Named after renowned photographer Ansel Adams, the Ansel Adams Wilderness is dotted with sparkling lakes, glacially sculpted gorges, and imposing peaks.
Place Category: Forests + Wilderness
Thanks to its breathtaking granite landscape and easy accessibility, the Desolation Wilderness is one of the most popular wilderness areas in the country. This wilderness straddles both sides of the Sierra Nevada, averages 12.5 miles in length and eight miles in width, and has elevations ranging from about 6,500 feet to over 10,000 feet.
The Desolation Wilderness is located just to the southwest of Lake Tahoe, north of Highway 50. It is accessible from all sides, though most hikers begin their visit in the Lake Tahoe Basin. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through the length of the wilderness, and its proximity to roads makes it one of the more easily accessible wildernesses in the Sierra.
Due to its popularity and fragile ecosystem, permits are required year-around for both day and overnight use. Permits are available for all entry points from either the Eldorado National Forest or the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. Day hikers may issue themselves a permit at most trailheads, or in advance from local offices. Overnight visitors must secure a permit from Recreation.gov, and there are limits on the locations and quantity of permits issued.
- Rising above Fallen Leaf Lake on the southwestern shore, Mt Tallac is one of the most iconic peaks in the Lake Tahoe basin.
- The popular Bayview Trailhead is the starting point for a hike out to Cascade Falls, or into Desolation Wilderness above Emerald Bay.
- About five miles from the trailhead, Dick’s Lake is along the Pacific Crest Trail/Tahoe Rim Trail, and a great spot to stop for a swim or overnight backpacking trip (permit required).
- The trail to Lake Aloha from Echo Lake is a 14.7 mile heavily trafficked, moderate loop trail that features beautiful wild flowers.
- Many lodging and dining options can be found around Lake Tahoe.