Tree, Poison Flat, Carson Iceberg Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney: Your Backpacking Guide to the High Sierras Yellow Flower
Lake Tahoe Sunset.
Climbing South from Lower Echo Lake, sunset over North Lake Tahoe


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Lower Echo Lake to Highway 50
Desolation Wilderness and Meiss Country Roadless Area

The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail from Desolation Wilderness South to the Meiss Roadless Area across Highway 50





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Trail guide section index

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

South Highway 50

Topo Map

Topo map

maps index

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

All Sierra Weather
forest-wilderness Permits
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Hiking between Lower Echo Lake & Echo Summit in the Dark


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 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.


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.


Miles & Elevations
Lower Echo Lake to the Echo Summit Trailhead

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

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


Comments & Questions
Add Your Experience & Information To the Mix

Meeks Bay to Echo Summit

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

Echo Lake to Echo Summit

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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.

North: Echo Lake to Echo Summit                             top of page                                           South: Highway 50 campsite

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.


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

Next page:Highway 50 campsite

Backpacking Trail Guide


Echo Lake
Echo Summit

Trail guide directions on the compass.

Backpacking Trail Guide


Highway 50 campsite

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Section: Meeks Bay to Echo Summit
Segment: Camp at Highway 50

North: Echo Lake to Echo Summit                                                                       South: Highway 50 campsite

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Backpacking Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney

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

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