Access opens up at Desolation Wilderness
One of the most popular hiking areas at Lake Tahoe is about to hit its prime.
Winters’ remains are melting fast from Desolation Wilderness, quickly allowing more access to high-country hiking and backpacking, Chris Engelhardt, wilderness manager for the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said Friday.
Still, people may be surprised by the amount of snow still left in the backcountry following a subpar water year for the Sierra Nevada.
“There’s a decent amount of snow still compared to what a lot of people are thinking this year,” Engelhardt said.
Low elevation basins are largely melted out, but north and eastern aspects above 8,000 feet are still holding snow, Engelhardt said.
Several of the most recent posts on the Desolation Wilderness Volunteers website, http://www.desowv.org, report unstable snow on some trails in the 63,960-acre area located near Lake Tahoe’s southwest shore.
The Tallac trail is accessible to the summit, but there are snow bridge and slip hazards, according to the most recent update to a trail conditions listing on the site. Haypress Meadows, on the way to Aloha Lake from Echo Summit, was still fully covered May 26, causing some parties to turn back because of the difficulty in locating the trail, according to another recent post.
Engelhardt emphasized the importance of planning and preparation when venturing into the backcountry, noting there have already been search and rescue efforts launched for lost hikers this year.
He recommended people bring navigational equipment to help locate trails covered by snow. Boots, gaiters and trekking poles were also among Engelhardt’s recommendations for travel this time of year.
Despite the below average snowpack, spring streams are running strong and have left pools of water in some places. Mosquitoes started to make their annual appearance just this week, Englehardt said. He recommended the low-elevation Meeks Bay trail as a good place to hike this time of year.
The National Weather Service in Reno is predicting temperatures in the mid 70s throughout the week. Much of the remaining snow covering trails in Desolation should be melted within the next couple of weeks, Engelhardt said.
“It’s going quick,” Engelhardt said.
Permits are required for travel in Desolation Wilderness. Day permits are free. Overnight permits cost $5 per person for the first night and $10 per person for two or more nights up to 14 days.