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Connecting Youth To The Outdoors

Desolation Wilderness


Desolation Wilderness

The Pacific Crest Trail traverses 17 miles of the 63,475 acres that make up Desolation Wilderness.  With alpine lakes, waterfalls and towering granite peaks, the Desolation Wilderness is a perfect summer trip. Whether you want an arduous climb or a relaxed walk, you’ll find what you’re looking for here. During the winter, Desolation is popular for experienced backcountry skiers and snowshoers.


  • 63,475 acres
  • Sub alpine forest, granite peaks and glacially formed valleys and lakes
  • Est. 1969
  • Highest point: 9,415 feet
  • Eldorado National Forest

How to get here:

Desolation Wilderness is located in the southwest corner of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Trailheads are accessible via Highway 50 on the west side and Highway 89 on the eastside.

What to do:

Backpacking, hiking and camping.


When planning your trip, be aware that snow can persist in much of Desolation Wilderness through the end of June. Most lakes are free of snow by mid-July, however, there may still be patches in shaded areas and north facing slopes. Be prepared for changing weather conditions.


Permits are required year-round for overnight camping and day use within the wilderness area; maximum group size is 12 persons.  Parking passes are required for overnight parking at trailheads.  From Memorial weekend through September 30th, a quota system is in place based on 45 destination zones to disperse visitors thru out the Wilderness, providing an opportunity for solitude and reflection. Fifty percent of the quota in each zone is available for advanced reservation. The remaining quota is available on a first come, first serve basis at Forest Service permit offices.

Check out or call 530-647-5415 to obtain a permit.

Local Tip:

Leave to trace.  Make a minimal impact on your surroundings to ensure a lasting natural environment for the next person to experience.

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