Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Lake Tahoe Sunset
Climbing out of Echo Lake, sunset over Lake Tahoe became visible

 

The Trails

Guide
Maps
Miles/Ele
Permits
Resupply
Forum

 

Weather Conditions

Weather Notes

Northern High Sierras

Central High Sierras

Southern High Sierras

 

Gear

Gear List

Gear Forum

Gettin Started

Layering

Testing yourself and your gear

Gear Reviews

 

top of page

Backpacking
Echo Chalet
to
Echo Summit Trail Head

Hiking The Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trail around Lake Tahoe

 

Translate

Languages

 

Trail Prep

The art of walking

Physical Preperation
Planning

 

Trail Skills

The trail
Off the trail
Scrambling
Maps
Navigation
Camp skills
 

Food

Resupply

Food

 

Other

Photo Catagories

Trail Stories

Trail Culture

News and Science

Links

Groups

Books

Terms and Conditions of Use

 

 

 

 

top of page

Trail
Guide

Section
INDEX

North

Upper Echo Lake

South

Echo
Summit

NORTH
Topo Map


SOUTH
Topo map

Maps
Index

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

All Sierra Weather
All
Wilderness PERMITS
all
pages

Echo Lake Chalet to the Echo Summit Trail head

Resupply information
Echo Lake Chalet

Arriving at Echo Lake Chalet after May 30 and before Labor Day (1st Monday in September) we can pick up the resupply we sent ourselves via the US Post Office located at Echo Chalet.

Check out the Echo Lake Resupply page for more information about resupplying.

If we are not resupplying at the Echo Lake Chalet, we're certainly going to chow down and collect up some massive calories with a nice fresh deli sandwich, their famous milkshakes, and some juice.

Yes, I am going to do it all. Well, I would if they were open...

Note that this two mile length of trail between Lower Echo Lake and Echo Summit is only hiked by through hikers on the PCT, TYT, TRT, and Tahoe to Whitney Hikers.

Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking MAP

The reason is that local hikers will start their Northbound hikes into Desolation Wilderness out of the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead, while Southbound hikers into the Meiss Country Roadless Area will start South through the Echo Summit Trailhead.

Only long distance hikers hike the segment of trail connecting Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit. Or maybe dayhikers and locals.

Comments Questions Add Your Experience & Information

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit Forum

Echo Lake to Echo Summit Forum

Echo Lake to Echo Summit Comments

Echo Lake Chalet Closed for Season Echo Lake Chalet
Echo Chalet, pictures above linked to their website.
Garbage Cans at Echo Lake trail Head Echo Lake facilities: Bathroom and Garbage Cans
Vital backpacker resources:
Trash and Bathroom. Road to upper parking lot to the Right of the bathroom, trail to the Left.

Sun Setting over Lake Tahoe

As I was not resupplying at Echo Lake Chalet, good thing, because it was closed, I continued my hike towards Echo Summit after a brief break at Lower Echo Lake.

It has good resources, even though Echo Chalet was closed.

I emptied a couple of pounds of my garbage into the bear-proof can, and marveled at the bathrooms, though I did not need to use them. The pack was lighter, even if I was not...

The trail off to the left behind the bathroom, when looking South at the bathroom, as in the picture above-Right, runs up to the North side of upper parking lot, which we will cross to the South side to find the trailhead sign and trail for our route continuing South along our combined Tahoe to Yosemite-Pacific Crest-Tahoe Rim Trail route.

Otherwise we would have to follow the road the long way around and up to the upper parking lot.

I would have liked a snack at the Echo Chalet, but it had already closed for the season when I came through in September. But the quiet of the area was a fair sacrifice for snacks. The trailhead and Echo Chalet were really strange in September.

It was very quiet at the Lower Echo Lake Trailhead. The last few times I've been through here were during mid-Summer. Not quiet. This entrance to Desolation Wilderness is not quiet during Summer, and downright frantic during Summertime weekends and holidays.

Desolation swarms with backpackers, local residents and their boats full of friends, kids, and dogs that fill up the terrain up through the upper parking lot as well as around Echo Chalet right up to, and past the trailhead into the Southern end of Desolation Wilderness.

Desolation Wildernes is referred to as the busiest Wilderness in the country.

It's understandable. It is very pretty, and it sits above the now-large population of South Lake Tahoe, and within easy reach of the Sacramento, Reno, and Bay Area metropolitan areas.

Anyway, we're off to climb the low ridge to the South dividing us from Echo Summit and our entrance into the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

South Lake Tahoe Glowing during Sunset

Sunset over Lake Tahoe, backpacking above Echo Lake Trail head

Beautiful vistas open up through breaks in the dense forest cover hiking up to the upper parking lot after passing South out of Desloation Wilderness through the Echo Lake trailhead.

When sky and terrain begins glowing in twilight hues I start running down the trail.

 

Echo Lake Trailhead

Though the Desolation Wilderness ended on the North side of Upper Echo Lake, the Lake Tahoe Basin Administrative Unit continues through Echo Lakes and Echo Summit encompassing the Meiss Roadless Area all the way South to where we will exit the Lake Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap

At the Echo Lake Trail Head we can pick up our pre-sent resupply we sent to ourselves at the Echo Lake Chalet, stop for lunch at the Chalet and then continue South. We also have to option of catching a ride down to the Tahoe Basin and check out the South Lake Tahoe Regional Resources.

I mean hitch-hiking. There is no shuttle service between Echo Lake and South Lake Tahoe.

Arriving at the Lower Echo Lake trail head marks the end of the first leg of our backpacking trip to Tuolumne Meadows is Yosemite along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail.
This 28.71 miles between Meeks Bay to Lower Echo Lake also makes an excellent little stand-alone backpacking trip through the Heart of the Desolation Wilderness.

Or it can be broken into loops and trailhead to trailhead trips out of the West Shore trailheads described on the guide pages to the North.

A nice little Backpacking Trip

Backpacking
Meeks Bay to the Echo Lake Trailhead

28.71 miles

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Next Segment of Trail
Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit

2 miles

This two mile segment is between Desolation Wilderness and the Meiss Country Roadless Area, thus we will hike near houses, retreats, and across a road and Highway 50, then along Highway 50 to Echo Summit.

Elevation
Lake Level: 7414 feet.
Upper Parking lot: 7537 feet.
+123 Feet
Echo Summit: 7377 feet.

Note that Echo Lake is higher than Echo Summit. The high point between Lower Echo Lake and Echo Summit is 7600 feet climbing over the end of the ridge dividing Echo Lake from Echo Summit.
This means we climb 186 feet hiking South from Lower Echo Lake before dropping down to 7200 feet of elevation below the West side of Echo Summit where we cross Highway 50 and begin the shallow climb to Echo Summit along Highway 50.

Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking MAP

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

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
mileages and elevations

Echo Summit to Carson Pass
mileages and elevations

top of page

South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe from Echo Lakes upper parking lot.
Not Wilderness: Power line down to Lower Echo Lake indicates we are not in the Wilderness.

Upper Parking Lot, Echo Lake Trailhead

This way to the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail Head Echo Lake Trail Head Parking Lot
Sign to upper parking lot trail head. The upper parking lot serves backpackers going into Desolation. Southbound backpackers generally depart from the Echo Summit trailhead.
Trail Mileage: Highway 50 1, Echo Summit, 2 miles

Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

your guide

to the High Sierra Crest Trails

The Southbound trailhead on the South side of the upper parking lot.  

North: Echo Lake trail head                                                                             South: Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Echo Lake Trailhead: Continuing South to Echo Summit

Arriving late at the Echo Lake trailhead I stopped for a brief break before continuing South. I had done 14.18 miles from Fontanillis Lake to the Echo Lake trailhead, and the sun was already setting.

This did not fit with my plans. I was supposed to be passing Echo Summit right now, looking to Frog Lake and a nice campsite.

I knew this would happen much earlier in the day, every time I scrambled off trail to take pictures and films. Late in the afternoon, when I stopped and hung out with Eric, John and Will my fate was sealed. I knew that I would not get past Echo Summit this day.

This is the dilemma of the long distance backpacker. Food restrictions require high mileage days. I could have called it a day at Lake Aloha, and spent a relaxing afternoon enjoying the view. But my food/mileage ratio required that I continue, and I knew then that I would be hiking in the dark.

On the other hand, I am going to stop and talk to everyone who comes by. I am going stop and take in the stunning views, and take pictures and videos of the view. I really hate it when backpackers run right past the things they backpacked long distances to see. If you took the time to get there, take the time to enjoy it.

My problem was too much to enjoy, and too few hours in the day to enjoy it all.

As Echo Lake Chalet operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day, I was not able to have a sandwich and beer to supplement my food supply.

I saddled up HOPP (my nickname for my pack, the Harness of Pain and Pleasure...haha), found the trail to the Upper Parking Lot behind and to the Left of the bathroom, and scurried on up there to find the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail trailhead.

comments-questions-additions?

Resupply information
Echo Lake Chalet

Topo Map: Echo Lake North              Topo Map: Echo Lake to Echo Summit
Miles and Elevations

South
Echo Lake to Echo Summit

top of page

 

Lake Tahoe Sunset.

Hiking between Lower Echo Lake & Echo Summit in the Dark

Southbound

Southbound long-distance backpackers continue on the combined Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and Tahoe Rim routes South out of Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit.

A trail behind the bathroom shortcuts up to the Upper Parking Lot rather than following the paved road the long way around. At the Upper Parking Lot we find the well-marked trailhead pointing TYT-PCT-TRT hikers South to Echo Summit.

This is the two mile connector trail linking the South side of Desolation Wilderness at Lower Echo Lake to the North side of the Meiss Country Roadless Area at Echo Summit.

Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking MAP

This connector trail crosses the Eastern end of Ralston Peak's ridgecrest overlooking the Lake Tahoe Basin and separating the channel between the mountains holding Echo Lakes from the channel between mountains running up to Echo Summit.

We get a couple of glimpses of the lake and basin when we can see through or above the trees and around the terrain, but this hike is through densely shaded forests. This area is sprinkled with houses, private facilities such as the UC Berkeley Golden Bear retreat, and access roads. The trail surface is soft forest-floor material, very easy on the feet after the last couple of days hiking Desolation's hard granite surfaces.

Hard surfaces are hard on the knees.

Southbound High Sierra backpackers starting their Tahoe to Yosemite trip from Echo Summit and day hikers and short-distance backpackers South into the Meiss Country Roadless Area all start their hikes from the Echo Summit trail head.

Northbound

Northbound High Sierra short-distance backpackers will start their trips into Desolation Wilderness from the Lower Echo Lake Trail head.

Northbound Long-distance backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail will likely be looking to stop in and resupply at the Echo Chalet, have some fresh food, and take a nice break if not head down to town and visit South Lake Tahoe for some serious R & R.

Trailhead South to Echo Summit from the Upper Parking Lot above Lower Echo Lake.

Southbound Trailhead Marker at Lower Echo Lake's the Upper Parking Lot.

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Because this two mile section of trail between Lower Echo Lake and Echo Summit sits between major trailheads to its North and South it is not hiked by most short-distance backpackers.

Local backpackers and hikers begin their trips North and South out of Echo Lake and Echo Summit, respectively, so this short section is mostly hiked by Summer residents, local kids, and the visitors-tourists visiting Echo Lake and its facilities.
The only backpackers you see on this short section of trail are through-hikers on the long-distance trails heading North and South.

Add your experiences, comments, and questions.

Over the end of the ridge and past the Houses Southbound towards Highway 50

View of Lake Tahoe Sunset from between Echo Lake and Summit

Above: View of Lake Tahoe from above the Echo Lake trail head at sunset.

Below: Johnson Pass Road is well marked for the PCT hiker. In fact this whole segment of trail is well marked for long-distance hikers where the trail crosses Johnson Pass Road and Highway 50.

Pacific Crest Trail Sign, Echo Summit Road crossing, above Highway 50 Echo Summit Road
Well marked trail across Johnson Pass Road towards Highway 50 and Echo Summit. Crossing Johnson Pass Road, is that the PCT sign on the other side? Yes.

North: Upper Echo Lake                                                                                    South: Echo Summit

Echo Lake Trailhead

Desolation Wilderness ended on the North side of Upper Echo Lake, but the Lake Tahoe Basin Administrative Unit continues all the way to the Carson Gap, where we exit the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Meiss Roadless Area, AKA Meiss Country, begins South of Echo Summit and runs all the way to the Carson Gap.

 

Backpacking
Miles & Elevations
between
Lower Echo Lake to the Echo Summit Trailhead

Elevations
North to South

Echo Lake Level
7414 feet.

Southbound Trailhead, upper parking lot at Lower Echo Lake
 7534 feet.

High point on the trail between Echo Lake and Highway 50:
7600 feet.
From here we drop down to Highway 50.

Pacific Crest Trail crossing Highway 50
7160 feet.

Echo Summit
7377 feet.

Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking MAP

Mileage
28.71 miles South from Meeks Bay Trailhead to Lower Echo Lake Trailhead.

0 miles to the Echo Lake Trailhead.

2.00 miles South to the Echo Summit Trailhead.

Resupply information
Echo Lake Chalet

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

 

FORUM
Comments & Questions
Add Your Experience & Information To the Mix

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Forum

Echo Lake to Echo Summit
Forum

Echo Lake to Echo Summit
Comments

top of page

Crossing Highway 50 at twilight

Hiking Southbound to Highway 50 we find the creek out of Echo Lakes crossing under Highway 50 in a culvert to our Right, just beyond which sits the unique wreck of Little Norway.

No longer a vacation resort, Little Norway now looks like an interesting rental property for a wide variety of interesting local characters.

The Southbound trail turns East along the South shoulder of Highway 50 for a short distance, maybe 30 yards, until we come to a dirt road well posted as the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail.

Pacific Crest Trail Sign Northbound, Highway 50 by Little Norway Looking South Across Highway 50
Above: The HUGE Pacific Crest Trail sign on North side of Hwy 50. The Northbound trail route crosses Highway 50 to the West of Echo Summit. This huge marker is to calm the Pacific Crest Trailers down.. Above: View crossing Highway 50 backpacking South. Cross over, then turn Left and walk a short distance East to the dirt road on your Right.
Pacific Crest Trail Sign, South side of Highway 50, just East of Little Norway PCT South Side of Highway 50, down road 50 feet then LEFT
Pacific Crest Trail marker at the dirt road on the South side of Highway 50, just East of where we crossed Highway 50. 100 feet down this dirt road we will see another Pacific Crest Trail maker that directs us to make a left turn, East, where the dirt road turns right. From there the TYT-PCT-TRT trail parallels Highway 50 East up to Echo Summit.

 

To Highway 50

Lower Echo Lake trailhead South to the Echo Summit Trailhead

It is two miles South to the Echo Summit trail head from the trailhead at the Echo Lake upper parking lot. As the sun was already down, I had 45 minutes of diminishing twilight to locate the two basic elements of a backpacking camp: Water, and enough flat space to sleep on.

Pushing on around the end of the ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe between Echo Lake and Echo Summit, I crossed Echo Lake Road at the Upper Parking Lot and shortly came to an unmapped creek running West hard down the mountain before dropping down to Johnson Pass Road. This is the drainage from Echo Lake, which constitutes a major source of the headwater of the American River.

Strangely, the creek does not appear on the 1992 7.5 USGS Topographic of Echo Lake, but it is shown on the 1976 30 minute Placerville map, circled in white below. On the other hand, the Placerville map does not show the Pacific Crest Trail's present route through this section. I understand. Trail routes, as well as rivers, are made to run in different courses over the years.

Placerville 30 map shows Echo draining West

It appears to me that this drainage naturally out of Echo Lake would naturally run into the Lake Tahoe Basin. And with no dam to block and redirect this flow, there would be no or a much lower set of Echo Lakes...

I looked about for a flat spot to camp near the ford, and finding none, I decided to continue South across the creek. There is a rather large downed tree crossing the creek to the left of the flooded low-water fording point. It has been dead long enough to have lost its bark.

The problem was the trunk was too high off the ground to climb up onto from the side, and the root mat on the back side was a climb-able, but a difficult climb. Especially as heavily loaded as I was. I climbed up the vertical root mat at the bottom of the toppled tree, but the dilemma when I reached the top was, how the hell do I step over the lip from the root mat onto the trunk? Standing up on the top of the root mat put me a good 15 feet off the ground, and stepping over from the back, from the root mat side, onto the very slick taper of the trunk was a little sketchy. Especially as my pack weighed just a bit above 70 lbs.

Root ends were sticking up, protruding out from the root mass I had climbed up, so I grabbed one root in my left hand, one in my right, and tentatively put my left leg over onto the trunk side. All good, so far. Then, just as I got my right leg onto the trunk from the the root mat side, the left root that I was using to hold myself steady snapped.

As I had not completed my transition from the vertical root ball to the tapering trunk I toppled clumsily over onto the tapering trunk, and started sliding head-first down the smooth surface towards the trunk. I instantly foresaw that I would bounce off the trunk and plunge into the madly rushing ice-cold frkn creek.
This tightened the grip of the root in my Right hand. I held on tight to the unbroken root in my right hand, and rather than bouncing into the creek managed to swing like a pendulum around the focal point of the root gripped in my right hand, stop and stabilize myself. I avoided the long fall and the shock on my right arm from stopping all my weight did not dislocate my shoulder. All good things.

Nonetheless, I was sprawled face-down in a precipitous position with only my strained grip on a dead root holding me onto this fallen tree. It took a little struggling to completely stabilize myself enough to get my legs under me, and work myself into a standing position. And jeeze, I had already hiked 14 hard miles and was dead beat tired. As soon as I stabilized myself I scurried across the creek atop the downed tree. Once on the other side I inspected my left arm, which had been gouged by the part of the left root which did not break off. When the root broke my fully laden weight dropped onto the unbroken lower part of the root, gouging my arm.

I decided it looked ok, though it was bleeding a lot. It had not gouged though all the layers of skin, so I was good to go without trail stitches. No problem. Bleeding cleans the wound. I would let it bleed clean. As it was almost dark, and I had still to find a campsite soon I figured I'd continued South to find a campsite, then clean it up and bandage it when I did find a campsite and could use the flashlight to properly inspect and treat the wound.

Arm gouge and scrapes from fording mishap

View of my scratch the next morning.

After scanning the South side of the ford for a suitable camping site and finding none, I continued to press on towards Highway 50, hoping that a site near this runoff from Echo Lake would appear, so I could tap it for water.

None did, so I continued South and shortly crossed Johnson Pass Road. In a few minutes I arrived at and crossed over Highway 50 in the dark.

I was already planning on pushing as far into darkness as I could, but now this injury had moved finding a spot to camp to my number one goal.

comments?

Topo Hiking Map: Echo Lake North         Hiking Topo Map: Echo Lake to Echo Summit
Miles and Elevations

Next page:Highway 50 campsite

North: Upper Echo Lake                                                                                    South: Echo Summit

Highway 50 in the dark.

Last Steps of Day 3
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Hiking across Highway 50
and
Camping

After a long day hiking South through the Desolation Wilderness from Fontanillis Lake, I began to run out of daylight between the South end of Desolation Wilderness and the North side of the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

I decided to push on as far as I could before complete darkness ended my hiking day. Then I took a minor injury.

Twilight ended a short ways South of where the combined Pacific Crest, Tahoe to Yosemite, and Tahoe Rim trails cross Highway 50.

Don't let this happen to you. I'm an idiot. I could have staged up at Tamarack Lake North of Upper Echo Lake. I wanted to squeeze out as many miles as possible, and I knew I could get water, if with difficulty, where the outflow from Echo Lakes drained into the American River. So I pushed ahead.

It turned out that the American had dried out way up here, the beginning of the flow had retreated down-mountain. This "retreat" of the tops of rivers and drainages down the mountain always happens during late-Summer into Fall and Winter, earlier during dry years and later during wet, up and down the High Sierra Crest Trails.

I was lucky the water managers had opened up the Echo Lakes.

Transition from Desolation to Meiss Roadless Area

Maps

Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking Map
 Meiss Country Roadless Area
15 minute backpacking Map

Miles and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations
Echo Summit to Carson Pass
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

comments or questions?

The Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and Tahoe Rim trails
on the
South side of Highway 50
  After we cross Highway 50 southbound we walk about 30 yards East towards Echo Summit along Highway 50 to this sign.  
  Pacific Crest Trail Sign, South side of Highway 50, just East of Little Norway  
This sign marks the dirt road pictured below.
Pacific Crest Trail road on South side of Hwy 50 Trail turns Left 50' down road
Above: Hike about a 100 feet down this dirt road, then turn Left at the trail markers where the dirt road turns Right. The road terminates further down along Highway 50. A trail breaks off to the Southwest to the top of the highest local peak, the peak to the South of Echo Summit. Above: Trail marker indicating where the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail backpacker turns left at the trail where the dirt road bends Right.
Pacific Crest Trail South side of Highway 50 Wound taken making ford

Trail marker in tree indicating where the PCT backpacker turns left off the dirt road.

This trail parallels Highway 50 East up to Echo Summit.

Root gouge from fording mishap. Whoops.

 

top of page

Final Loading
Tahoe to Yosemite Trail Pack

16 days unresupplied to Tuolumne Meadows.
Three days off along the way.

Al Camp, Night 3 on the PCT

At the tiny emergency "throw-down" backpacking camp about 100 feet up the trail East of the dirt road.

It is a camp because I camped there.

Note the two large food bags in front of my pack. The Garcia bear-proof canister is already inside the pack, above the sleeping bag.

The two huge food bags will be firmly secured to the outside of the pack. No bounce.
The top compartment of the pack has insulation and cooking gear. The bottom compartment holds the Garcia, which fits perfectly.

The external food bags are securely attached to the frame and slung low on the pack to keep the center of gravity low and controllable.

Fully Loaded Pack

Trail Skills: Backpack Lashing System

Information

Echo Lake Trailhead to Echo Summit

Desolation Wilderness ended on the North side of Upper Echo Lake, but the Lake Tahoe Basin Administrative Unit continues to the Carson Gap, the very point where we step South out of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

The Meiss Roadless Area, AKA Meiss Country, begins South of Echo Summit and runs all the way up to the Carson Gap.

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Elevation
Lake Level
7414' feet.


 Top of rise between Echo Lake and Echo Summit
7610 feet.

Highway 50 crossing
7200 feet

Echo Summit trailhead
7380 feet

Highway 50 Crossing
Mileage
29.71 miles South of the Meeks Bay Trailhead.
1 mile North to the Echo Lake Trailhead.
1 mile South to Echo Summit Trailhead.

 

mileages and elevations

Camp Notes
Arriving Highway 50

Location
On South Side of Highway 50, 35 yards up trail after turning left off the dirt road towards Echo Summit.

I found a nice flat spot big enough for my pad and Sleeping bag.

Sunset
Late September @ 6:42 pm or so

Temp
before Sunset: Mid-50's

No weather, no mosquitoes: no tent

"or so" note: I record the Sunrise/Sunset times, the time of the transit of the Sun, and the Moon Phases for the day each trip begins as the header of my journal.

This allows me to use the Sun as a compass and a clock.

The times above reflect the time of the start day of the trip. In fact, each day the Sunset and Sunrise change, so my accuracy diminishes. The rate of change is up to a minute a day for both Sunrise and Sunset.

Astronomical Information

Morning 4, Highway 50 just North of Echo Summit

Girded Rock
Natural decor: Rock trussed up by shrub at my little backpacking camp.
Happy Alex, Day 4 Rock and Brush
Happy Camper. Not the best camping spot, but sweet nonetheless. Looking forward to the day! Rock and plant detail.

Emergency Camp by Highway 50

It was a brief hike South down to Highway 50 after my almost disastrous ford. On my immediate right (West) at the Pacific Crest Trail junction with Highway 50 is Little Norway.
Little Norway has undergone numerous transitions through the decades. Long ago it had food and rooms for travelers, and pretended to be a Winter Resort. Now it appears to be a unique community of people renting rooms and maybe apartments in the disheveled structure.

Between Little Norway and the Pacific Crest Trail on the North side of Highway 50 sits the raging torrent of the very same creek that I had almost fallen into minutes before. The creek runs into a rock lined culvert that passes under Highway 50 into the South Fork of the American River.

Its flow is determined by the operation of the flood gate at the Lower Echo Lake dam. It was a raging torrent the evening I passed by.

It was now completely dark, but on the positive side I now knew where I was going to get water. Now I just had to figure out where I could throw down my pad and sleeping bag.

I crossed to the South side of Highway 50 and proceeded East along the shoulder for the brief walk to the Southbound Pacific Crest Trail marker posted at the junction of a dirt road and Highway 50. About 100 feet down this road our Pacific Crest/Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route turns Left off of the dirt road to parallel Highway 50 Eastbound up to the Echo Summit trailhead.

About 100 feet up the trail I noted a small flat shelf in the forest floor debris to my immediate left off the trail. It was also equipped with a nice little granite boulder that I could use as a backrest. Perfect. This would be where I would spend night 3.

Because it was so late in the season, the American River, here a little creek running along the South side of Highway 50 down from its headwaters at Echo Summit, was not flowing. I hung my two big bags of food on the trees at the trail junction with the dirt road, pulled the Garcia bear canister out of the pack, and set off for the big creek from Echo Lakes next to Little Norway to fill my water jug so I could make dinner and filter some fresh water.

I sure would have liked to camp at a better site. But sometimes this is how things work out when you are pressing hard on the trail, and you have to make due. I knew this would happen as I constantly stopped to meet other backpackers along the trail throughout the day, took detours to chase interesting bugs, and stopped to take pictures for this trail guide.

No big deal.

Tomorrow morning we will have a very short hike up to the Echo Summit trail head.

comments?

Topo Hiking Map: Echo Lake South              Topo hiking Map: Echo Lake to Echo Summit
Miles and Elevations

North: Highway 50 to Echo Summit

North: Upper Echo Lake                                                                                    South: Echo Summit

Rock and Bush at Campsite.

Highway 50 to Echo Summit

After crossing Highway 50 a brief hike South towards Echo Summit along the highway brings us to an interesting trail junction: The Pony Express Trail.

More Information about the Pony Express Trail.

The Pony Express Trail comes up Hawley Grade's sheer steep route from the trailhead along the South Upper Truckee Road in Meyers on the floor of the Tahoe Basin far below Echo Summit.

Highway 50 is also part of the Lincoln Highway Scenic National Byway. Well, it's part of the Lincoln Highway, if not a part of the Scenic Byway.

Check out the map below and note the proximity of the bottom of the Hawley Grade Trail with the trailhead into the Meiss Country Roadless Area from the end of the paved part of the South Upper Truckee Road.

Hiking between these two trailheads can be a link in a delightful circular backpacking trip from Echo Summit back to Echo Summit via Showers Lake, Round Lake, and then hiking up the Hawley Grade to Echo Summit.

As we depart Meiss Country Roadless Area we will note Red Lake Peak rising to our East. That is likely where Fremont and Kit Carson first viewed Lake Tahoe in 1844.

Transition from Desolation to Meiss Roadless Area
Maps

Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking Map
 Meiss Country Roadless Area
15 minute backpacking Map

Miles and Elevations

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations
Echo Summit to Carson Pass
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

The total distance to Echo Summit from our point crossing Highway 50 near Little Norway is .65 of a mile.

Snow Trail Markings Along Pacific Crest Trail Trail Signage
Above: Snow markers in trees approaching Echo Summit. Above: What's this? A Pony Express Trail marker.
Pony Express Trail Sign Many Trail Signs Approaching Echo Summit

Above: Close up, Pony Express Trail marker.

Pony Express Website

Fed Pony Express

Above: Pony Express Trail in background heading West towards Strawberry.

Trail Information

Highway 50
to
Echo Summit

Desolation Wilderness ended on the North side of Upper Echo Lake, but the Lake Tahoe Basin Administrative Unit continues to the Carson Gap.

The Meiss Roadless Area, AKA Meiss Country, begins South of Echo Summit.

These are the last steps we will take along this 30.71 mile hike we've done from the Meeks Bay Trailhead to the Echo Summit Trailhead.

Our next section of trail is the brief hike across 10 mile hike from Echo Summit to the Carson Gap across the Meiss Country Roadless Area.

From the Carson Gap to a mile past Carson Pass Tahoe to Yosemite hikers will encounter three junctions branching off to the Southwest and the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail's 25 rough miles to Lake Alpine.

Southbound hikers will reamain on this main trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, for the 27.88 mile hike down to Ebbetts Pass.

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Elevations

Lake Level
7414' feet.

Top of rise between Echo Lake and Echo Summit
7610 feet.

Highway 50 crossing
7200 feet

Echo Summit trailhead
7380 feet

Lower Echo Lake to Echo Summit
15 minute backpacking MAP

Mileage

29.71 miles South from the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

1 mile South of the Echo Lake Trailhead.

1 mile South to Echo Summit Trailhead.

13 miles South to Carson Pass.

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Backpacking Miles and Elevations

Camp Notes: Departing Highway 50

Location: On South Side of Highway 50 about 35 yards up trail towards Echo Summit. I found a a big enough spot for my pad and Sleeping bag. This location is a little short of a mile North of Echo Summit trailhead.

Sunrise, Late September, 6:42 am or so

Temp before Sunrise: 43°

No weather, no mosquitoes: no tent.

Clouds in the morning, cleared nicely.

"or so" note: I record the Sunrise/Sunset times, the time of the transit of the Sun, and the Moon Phases for the day each trip begins as the header of my journal.

This allows me to use the Sun as a compass and a clock.

The times above reflect the time of the start day of the trip. In fact, each day the Sunset and Sunrise change, so my accuracy diminishes. The rate of change is up to a minute a day for both Sunrise and Sunset.

Astronomical Information

The trail on the South side of Highway 50 from our crossing point at Little Norway parallels the Highway to Echo Summit.

Lots of car noise.

The South Fork of the American River flows to our West, between our position on the trail and Highway 50.

The South American River dries out late in the Summer season.

Arriving at the Echo Summit Trail Head

Approaching Echo Summit Echo Summit Trail Head Parking Lot
Above: Last steps to the Echo Summit trailhead Above: Echo Summit trailhead. Pacific Crest Trail is to the Right of the locked gate to Adventure Mountain
Echo Summit Trail Head, Early on day 4
Above: Sign at Echo Summit trailhead

North: Upper Echo Lake                                                                                    South: Echo Summit

Highway 50 to Echo Summit

After crossing Highway 50 and heading South towards Echo Summit, we will encounter the Pony Express Trail junction.

The Pony Express Trail heads West down to the town of Strawberry on Highway 50 from the junction pictured above. Heading East, the Pony Express trail follows our trail to Echo Summit, then continues East to descend into the Tahoe Basin via the Hawley Trail into Christmas Valley, Meyers.

The Hawley trail intersects with the South Upper Truckee Road a half mile to/from our third Lake Tahoe trailhead option, the Round Lake trailhead at the end of South Upper Truckee Road's year-round maintained road.

This would make an excellent loop: Echo Summit down Hawley Trail to Round Lake. From Round Lake to Showers Lake, and out to Echo Summit.

comments?

South Upper Truckee Road, Meyers Trailhead near bottom of Hawley Trail from Echo Summit

Above: Trailhead on South Upper Truckee Road, Meyers Trailhead, just South of the bottom of Hawley Trail from Echo Summit. Check the Echo Summit to Carson Pass Map for location details.

Information
 Pony Express Route

Map North
Echo Lake
to
Echo Summit
Map South
Meiss Country Roadless Area
Miles and Elevations

Next page South
Echo Summit

Backpacking Trail Guide

North

Upper Echo Lake Trailhead

compass.

Backpacking Trail Guide

South

Echo Summit

Backpacker Forums

Have a great Sierra Nevada backpacking route or trip to relate?

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

High Sierra Trails High Sierra Topics

Lower Echo Lake
What's your favorite backpacking trip through this trailhead?

Add your backpacking experiences, comments, or pictures about heading from Desolation to Meiss:

Section
Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Segment
Echo Lake

North: Upper Echo Lake                                                                                    South: Echo Summit

Trailhead

Contact
Alex Wierbinski

top of page

Frosted Backpack

Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

Your guide to the High Sierra Crest, including the Tahoe to Yosemite, Pacific Crest, and John Muir Trails

Snug tent after Snow Storm
© Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Crown Jewel of the Pacific Crest Trail