tahoe trail heads next: El Dorado National forest

The Main Attractions
in the
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Lake Tahoe Basin
Trail Heads

 

The
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

through
The
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Meeks Bay Trailhead
Into What?
This trail guide covers Southbound long-distance backpacking trips beginning from the Meeks Bay Trailhead of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail located at about the center of the Western Shore of Lake Tahoe.

We cover two other trailheads feeding the TYT, PCT, and TRT in the Southwestern Tahoe Basin.

These are the Meeks Bay, Echo Summit, and South Upper Truckee Trailheads.

The main reason for starting in the Tahoe Basin is that the Sierra Nevada wrapping around the West Shore of Lake Tahoe is the Northern bookend of the High Altitude Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Altitudes drop precipitously North of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The North Sierra
Our first goal hiking South is exploring both the TYT and PCT routes down to Tuolumne Meadows.

The Whole Enchilada
Our ultimate destination is Mount Whitney, the Southern Bookend of the High Sierra Mountain Range. We will follow the JMT South from TM, and explore the PCT and other alternative routes to the standard JMT on our way down to Mt. Whitney.

The vast majority of the high altitude portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range lays between Tahoe and Whitney.

Various Start Points
Though I have chosen three trailheads (Meeks Bay, the Echo Summit, and South Upper Truckee trail heads) to represent a variety of potential start points in the Tahoe Basin, you can begin your Tahoe to Whitney backpacking trip through your favorite Tahoe Basin trailhead.

Yet the Meeks Bay Trailhead is a classic start point for the classic route of the TYT.

Tahoe Trailheads on a Google Road Map

The Point?
The point is to hike from one end of the High Sierra to the other. Where you specifically begin in the Tahoe Basin is up to you.

Nonetheless, all of our Lake Tahoe trail heads originate in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

The Permits
Call the LTBMU South Lake Tahoe office for more information or to order permits through the mail at
(530) 543-2600
.
(more contact info)

When the long boring recording begins you can press "1,"then "1" again to go directly to a human with backpacking & Wilderness information.

Desolation Wilderness
Meeks Bay

Our Long (and short) distance backpacking trips beginning at the Meeks Bay trail head almost immediately enter the Desolation Wilderness (fed site) , which is a fee area, and requires a payment for our permit if our backpacking trip remains within Desolation Wilderness or the greater LTBMU.

Desolation Wilderness is not cheap!

If your backpacking trip spans more than one National Forest the LTBMU does not charge for permits that start in the Desolation Wilderness. Yeah!

Call the LTBMU South Lake office at
(530) 543-2600
for more information.

When the long boring recording begins you can press "1,"then "1" again to go directly to a human with backpacking & Wilderness information.

Fed Website Information
Meeks Bay Trailhead

Meiss Country Roadless Area
Echo Summit and Meyers

Backpacking permits, let alone fees, are not required for short distance backpacking trips beginning at the Echo Summit or the South Upper Truckee trail heads if the backpacker remains within the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

Though backpacking permits are not required, fire permits are required for the use of a stove in Meiss Country.

Going Long
Long-distance backpackers beginning out of the Meiss Country Roadless Area must obtain a permit to legally cross into the subsequent Wildernesses and National Forests necessary to reach Tuolumne Meadows.

Permits must be obtained from the Administrative Authority of their starting trailhead.
This permit will then be good for travel through all subsequent forests, wilderness or special zones and areas cited on the permit.

Except Half Dome.

The LTBMU administers all the terrain around Lake Tahoe including any terrain that drains into Lake Tahoe.

There is more information about Desolation Wilderness and Meiss Country to the right.

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Desolation Wilderness
vs.
Meiss Country Roadless Area

Heavy Permits & Reservations Restrictions
vs.
No Permits Required

Desolation Wilderness
Starting the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail out of the Meeks Bay Trailhead requires we obtain a permit from the LTBMU for backpacking in the
Desolation Wilderness Area. (Contacts)

A Very Busy Place
Desolation Wilderness is among the busiest Wilderness Areas in the United States, if not the busiest. This has induced the use of a reservation and quota system similar to Yosemite's.

Backpackers will find that the permit restrictions, quotas, and the reservation system for Desolation Wilderness can make permits hard to get.

Ironically, the Meiss Country Roadless Area, located a short distance South of Desolation Wilderness across Highway 50 requires no backpacking permits at all.

All Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Trail
Map

A Big PDF from the LTBMU-Forest Service

Desolation Wilderness West Shore Hiking
Map

LTBMU-Forest Service pdf.

Though this large Forest Service document above does not provide a detailed trail map, it is helpful and has lots of info about West Shore Backpacking beyond Desolation Wilderness.

Desolation Wilderness Backpacking
Map

TahoeWhitney USGS 30 minute map:

A HUGE map. Click along BLACK DOTTED route for detailed underlying topo trail maps, and click the RED DOTS for that location's trail guide entry.

Desolation Wilderness Maps
Index

TahoeWhitney USGS 7.5 and 30

A list of all the Tahoe to Whitney maps covering Desolation Wilderness.

Meiss Country Roadless Area
Federal Page:
Meiss Roadless Area Information
Meiss Country Roadless Area is a triangular wedge of terrain in the Southwestern corner of the Tahoe Basin South of Desolation Wilderness leading us to the Southern exit of the PCT & TYT routes from the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap.

Meiss Country is bounded by Highway 50 on its Northern end, Highway 89 on its Eastern flank, and Highway 88 to the South.

Meiss Country Roadless Area
Trail MAP

USGS 7.5 minute custom TW trail map

Meiss Country requires no backpacking permits, but ironically requires a fire permit.
Nonetheless, we will need to get a backpacking permit for all of our backpacking trips beginning through Meiss Country Trailheads that continue into other national forests or wilderness areas outside of the Meiss Country.
And we will need a fire permit for trips that remain within Meiss Country.

I believe fire permits will become irrelevant in the High Sierra. I expect open fires to be permanently banned in the Tahoe Basin and along both flanks of the whole Sierra Crest.

Serious Fire Hazard
The reason for this is quite simple: the depth of the forest floor litter has built up to critical depths from Christmas Valley to Tahoe City in all the deep forests along the whole Western Shore of Lake Tahoe.

All the forests up and down the Sierra flanks are beetle-damaged, dried-out, and ready to burn.

The buildup of forest floor litter wrapping around the West shore of Lake Tahoe represents the potential for a massive conflagration.
Now, in 2015 we add the specter of the new, drier weather pattern that is emerging over the West Pacific to the build up of forest floor liter.

This new weather pattern, that we are currently mis-characterzing as "a long deep drought," has been steadily evolving for 25+ years.
During the past 15 years the weather pattern over the whole North Pacific has gradually changed into something completely different.
Over the past five years these changes in the length and character of the seasons, the directions of their prevailing winds, and the timing of the transitions between seasons have made the final transformation to a whole new seasonal cycle within a whole new North Pacific weather system.

We are currently mis-characterzing this as "a long deep drought,"

It is not a drought, and we had better get used to it, as this is the "New Normal."
This new weather pattern is not departing. It is rapidly deepening.

It Will Happen
I can easily visualize the whole tinder-dry and bug and blight damaged forest apron around the whole Western Shore of Lake Tahoe from Christmas Valley to Tahoe City going up in flames.

This will be the inevitable result of decades of fire suppression combined with the steadily drying atmospheric conditions.

The homeowners living within and along these ready-to-burn forests are freaking out, as well they should!

Nowadays I consider fire danger while hiking the Sierra, and am always plotting potential escape routes as I hike along, and especially when I smell smoke.

Meiss Country Roadless Area map,
Sucky Fed pdf

Meiss Country Roadless Area Map,
Excellent Tahoe to Whitney custom USGS 7.5 topo map


Meiss Country Trailheads
The Echo Summit and South Upper Truckee trailheads are both excellent entry points into the Meiss Roadless area that we use as portals to the main thru-trails connecting the Tahoe Basin to Yosemite and on down to Mount Whitney.

Year Round Fun
The Meiss Roadless Area is also an excellent place for short backpacking trips to hone both our Summer and Winter backpacking skills.

Both Desolation Wilderness and the Meiss Country Roadless Area offer unique backpacking experiences for long and short distance backpackers, as well as day hikers.
Meiss Country is just much easier to access.

Scope of our permit
A Long Distance hiker's permit issued by the Ranger District of our starting trailhead authorizes backpacking and camping in all subsequent National Forests, National Parks, Wilderness Areas and other Special Zones that we specified on our permit.

Check the contact information on this page and call the LTBMU for more information about obtaining a permit for long distance backpacking trips beginning from Meiss Country Roadless Area Trailheads.

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Desolation Wilderness boundary sign, LTBMU.
   
Phipps Pass in Desolation Wilderness. Racing the Sunset over Tahoe for Campsite
Tahoe Sunset from above Echo Lake

Contact Information, Numbers, Links, Office Locations and
PERMIT INFORMATION
for
DESOLATION WILDERNESS

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Office Locations/Contact Information
and
DESOLATION WILDERNESS PERMIT INFORMATION

Everything
You Need to Know
to

Obtain
Desolation Wilderness Permits

Lake Tahoe Basin
Management Unit

LOCAL Desolation Wilderness Information

#1
Study
the Rules and Regulations Below

Federal
Reservation Sites

CENTRAL Desolation Wilderness
Reservation System Information

#2
Order
Permits from the System Below.

Desolation Wilderness
LTBMU Information

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit



Desolation Wilderness
LTBMU Permits Information
Basic rules and permit pickup points


Desolation Wilderness
LTBMU Use Information

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

 

Desolation Wilderness
All
Permits

LTBMU
General Information
Page

SierraWild
Desolation Wilderness
Information

 

Recreation.GOV
Desolation Wilderness
Permit/Use Rules

 

Recreation.GOV
Desolation Wilderness
Online Permit Ordering

Review all the information above before ordering your permits!

National Forest Complete Guide, PDF
Planning Backpacking Trips in Desolation Wilderness

Desolation Wilderness
IMPORTANT
Permit Notes and Information

50% of the permits available for Desolation Wilderness during its quota period (Spring-Summer, see the Desolation Wilderness information links above) are available for registration six months before our desired backpacking date.

The other 50% of daily permits are available daily from the permit and ranger stations.

Trailheads feed into zones that are restricted by quotas.
Only so many backpackers are allowed into quota zones per day through all the trailheads that feed a zone.

Desolation Wilderness requires day hikers and overnight backpackers have permits year round.

Desolation Wilderness requires fire permits for camp stoves and lighters too.

Desolation Wilderness is a fee area for backpackers!

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Lake Tahoe Rangers Contact Information

Federal Web Site
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

South Lake Tahoe Rangers

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Main Office

U.S. Forest Service
Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Forest Supervisor's Office
Nancy J. Gibson
35 College Drive
South Lake Tahoe,
CA
96150

(530) 543-2600

When the long boring recording begins you can press "1,"then "1" again to go directly to a human with backpacking & Wilderness information.

I've always had good results talking to the folks at LTBMU. They are always ready to make long distance backpacking trips happen.

Suzanne is especially helpful and friendly, as is Gay.

(See the Google Map Below to locate the LTBMU Main Office in South Lake Tahoe.)

NOTE:
Critical Permit ISSUES

Seasonal Offices

Taylor Creek Visitor Center

The Taylor Creek Visitor Center is three miles North of the town of South Lake Tahoe on Hwy. 89 (Also known as Emerald Bay Road).

It is a right turn (toward the lake), just past the Tallac Historic Site turnoff.

(530) 543-2674

 

Meeks Bay Seasonal Office
No Information available

Call the office in South Lake Tahoe for information on seasonal offices.

(530) 543-2600

 

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North Shore Rangers

LTBMU North Tahoe

Forest Service Office
855 Alder Ave.
Incline Village,
NV
89450

(775) 831-0914

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

FED RESOURCES
Maps, Miles, Elevations

National Forest Service
Map Links

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit
Maps Page

The Whole LTBMU pdf
A reasonable Trail Map. HUGE FILE.

South Lake Tahoe pdf
Roads, Campgrounds, basic boundaries.

Desolation Wilderness Map, pdf
Zones and Trailheads for Quotas.

Meiss Country Roadless Area map pdf
Lousy Fed Trail Map.

 

Tahoe to Whitney
Trail Guide

Maps

Desolation Wilderness
30 minute custom USGS TW Trail Map

Meiss Country Roadless Area
7.5 minute custom USGS TW Trail Map

 

Lake Tahoe Basin
Backpacking Map Index

 

Miles and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit

Echo Summit to Carson Pass

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South Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources
The Marker for the Main Ranger Station in South Lake Tahoe is to the left of the marker pointing at the Hwy 50 emblem.

Other Great Trips in the LTBMU:
Too many to list!

We don't have to just backpack through the LTBMU to points further South. We can enjoy many years of short backpacking trips through the many miles of beautiful forests, valleys, mountains and meadows that surround Lake Tahoe.

Opportunity Walks

Tahoe Rim Trail Organization
The ultimate Lake Tahoe backpacking trip

Echo Summit Trailhead
to Carson Pass: from Echo Summit we can craft many short trips into the Meiss Roadless Area

South Upper Truckee Trailhead
to Round Top Lake and Back, mid-winter. Lake Tahoe is a Winter Wonderland for backpackers

Desolation Wilderness
Meek Bay Trailhead

Excursions or Long Distance
Busy in mid-Summer, but fairly quiet in Spring and Fall, and quiet during Winter.

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High Sierra National Forests, Parks, and Wilderness Areas

National Forests and Wilderness in California
Map Credit: Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, "A Guide to National Forest Wilderness in California."
Large
High Sierra
National Forest Map

Explore the Lake Tahoe Basin!

Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources

Trailhead

Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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Bear at the Silver King ford Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney
Our guide to the Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, the Pacific Crest and the John Muir Trails
Coyote at Round Top Lake on Ice
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail