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Desolation Wilderness hike

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Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby mikewest2012 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Anyone out there done a Desolation Valley trip from north to south (one-way) or south to north? I can't find any info online. I was thinking about maybe starting around Rubicon reservoir (if possible) and heading south through Rockbound Valley, to Lake Aloha and ending up at Echo lake resort perhaps. It would be in the summer, August or later. It looks like there are plenty of trails, but I thought I'd see if anyone had done it, approx. mileage, a general route, if it's a worthwhile hike, points of interest (specific lakes more scenic than others), etc. Thanks.

Mike



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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby paul » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:03 pm

Welcome, Mike. If you start from Loon Lake and go by way of Buck Island Lake, Rockbound Lake, and Rubicon Reservoir, then head up the Rubicon and Rockbound valley, it's a nice walk. all the lakes up high on the west side of the Rockbound Valley are nice, and tend to see fewer visitors than the Velmas or Dicks Lake or Aloha. How many days do you have in mind? There are many possibilities in the middle stretch. You can go straight up the Rockbound Valley to Mosquito Pass, or go from Camper Flat up to the Velmas, Fontanillis and Dicks Lake and over Dicks Pass. Or do a loop and see both. It's all very nice in there, tends to be pretty popular, a little less so in the Rockbound than elsewhere. If you do go through to Echo by way of Aloha, I recommend getting off the trail at the south end of Aloha and going over to Waca or Pyramid Lakes. Very easy cross-country and very pretty. If you have time, a scramble up Pyramid Peak is well worth it for a fabulous view - or if you go over Dicks Pass and get to Gilmore Lake, then taking the trail up Mt. Tallac is likewise well worth it. Dicks Peak is also a great view, but a little trickier scramble than Pyramid.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby balzaccom » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:38 pm

We've done some hiking in that area as well, although we were very concerned to hear last year that the USFS had closed the area around Rubicon Reservoir to camping because of human related contamination of the water sources.

Apparently the knuckleheads in those huge ATVs have not been careful about their hygiene...
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby mikewest2012 » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:55 am

Thanks so much for the thoughtful replies and the warm welcome. Funny, it's hard to find much about that central section of the DW online, but I did run across a rather funny but sad thread from 2009 about the USFS possibly closing down the Rubicon reservoir road/trail due to the human waste mainly left behind by ATV's, which leads to my first question: Where to start? I have a 40 year old desolation wilderness guide that has some info, but obviously it's woefully outdated. This is what I was thinking:

Park one car (we'll have perhaps 3 hikers, 2 cars) on the north end, as close as possible to the "wilderness" area of Rockbound Valley. I don't know if that's going to be Loon Lake, or can you park (if in fact a road is open) at Rubicon reservoir? Or, is there somewhere else at a trailhead to park near there?

Hike south through Rockbound Valley. On my old map I see numerous trails, so maybe our move south would be predicated by the lakes we might want to visit/camp at. I see lots, including Zitella, Horseshoe, 4-Q, Mcconnell, Leland, Schmidell, Lois, etc.

Exit over Mosquito pass, past Aloha, and some other lakes to either Echo Chalet (east) or Twin Bridges (south), or perhaps (per Paul's suggestion), over Dick's pass. We'll leave a car at one of those places if possible.

According to my old data, the entire trip would be somewhere just north of 21 miles (the Dick's pass route possibly shorter?). I would plan on 2-3 days of hiking. I did Mt. Whitney 2 years ago (the second day we did 16 miles) so I don't mind doing longer distances in a day.

So, my questions would be:
Where can I leave a car? I'm assuming we can park at Echo Chalet, even if we have to pay. Is there a spot near Twin Bridges to park? Is there a place to park at Rubicon reservoir (assuming the road is open)? If not, there a place to park at Loon Lake? I know there's a place to park around Emerald bay overnight if we went out the Dick's pass route, been there many times. I'm assuming at the worst we'd park at the campground just down the road (Eagle Falls I think?).

Do you think the Dick's pass route is shorter than the other 2 I described, and doable in 2 days? My mom lives in Carson City and I'm always limited on time when up there.

I might be overthinking this after reading Paul's post again. One more option is a loop. Any suggestions, 2 days, 1 night, 15-18 miles?

My original idea still sounds intriguing since (on the map anyway), the Rockbound Valley area seems to be the most remote and I thought it would be cool to hike the entire length of the Wilderness.

So any suggestions to any of the questions I have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks once again!
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby TahoeJeff » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:11 am

Rubicon Res. is in the wilderness. You are going to have to park at the TH at Loon, there is free parking at Echo Lake and Ralston TH, but I think Twin Bridges is pay to park.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby TahoeJeff » Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:28 am

As I re-read the thread, I'm confused. Rubicon Res. is like a mile south of the wilderness boundary, how did ATVs get there? The trail from Loon to Rubicon Res. is not accessible by ATV, so how did they leave their waste there? Was it the Rubicon 4x4 trail, north of the wilderness perhaps? Here is a link to a trip I took last year in that area:
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7091&p=49952&hilit=deso+bows#p49952
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:07 pm

The Rubicon Trail 4X4 trail starts at the north part of Loon, goes east for a while and then south to Buck Island and Spider Lakes, both of which were polluted from human waste, most likely from the hordes of jeepers that go through that area every summer. I backpacked in the area before, taking the trail in from Loon, accessing the north part of Desolation, and I saw first hand the way that some of the 4X4 crowd was abusing the area with trash, spilled oil, human waste, etc. Pretty depressing. Probably a small group that does this, but it makes others look bad as well.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby mikewest2012 » Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:23 pm

Yes TahoeJeff you are correct, please excuse my ignorance. My map shows Loon and Buck Island lakes outside the boundary and Rockbound and Rubicon south of the boundary. The Rubicon ATV trail is to the north as you say. My confusion is my old map shows a road (in addition to the trail) from Loon Lake to Rubicon reservoir so I thought maybe you could drive to Rubicon and that road shown on my map was part of the ATV trail. The road on my map is probably the old construction road you refer to on your trip report (great report by the way) The map is 40 years old.

The thread I mentioned is here: http://www.thumpertalk.com/topic/677295 ... -critical/

So loon it is if I choose to start there!
Thanks once again, and if you have any more suggestions, please bring 'em on. Much appreciated.
Mike
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby balzaccom » Wed Mar 14, 2012 1:36 pm

The trail from Loon Lake is a piece of cake. We hiked from there to Spider Lake this June, despite a lot more snlow than you are likely to find. It's part trail, part old roadway, and nothing too steep or brutal.

You can find a link to the hike on our website, under the destinations for Highway 50.

We started from the main road, as the road to the parking lot was still under snow, and that added about a mile each way. I don't think your itinerary should be too hard...simply because the mileage isn't that much.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby Pietro257 » Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:40 pm

I can't help you much with logistics, but I hiked the Desolation Wilderness from south to north in 2011. The report is here:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=6814

I liked the Rockbound Valley best of all. I suggest climbing Mt. Tallac if you can fit it in. The view of Lake Tahoe from there is amazing.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 24, 2012 7:34 pm

There is free trailhead parking a few hundred yards uphill from the boat dock at Echo Lake. It is a fairly small lot and sometimes fills. Last year I saw many cars parked along the road behind the parking lot, although I am not sure overnight parking along the road is legal.
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Re: Desolation Wilderness hike

Postby tim » Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:45 pm

The lot at Echo lake fills early on weekends (we got one of the last spaces at 8.45am on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend), but is not bad in the week. On weekends there are many people parking on the roadside, often overnight, and this seems to be tolerated.
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