Desolation Valley

Summary  Link to more information about summary

Difficulty 4 Intermediate-advanced
Length 12.4 miles round trip
7350 feet
+1400, -1400 feet
Navigation Road, map and compass
Time Very long day
Season Mid-December through mid-April (it may not be safe to ski on the lakes early and late in the season)
Snowmobiles Use Not permitted [Please report illegal use of snowmobiles in this area]
USGS Topo 7.5' series, Echo Lake, Pyramid Peak
Start Echo Lake Sno-Park. From 1.2 miles west of the Echo Summit Maintenance Station on Highway 50, drive 0.6 mile east on Johnson Pass Road toward Berkeley Camp to the Sno-Park. The actual trailhead is the snow-covered road opposite the entrance to the Sno-Park.

Description   Link to more information about description

As you make your final descent to Lake Aloha, the heart of Desolation Valley, you are struck by the large, stark valley, the Crystal Range, and the smooth profile of Pyramid Peak. If you are planning a one-day trip to this area, expect to get only a glimpse of its beauty. To fully enjoy the valley's magnificence you must plan a multi-day trip.

The route passes near Tamarack Lake, which makes a good destination for skiers wanting to go beyond Echo Lakes but not the entire distance to Lake Aloha in Desolation Valley.

The tour to Desolation Valley covers a variety of terrain and is a challenging trip. The first part of this tour is across the very popular Echo Lakes. However, when you leave the lakes behind, you also leave most of the skiers behind. More dramatic is the contrast between Desolation Valley in the winter and in the summer when backpackers flock to this mountain haven.

Usually you can ski along the south edge of Echo Lakes when it is unsafe to ski on the lakes themselves. Skiing along the summer trail on the north side of the lakes is slow, more difficult, and no substitute for the open, hard-packed surface of the lakes.

Please stay away from the many privately owned cabins at Echo Lakes. Also, be aware that overnight camping is not permitted in the lakes basin.

A permit is required for overnight camping in Desolation Wilderness, which begins approximately one-half mile west of Upper Echo Lake.

Mileage Log   Link to more information about mileage log
Numbers in parentheses
correspond to mileage points on map

Waypoint 1 to 2
Miles: 0.0 - 1.2
Elevation change: +150, -100 feet

Locate the snow-covered road and trailhead (1)opposite the entrance to the Sno-Park and follow the road northwest for 1.2 miles until you reach the southeast end of Lower Echo Lake (2). You can expect a gradual climb followed by a short, steep descent to the lake. Stay left on the obvious main road if you see any road junctions.

Waypoint 2 to 3
Miles: 1.2 - 2.6
Elevation change: Nil

If it is safe, ski northwest across the lower lake for 1.4 miles until your each its northwest end (3).

Waypoint 3 to 4
Miles: 2.6 - 2.7
Elevation change: Nil

Ski west for 0.1 mile until you reach the southeast end of Upper Echo Lake (4).

Waypoint 4 to 5
Miles: 2.7 - 3.3
Elevation change: Nil

Ski northwest across the upper lake for 0.6 mile until you reach its northwest end (5).

Waypoint 5 to 6
Miles: 3.3 - 4.9
Elevation change: +900 feet

Climb west and then northwest for a total of 1.6 miles until you reach Haypress Meadows (6).

Waypoint 6 to 7
Miles: 4.9 - 5.6
Elevation change: +50, -50 feet

Ski northwest for 0.7 mile until you reach the level area west of Lake Margery (7).

Waypoint 7 to 8
Miles: 5.6 - 6.2
Elevation change: -150 feet

Descend northwest for 0.6 mile until you reach the shore of Lake Aloha (8).

Return to trailhead
Miles: 6.2 - 12.4
Elevation change: +300, -1100 feet

Retrace the route for 6.2 miles back to the trailhead (1).

Print version of map for tour
Print version of map for tour