Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Lower and Upper Echo Lakes.
Dropping down to Upper and Lower Echo Lakes South of Lake Aloha

 

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Backpacking
Upper Echo Lake

Hiking South through the Desolation Wilderness Boundary on The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail

 

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Trail
Guide

Section
INDEX

North

Jncts South
of
Lake Aloha

South

Lower
Echo Lake
to
Echo Summit

NORTH
Topo Map


SOUTH
Topo map

Maps
Index

Miles
&
Elevations
Miles
&
Elevations
INDEX
Lake Tahoe
Basin
PERMITS
Local Weather

All Sierra Weather
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Wilderness PERMITS
all
pages

Upper and Lower Echo Lakes

Overlooking Echo Lakes from the South.

Final drop down to the Tamarack Lake trail junction before exiting Desolation Wilderness.

Beyond the Wilderness Boundary we can see Upper and Lower Echo Lakes. Lower Echo Lake Marina visible past the trailhead is visible on far side of Lower Echo Lake.

Development around Echo Lakes preclude them from the wilderness areas.

Dicks Pass to Echo Lakes
15 minute backpacking MAP
South Desolation Wilderness
30 minute backpacking MAP

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

 

Meeks Bay to Echo Lake Forum

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Upper and Lower Echo Lakes

View Southeast across Echo Lakes, Desolation Wilderness.
Dropping down to a longer view across the Echo Lakes.

Tamarack Lake trail junction

Tamarack Lake trail junction, Desolation Wilderness.

Tamarack Lake trail junction. We're .46 of a mile North of our exit Southbound straight through this junction to the Eastern Wilderness boundary on our way down to the West shore of Upper Echo Lake.

Since passing South of Lake Aloha our Southbound route on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail has pointed East-Southeast by the compass.

The trail South by the Compass from this trail junction, or a Southbound backpacker's Right turn from this junction leads a tenth of a mile first to Tamarack Lake, then Ralston and Cagwin Lakes a third of a mile beyond.

25.2 miles South from the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
3.69 miles South to the Echo Lake Trailhead.

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Desolation Wilderness Boundary

Desolation Wilderness boundary above Echo Lakes.

Exiting the East end of Desolation Wilderness.

Here we also find the trail junction leading Northwest to Triangle and Lost Lakes. Beyond Triangle Lake the trail climbs over to Lilly Lake and the trailhead off the Southwest shore of Fallen Leaf Lake.

Dicks Pass to Echo Lakes
15 minute backpacking MAP

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Exiting the Desolation Wilderness

Our downhill run from the North shore of Lake Aloha is coming to an end at Upper Echo Lake.

When we reach a point just above lake level the trail will begin tracking along the gently rolling trail along the East side of the Lakes.

Crossing the Desolation Wilderness boundary signaled that "mixed use" has begun, here represented by the really expensive Summer homes ringing Lower Echo Lake.

Pretty fancy.

Video
The Length of Echo Lake, North to South, exiting the Desolation Wilderness

Video: Hiking from above the North side of Echo Lake to above Echo Lake on its South side.

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North side of Echo Lake
Desolation Wilderness

The Video above spans the length of the Echo Lakes from the last (southbound) trail junction for Tamarack Lake to just past the Echo Chalet. The Pictures on this page just cover the North side of Echo Lake. The following pages follow the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail as it follows the Echo Lake's Eastern Shore South to the Echo Lake trailhead.

Tamarack Lake trail junction
North of Upper Echo Lake
Elevation
7800' feet.

Echo Lakes Elevation
7414' feet

Mileage
25.2 miles South from the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
3.69 miles South to the Echo Lake Trailhead.
5.69 miles to Echo Summit Trailhead.

note: mileage sign at Echo Lake trailhead states: Aloha Lake 5 miles. This is incorrect according to my measurements and experience. Check the map and hike the trail to verify my observation: ALWAYS Double-Check your (and my) mileages. Trail distances are constantly changing as the trails are being regularly rerouted.

mileages and elevations

Upper and Lower Echo Lake with Christmas Valley in the background

Echo Lakes at our feet.

The two major rock formations sitting beyond the low ridge wrapping around the marina on the far shore of Lower Echo Lake are sitting above Southbound Highway 89 in Christmas Valley, which is also the valley where the South Upper Truckee runs out of the Meiss Country Roadless Area. Christmas Valley was once known as Long Valley.

Our trail South from the far side of the lake crosses over that low ridge to cross Highway 50 (on the other side of that ridge) just below the West side of Echo Summit. We'll hike South through the Echo Summit Trailhead to follow along the top of the ridgeline at the top of the Western wall of Christmas Valley, which also makes up the Western edge of the Tahoe Basin as well.

At the top of Christmas Valley we will cross Meiss Meadow to depart the Tahoe Basin through the gap in the Tahoe Rim where the South Upper Truckee begins.

Backpacking down to Lower Echo Lake from the North

View from North of the Echo Lakes

Upper and Lower Echo Lake Boat Taxi Sign, North side of Echo Lake
Upper and Lower Echo Lake as we drop down towards lake level. Echo Lake Boat Taxi sign
Boat Taxi sign, close up Echo Lake Boat Taxi Dock, North side of Echo Lake

Echo Lake Boat Taxi sign close up

Boat Taxi

Echo Lake Boat Taxi Dock.
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Echo Chalet
Boat Taxi information

Echo Lake Chalet
Resupply information

Heading South around to the North side of Upper Echo Lake

Cool Dudes on trail, Best Break of the Day Echo Lake from lake level
Kicking it with Eric, John, and Will.  You meet the BEST people on the trails, so stop and kick it with the boys when the opportunity arises. Down to Upper Echo Lake. View Southwest.
Approaching Upper Echo Lake.

Scenes hiking past Upper Echo Lake

enterning trail along East side of Echo Lake
Echo Lake near sunset
Running to beat the lengthening shadows, Echo Lake. The well-worn trail around the North side of Echo Lake.

North: Trail Junctions S of Aloha                                                               South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Upper Echo Lake
East End of The Desolation Wilderness

We have come to the end of the Desolation Wilderness Section of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail the second full day out of Meeks Bay.

The end of the Desolation Wilderness is evident from the buildings and boat taxi dock, and the luxury "cabins" we see ringing the Echo Lakes. If you are on a Meeks Bay to Echo Lake backpacking trip, the end of your trip is near.

Camping Options

Continuing South through the Lower Echo Lake trailhead, offers few premium campsite opportunities between the end of the Desolation Wilderness Area and Frog Pond. Frog Pond is roughly a mile and a quarter South of the Echo Summit Trailhead. Our best campsite option to the South sits about 6.73 miles past the Echo Summit Trailhead at Showers Lake in the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

In any case, through hikers should consider the time of day when hiking through the Echo Lake and Echo Summit area. This is because there are around 13 miles between excellent campsites at Lake Aloha to the North of Echo Lake, and Showers Lake to the South of Echo Summit Trailhead.

There are plenty of good campsites just off the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail between the South shore of Lake Aloha and the Desolation Wilderness boundary. We plan our hike through this section so we can easily get from campsite to campsite across the stretch of civilization from Echo Lakes to Echo Summit.

Hiking Plan

Check out my Hiking Plan for properly timing my visits to the Echo Lake Chalet to Resupply.

As you will see on the pages ahead, the last time through here I continued my mad rush for mileage until utter darkness forced me to "emergency"  camp in a sparse little throw-down area just after crossing to the South side of Highway 50 .

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Topo Map: Between Aloha & Echo Lakes     Topo Map: Haypress Meadow to Highway 50
Miles and Elevations

North: Echo Lake 2


North: Trail Junctions S of Aloha                                                               South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Lower Echo Lake in the late afternoon.

Nearing
the
Lower Echo Lake Trailhead

Hiking South for 2.69 miles from the trail down to the Boat Dock on the trail around the North side of the Echo Lakes on the far North side of Echo Lake brings us to the Echo Lake Trailhead.

Or we can call the Echo Lake Chalet from the Boat Dock for a ride on their Boat Taxi to the Echo Lake Marina between Memorial Day to Labor Day. I'd rather walk.

From solid rock to soft forest floor trail beds, we cross a variety of excellent trail surfaces between the Tamarack Lake trail junction to the Echo Lake trail head.

I'm just happy to get off of constant pounding of downhill hiking on hard rock surfaces!

Dicks Pass to Echo Lakes
15 minute backpacking MAP
South Desolation Wilderness
30 minute backpacking MAP

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Lake Forum

comments?

Trail cut through Rock, Echo Lake, Desolation Wilderness Sunset Lit Rock, Echo Lake, Desolation Wilderness
Trail, Echo Lake fine rock formations, Echo Lake
Echo Lake, Rock Texture, Pacific Crest Trail Rock Texture, Echo Lake, Pacific Crest Trail, detail
fine rock formations, details, Echo Lake

Approaching
the
Lower Echo Lake Trail Head

We're just one mile North of the Echo Lake trailhead.

Rock Faces descend off of Flagpole Peak sit to our immediate NE, above us, with the crystal blue waters of Lower Echo Lake to our SW. It is a beautiful location, despite the vacation houses.

Our fine level trail winding through rock and forest splits the distance between steep rock and deep blue water. It's reallyl pretty along this section of trail.

Our generally downhill run from the North side of Lake Aloha ends at Echo Lake. South from there we have a two mile climb to the Echo Lake trail head on Highway 50.

Elevation
7520' feet on the trail along Lower Upper Lake.

Mileage
27.71 miles South from the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
1 mile South to the Echo Lake Trailhead.
3 miles to Echo Summit Trailhead.

 

note
Mileage sign at Echo Lake trailhead states: Aloha Lake 5 miles. This is incorrect according to my measurements and experience. Check the map and hike the trail to verify my observation: ALWAYS Double-Check your (and my) mileages. Trail distances are constantly changing as the trails are being regularly rerouted.

mileages and elevations

Hiking along Lower Echo Lake nearing the trail head

         
  Marker keeps you off of trails heading down to vacation houses.   Trail along East side of Lower Echo Lake.  
The trail South along Echo Lake.  
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  Sign posts on the East side of Echo Lake keep you on the trail to the trailhead, rather than down to cabins.  

Houses accompany the rock and lake hiking South to the Echo Lake trailhead

Echo Lake Rock, Pacific Crest Trail
lots of fine rock lines the trail along Echo Lake. The reddening of the setting Sun highlighted the rock colors
Echo Lake  Luxury Home along Pacific Crest Trail Wooded Trail, Echo Lake, Desolation Wilderness
Frodo lives here, Echo Lake Nice wooded trail section along Echo Lake
Echo Lake Luxury homes on the Pacific Crest Trail

Not my patio, but my view was the same while passing by.

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Mid-Point: Echo Lake

I was racing against sunset as I flew South by the luxury houses lining the East shore of Echo Summit. This section of trail has been unfairly disparaged. The trail snakes along between a beautiful rock and forest ridge and and the crystalline blue waters of Echo Lake.

But I am running low on energy. Since I'm not resupplying between Meeks Bay and Tuolumne Meadows, the pack is very,very heavy, which is very tiring.. The short length of Desolation Wilderness requires I pass it quickly, which is always challenging at the start of a trip.

Despite my dedication to observation and enjoyment of every inch of trail I cover, I was determined to push until darkness terminated my day.

In any case, I would not take the boat taxi through this section of trail, even if it was still running.

Echo Chalet Boat Taxi information.

 

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Hiking Topo Map: Echo Lake North                Hiking Topo  Map: Echo Lake South
Miles and Elevations

South: Echo Lake 3

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Echo Marina.

Echo Lake Trail Head and Echo Lake Chalet

Resupply options
at
Echo Chalet, Lower Echo Lake

Though we departed the Desolation Wilderness boundary North of Upper Echo Lake, the Desolation Wilderness experience is not officially over until we hike through the Lower Echo Lake trailhead and Echo Chalet.

Part of the Desolation Wilderness experience is observing trail culture at the Lower Echo Lake. The Lower Echo Lake trail head is the main trail head for the Desolation Wilderness.

The Echo Lake Chalet is an important resupply point for Northbound backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail, though it is not as important for Southbound Tahoe to Yosemite hikers. The reason is that the Echo Lake Chalet is only 27.71 miles South from Meeks Bay trail head, and another 38.81 miles South to the Lake Alpine Lodge from Echo Chalet.

The 66.52 miles between Meeks Bay and the Lake Alpine Lodge on Highway 4 make using the Echo Lake Chalet as a resupply point optional for Southbound backpackers on either the Pacific Crest Trial or Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.

Dicks Pass to Echo Lakes
15 minute backpacking MAP
South Desolation Wilderness
30 minute backpacking MAP

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Echo Lake Chalet Backpacker Resupply Page

Meeks Bay to Echo Lake Forum

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Approaching the Lower Echo Lake trailhead and Marina

Echo Lake Trail and Tree on the PCT Echo Lake Marina, Pacific Crest Trail
Trail nearing the South end of Lower Echo Lake. Lower Echo Lake Marina.
Echo Lake Frog Rescue, Desolation Wilderness Echo Lake Trail Head Warning Sign
Yellow Legged Frog rescue plan. Frog Information. Be good!

Basic Information

Echo Lake Trailhead

Echo Lake Trailhead
comments and notes

Resupply information
Echo Lake Chalet

Elevation
Lake Level: 7414' feet.

Mileage
28.71 miles South from the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
0 miles to the Echo Lake Trailhead.
2.00 miles South to Echo Summit Trailhead.

note
Mileage sign at Echo Lake trailhead states: Aloha Lake 5 miles. This is incorrect according to my measurements and experience. Check the map and hike the trail to verify my observation. ALWAYS Double-Check your (and my) mileages. Trail distances are constantly changing as the trails are being regularly rerouted. The the trail signs, on the other hand, don't change very often.

mileages and elevations

Echo Lake Location on a Road Map

a
See the Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources Page

Echo Lake Trailhead

Trail Mileage, Echo Lake Trail Head, Desolation Wilderness Pacific Crest Trail on Echo Lake Dam
I have Lake Aloha at 6.13 miles to the trail junction at the South end, and Dicks Pass at 11.88. Pacific Crest-Tahoe to Yosemite Trails cross the Echo Lake Dam.
Tahoe Rim Trail Head sign Echo Lake Trail Head Sign, Desolation Wilderness
Information board at the Echo Lake trailhead.

Echo Lake Chalet

The end of our Meeks Bay to Echo Lake trail segment is marked by our arrival at Echo Chalet.

The end of our Meeks Bay to Echo Lake trail segment is marked by our arrival at Echo Chalet.

Arriving late in Fall, it was closed for the season.

Echo Lake Backpacker Resupply

North: Trail Junctions S of Aloha                                                               South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Lower Echo Lake
Trailhead

A very busy trailhead during Summertime

On my last trip across the length of Desolation Wilderness I emerged from Desolation Wilderness through the Lower Echo Lake trailhead on September 17, 2009. The Echo Lake Chalet was closed (Echo Lake Chalet operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day), and the area was as quiet as I've ever seen it, and the upper parking lot had only a few cars.

The last time I was here was over 10 years ago. A friend drove me into the upper parking lot, which was packed with cars. There were hundreds of people milling about, and running around. 90% were wearing brand new backpacking clothes, and had the latest gear, all virtually unused.

At that point in my life I was not taking pictures, films, or writing a trail guide. I looked at the beauty of the rock, water, and trail, and lamented the ocean of people who covered them. I turned to my buddy, and said, "the same way out as in," and he drove me over to the South Upper Truckee, where I quickly hiked to Summit City Creek, and the isolation of the Western Flank of the Sierras between Round Top and Lake Alpine.

I had spent many nights in Desolation, so leaving it to the crowds was not a problem.

Fall Conditions

Experiencing the quiet of Fall in the Desolation Wilderness has changed my mind about Desolation. I miss it. Not that you will see me there in mid-Summer, but I'm going to start visiting Desolation again, but only during Fall and Spring before the big crowds form up.

Hey, I think it is good that backpacking is stylish, and valued by a significant segment of consumers. Remember when wearing North Face mountain jackets in the city was "cool?"
It is a step in the right direction for our idiot urban consumers, and is a step down the right trail of life for many city people. Especially if and when wilderness travel becomes an actual part of an urban individual's value system and lifestyle.

But I fear that many hikers are as motivated by using their experience as an emblem of "wilderness validity" within their urban consumer lives, as they are motivated by the backpacking experience itself. I found it amusing when North Face jackets became "cool."
Other urbanites use wilderness backpacking as a lifeline from nature to protect their sanity from the degradations of the Urban Consumer Life they are stuck within.

Nature, and backpacking are ultimately what we make out of it.

The real message I see in the busy Summers crowds at Lower Echo Lake is a good one. The crowds show that a significant group of our massive populations have made wilderness experience a term of social validity. That's an excellent trend.

After that nightmare of crowds (Lining up for the trail like a lining up for a ride at Disneyland? Never!), I never went back to Desolation until 2009. When I returned, it was in mid-September, when the massive crowds had diminished to a trickle of backpackers. It was nice. I could enjoy the company of other backpackers and hikers, rather than be swept away by them.

Echo Lake Chalet

The Echo Lake Chalet runs a Post Office, so Pacific Crest Trailers can send a well-timed resupply to themselves during the Summer. The Echo Lake Chalet also has a store and deli. Hit the link below for complete information on resupplying at Echo Lake Chalet, and a discussion about making your resupply plans work for you through this section of our Tahoe to Whitney Trail:

To Resuppply, or not to Resupply at Echo Chalet?

Lower Echo Lake Trailhead
comments and notes

Resupply information
Echo Lake Chalet

 

You can also easily hitch hike down to South Lake Tahoe for rest and resupply

Lake Tahoe Backpacker Resources

 

Backpacking Topo Map: Echo Lake North               Backpacking Topo Map: Echo Lake South

Miles and Elevations

Southbound
Echo Lake to Echo Summit

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Backpacking Trail Guide

North

 Trail Junctions South
of
Lake Aloha

Map and Compass.

Backpacking Trail Guide

South

Echo Lake
to
Echo Summit

Backpacker Forum
Echo Lakes

Post it on
TahoetoWhitney.Org
The Backpacker's Foruma.

High Sierra Trails High Sierra Topics

It was nice to see Echo Lake almost deserted in September!

Add your experiences, comments, or pictures about the what's up at Upper Echo Lake:

Section
Meeks to Echo Summit
Segment
Echo Lake

North: Trail Junctions S of Aloha                                            South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Trailhead

Contact
Alex Wierbinski

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