Weekend Wanderlust

Desolation Wilderness
  |  Gorp.com

Carved by receding glaciers over 10,000 years ago, Desolation Wilderness covers 63,475 acres of the El Eldorado National Forest. The rugged, lunar-landscape terrain is made of raw, unconsolidated rock scattered across granite architecture. Its elevation averages between 7,000 and 8,000 feet and often reaches heights of close to 10,000 feet at mountain summits. As the glaciers finished their sculpting in millions of tons of rock, they left a pockmarked land. These soon filled with icemelt, forming well over a hundred lakes in an area of less than a hundred square miles.

Recommended Trip: Gilmore Lake via Glen Alpine Trail. From the south end of Fallen Leaf Lake, take the Glen Alpine Trail along a gravel and dirt road for about a mile. From there the dirt road ends and real trail breaks up into the high country by way of tall stands of juniper and fir.

Glen Alpine is one of the main entrances to the forest and a number of trails stem from it. To get to Gilmore Lake, just keep right at all intersections. Gilmore is about six miles from Fallen Leaf Lake. Any number of day trips are possible from here, from summiting Mount Tallac (with stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the Crystal Range) to heading deeper into the wilderness to Lake Aloha or scenic Dick's Pass.

Getting there: From Sacramento take California highway 50 East to South Lake Tahoe. In South Tahoe pick up CA 89 North. Head North on CA 89 for three miles. Turn left on Fallen Leaf Road. Follow this six miles along the heavily populated eastern shore of Fallen Leaf Lake. Road ends at Glen Alpine trailhead.

Permits : Permits are required year round for a nominal fee. Quotas are also in effect, so reservations are a good idea. Call El Eldorado National Forest at (530) 644-6048.

Recommended Guide: Desolation Wilderness and the South Lake Tahoe Basin by Jeffrey P. Schaffer. Good trail descriptions, natural history, and a handy mileage breakdown at the start of each section. Comes with a detailed topo map.

Note: Mosquitoes can be brutal here. Take precautions.

Contact Information:
El Eldorado National Forest
Information Center
3070 Camino Heights Dr.
Camino, CA 95709
(530) 644-6048

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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