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Rockbound lake in Desolation - first time backcountry campin

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.

Re: Rockbound lake in Desolation - first time backcountry ca

Postby Kris » Wed Mar 09, 2016 8:48 am

I was up there in mid May last season. Rockbound and other nearby waters are great to explore and easy to get into. Rockbound being the most scenic of the lakes in my opinion. Solid fisheries. A day hike into the rubicon river is also pleasant and not too far. At times you will likely hear and see offroad trucks and hear gunshots. Trucks stop at Buck Island. The trail is a road in many places after you leave loon lake. The 'trail' at that point is littered with large baseball rock gravel making unpleasant hiking at times. There are Many pleasant areas along the Rubicon River, though Rubicon lake is a bit of an eye sore. Leaving Rockbound I found a slight maze of trial system and poorly misguided cairns in one particular area that eventually lead me to some of the 4x4 trails near buck island. Stay high at buck island lake or you may end up on the sluice box trail heading around the opposite side of massive Loon Lake.
~We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started... and know the place for the first time.

T.S. Eliot

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Re: Rockbound lake in Desolation - first time backcountry ca

Postby Vaca Russ » Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:37 am

FeetFirst wrote:
abhijitaparadh wrote:1. Permit for Rockbound lake is still available online for our dates

Yeah, reserved permits for Loon are much easier to get than some of the more popular trailheads (e.g. Echo, Twin Lakes). If you have reservations for Loon, it's still worth checking at the Pacific Ranger Station on your way up (Highway 50 just past Fresh Pond, north side of highway: ) since they keep some for first come and they deal with a lot of cancellations. If you don't nab one you can always fall back on your original reservations. Have fun!


I have done this hike so many times I've lost count. It is a great hike you should note the elevation gain is almost none. Toward the backside of Loon Lake you climb a little 400 foot hill.

I have a way to satisfy FeetFirst's desire to get you into the higher elevations of Southern Deso. Go to Rockbound earlier in the year. Go soon!

The highest elevation on this hike is 6400 feet. The snow will soon be gone. Go to Rockbound and spend the night. Then, later in the year, do the hikes FeetFirst recommends. He is correct. Southern Deso is more scenic. There is also more elevation gain.


"...Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?"

Kahil Gibran.
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Re: Rockbound lake in Desolation - first time backcountry ca

Postby wildhiker » Tue May 17, 2016 12:03 pm

Another good area for first time backpackers that is close to the Bay Area is the Grouse Lakes roadless area on the
Tahoe National Forest. You reach it using Interstate 80 to the Highway 20 exit, heading west back towards Nevada City for a few miles down into the Bear River canyon, then right (north) on the Bowman Lake road. It has a lot of open granite and lakes, but not a lot of relief, so the hiking is easier. We've done backpacking trips there with small children. It's not an official wilderness area (hopefully will be someday when the local politics change), so there are no permit requirements, except for a California Campfire permit, which you can pick up at any CalFire station (e.g., the one you pass at the Bowman exit in Auburn or the one you pass at the Alta exit). The main lake areas can get crowded, and you might even see a mountain biker occasionally (because the trails are officially open to them, but we rarely see them). But it is an easy place to go without a lot of advance planning. Here are some suggested easy backpacks:

1) The most "mountainy" scenery is starting at the Grouse Ridge Lookout and taking the trail to Glacier Lake. But don't camp there - it's very popular and spots are limited. Instead, continue on the dimmer "use" trail heading north along the ridge to the large lake at the eastern end of Sand Ridge. Better camping there. From that point, you can also pick up a use trail down into the Five Lakes Basin if you have energy for more exploration. To return to the trailhead, take the Sand Ridge trail back to your original Grouse Ridge trail - Sand Ridge has beautiful wildflowers in mid-July and more views.

2) The easiest trail is to start from Carr Lake trailhead and go up past Feeley lake to camp at Island Lake. This is only about 2 miles, so after you setup camp, take a side trip up to Penner Lake. If you are feeling really energetic, walk up the small mountain north of Penner Lake off trail for good views.

3) The least crowded trail would be to start at the Loney Meadow trailhead and head up Texas Creek to the Rock Lakes. The upper Rock Lake is more scenic. This trail has great wildflowers. From upper Rock Lake, you can walk off-trail up to the knobs to the north to look down on Bowman Lake, or to the mountain to the south above Penner Lake for a wide-ranging view.

If you send me a private message, I can send you a topo map of the area with all the trails marked - they are not all on the USGS topo. I've hiked a lot in this area and maintain my own map.

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