Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Echo Marina.
Lower Echo Lake Marina


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through the
Lower Echo Lake Trailhead

Exiting the Desolation Wilderness through Echo Lake on The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail





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Trail guide section index

Upper Echo Lake

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Topo Map

Topo map

maps index

miles & elevations Miles & Elevations Index Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Local Weather

All Sierra Weather
forest-wilderness Permits
all pages

Echo Lake Trail Head and Echo Lake Chalet

Resupply options
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


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

Lake Level: 7414' feet.

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

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

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: Echo Lake 2                                                                                   South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Lower Echo Lake

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

Echo Lake to Echo Summit


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Backpacking Trail Guide


Echo Lake

Map and Compass.

Backpacking Trail Guide


Echo Lake
Echo Summit

Backpacker Forum: Echo Lake

general comments:  TahoetoWhitney.Org

A big city in the Summer, almost deserted in Fall!
Add your experiences, comments, or pictures about the Lower Echo Lake Trail head:
Section: Meeks to Echo Lake
Segment: Echo Lake

North: Lower Echo Lake                                                                                   South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

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Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

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