Lake Tahoe/Desolation Wilderness Trail Status Update: Snow is Still Causing Headaches in the High Country

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Desolation Wilderness
Lake Aloha still covered with ice on July 8, 2017. Photo credit: Shannon Maguire, USFS

Desolation Wilderness/ Lake Tahoe, CA Trail Status Update

by U.S. Forest Service – Lake Tahoe Basin Unit


Desolation Wilderness Update:

The report and photos below [and above] are from Forest Service wilderness ranger scouting expeditions on July 8 and July 12, 2017. GPS and/or map and compass are still recommended to find the trail along with proper footwear, clothing and gear. Keep in mind your mobile device may not work in some areas. Develop an emergency plan in case you cannot call for help and always go with a buddy, never alone. Do not walk on frozen or partially frozen lakes and be cautious when crossing cold, fast and swift streams! Learn more about staying safe in your National Forest at

Glen Alpine Trailhead:

Stream crossings are still high and fast, most visitors are finding ways across, many are turning around at crossings. Grass Lake, Susie Lake and Gilmore Lake are clear of ice, but standing water and patches of snow still remain in some locations. Half Moon Lake and Lake Le Conte are half frozen but melting fast. Heather Lake, Alta Morris Lake and Lake Aloha are still largely iced over. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on south side of Dicks Pass has snow banks and patchy snow remaining, water on trail, but is mostly easy to follow.

Eagle Trailhead and Bayview Trailhead:

Both trails are mostly snow free, expect some standing water and a few lingering snow banks. Upper, Middle and Lower Velmas are ice free, some snow banks still exist in shaded areas, most camping areas are snow free. Velma crossing still high and a turn around point for some hikers. Fontanellis is still halfway covered with ice and there is plenty of snow still on the trail and camping areas around lake. Dicks Lake is still frozen, but starting to break up. Most camping spots are still buried under snow. The PCT on north side of Dick’s Pass is buried under snow. Some hikers are making it over the pass, others are turning around. Conditions are variable with steep, slick snow in places and soft, punchy snow in others.

Dick’s Lake still covered with ice on July 12, 2017. Photo credit: Shannon Maguire, USFS

Echo Trailhead:

Tamarack, Ralston and Cagwin Lakes are free of ice and snow. Plenty of snow remains in the area and people are still skiing Ralston. The snow begins not far after the second junction to Triangle Lake. Many hikers are veering towards Lake Lucille rather than along the PCT towards Aloha. Frequent comment from hikers and backpackers trying to reach Aloha: “I heard about the conditions, but I didn’t think it would be this hard!” Some hikers are successfully making it to Aloha and beyond, while others are turning around and/or camping on the ridge above Lake of Woods instead of navigating snow.
Aloha is still mostly frozen and arriving at Aloha from the PCT, almost all camping is still buried in snow.

Ralston and Tamarack lakes on July 8, 2017. Photo credit: Shannon Maguire, USFS

Meeks Trailhead:

Mostly snow-free until the switchbacks before Rubicon Lake. All lakes Genevieve – Rubicon are ice free. We have not had a chance to make it to Phipps Pass yet, but hear from hikers that it is scary with snow and ice on the Meeks side.


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One thought on “Lake Tahoe/Desolation Wilderness Trail Status Update: Snow is Still Causing Headaches in the High Country

  1. Can anyone comment on trail conditions/snow levels on Phipps Pass? Will we need crampons 1st week of August?
    Thank you

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