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Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

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Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby no2haven » Wed Oct 12, 2011 11:55 am

Sensing the end of backpacking season and looking at how quickly my weekends are filling up into mid-November, I'm getting antsy to get outside in the mountains one last time this season. However, I'm pretty booked this weekend, and would need a really fast overnighter on Saturday (Oct 15). Something short (like 5-6 miles in) so I can get out and back to the Bay Area by 1-2pm on Sunday.

Right now I"m thinking about something in Desolation (driving through Davis is a plus so I can shuttle my girlfriend to a wedding) out of Echo Lake. There seem to be a ton of nice lakes with an easy hike out for the morning. Any suggestions of which would be the best? Haven't been to Aloha, but I'm thinking that since its going to be a nice weekend a more out of the way lake might be better for a sense of being out in the wilderness. Lost Lake? I'm just looking for nice views, and I'm fine with off-trail travel.

Any current reports on snow would be appreciated, though judging from Kirkwood's webcam it shouldn't be too much of an issue at 8k feet. Haven't call the rangers yet, but this is all assuming the road to Echo Lake is still open...

Thanks!



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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby windknot » Wed Oct 12, 2011 1:20 pm

What about Lower Velma lake? About 5 miles in, just a bit off-trail so still a quick hike but away from the trail (though I don't think you'll need to worry about crowds now), and I've heard it's a nice place to camp.

Other options for quick backpacks around 5 miles in:

Glen Alpine trailhead:
Heather Lake
Susie Lake
Gilmore Lake

Wrights Lake trailhead:
Maud Lake

Eagle Creek trailhead:
Dicks Lake
Fontanilis Lake

Actually, if you're fine with some off-trail travel and want a less common campsite, I highly recommend Kalmia Lake (Eagle Creek or Bayview trailhead). About 5-6 miles in, with the last stretch off-trail, and a very pretty lake. If you camp a bit above the lake, you can see through to Tahoe. You'll likely have it to yourself this time of year. Highland Lake (Van Vleck) is also very nice, but a bit long of a hike to fit into the "extra fast" category (6-7 miles, with the last half off-trail over a ridge).
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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby tim » Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:41 pm

The far (west) side of Aloha has lots of nice lakes: American is good, but Waca is my favorite. To get there go across the dam on the outlet of Aloha and then up across the granite to the west/southwest in the direction of Pyramid Peak to the obvious col. You can camp at the col (there is a pond there for water) or drop down to the lake. If you don't want to go quite that far then there are lots of nice camping sites on the west side of Aloha itself.

This is the view across Waca Lake from the col:

Waca Lake.jpg
Waca Lake
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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby lambertiana » Wed Oct 12, 2011 9:26 pm

If you don't mind some good off trail, start at Twin Bridges and go up Horsetail Falls to Ropi Lake, or any of the smaller lakes near it.
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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby oleander » Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:57 am

The trailheads that are the fastest drive from the Bay Area are Horsetail Falls, Wrights Lake, and Echo Lake (in about that order). All leading into Desolation Wilderness.

Personally I think Horsetail is the prettiest. But as mentioned, it's off-trail. And it's steep - it requires some route-finding skills. There are some people (anyone at all scared of exposure/heights) that I would never take up that route with a full pack. But if you are confident on Class 2 terrain (with a couple of Class 3 moves), have reasonable route-finding skills, and have a light pack, there are no worries and this route gets into the pretty stuff the fastest. Ropi Lake is a good destination, but there are plenty of others up there.

Wrights Lake is my second-favorite. Lots of different places to go from there, too. I think either the Gertrude Lake or the Twin Lakes watersheds are a little more interesting than Maud Lake.

The problem with Echo Lake is that without the summer boat shuttle, your intended 4-5 mile hike will not get you up to Aloha Lake or to the interesting stuff.

All these trailheads are only 3:15-3:30 travel time from my Oakland home.

The Velma Lakes (Eagle Creek) trailhead is closer to a 4:00 drive. I recommend saving that one for when you are in a bit less of a hurry. That is one of my favorites, but the prettiest stuff from that trailhead is the Fontanillas/Dicks Lakes area, and it doesn't sound like you have enough time to hike that far in, this time around.

- Elizabeth
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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby balzaccom » Thu Oct 13, 2011 10:24 am

Actually, the trailhead for Silvia and Lyons Lake is on the way to Wright's Lake. Two nice lakes, not so much traffic, and quicker than anything out of Wright's.

And if you are NOT set on Deslation, you can head up to Carson Pass for trips towards Meiss meadows (Showers Lake, Round Lake, or Dardanelles Lake) or head south from there to Winnemucca or Round Top.

The permit process is different for each one of these destinations, because they are in different jurisdictions.

And yep, we've got a trip reports on these, too, on our website.
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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby no2haven » Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:34 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions.

While I'd like to camp 4-5 miles from the trailhead, I'm planning on doing a more than that Saturday, since I should have most of the day out in the backcountry. So basically hike in to somewhere that I can make a quick escape Sunday morning, drop most of my pack and set up camp, and then check out the area for the rest of the afternoon. This is why I was thinking to start out from Echo Lake (even with the extra mileage) since it'd be a flatter (so probably quicker) approach to a campsite than humping up the canyon wall from Horsetail Falls - which would give me more time to explore in the afternoon. Seems like I can't really go wrong as I think almost every named lake I can find on the maps has been mentioned as a nice spot...
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Re: Extra fast backpack options in Desolation Wilderness?

Postby alpinemike » Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:36 pm

Starting from Echo Lake would be a great choice. It give you the opportunity to see quite a bit. Susie Lake, Gilmore Lake (which is a bit far, but doable) and of course Lake Aloha are must sees. Especially this time of year, when the weather is very pleasant and the dusting of snow makes the peaks look gorgeous.
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