Monday, August 20, 2012

Bayview Trail / Rockbound Valley Loop - Desolation Wilderness

Trail: Highly Technical Singletrack

Distance: 26 miles, 5,220 ft elevation gain

Difficulty: Challenging

Trailhead: From Tahoe City, take Highway 89 south for about 30 minutes to Emerald Bay. About a mile past the Eagle Falls trailhead, find the Bayview trailhead on your right, across from Inspiration Point. Drive through the campground to the trailhead parking.

From South Lake Tahoe, take Highway 89 north for about 10 minutes to Emerald Bay. Find the Bayview trailhead on your left across from Inspiration Point. Drive through the campground to the trailhead parking.

Season: July to October

Water: Water is available in the campground at the trailhead. There are numerous streams and lakes throughout the run. Late season, the streams may be dry and you'll need to rely on lakes.

Notes: Wilderness permits are required and can be filled out for free at the trailhead. 

Trail Description: First, you should consult a map, which can be found online here. My overview does not explain every turn at every trail juncture, but you should be able to follow my route description with use of the map.

Start at the Bayview Trailhead and climb the forested switchbacks for 2-3 miles.

The namesake bay view of Emerald Bay.

Follow the next several trail junctions downhill to the Velma Lakes, and eventually to the trail through Rockbound Valley. Watch for cairns to help keep you on course through this rocky section of trail.

The trail, marked with rocks across stretches of granite slabs.

Take a left, heading south, on the trail through Rockbound Valley toward Mosquito Pass. In spite of the name, this stretch provides some of the most runnable miles of trail.

Running through Rockbound Valley.

 Climb up Mosquito Pass ...

... and down into the Aloha Lakes Basin.

Descending to Aloha Lakes

From Aloha, take the PCT/TRT west along Heather and Susie Lakes.

Heather Lake

Continue following the PCT and TRT north over Dick's Pass.

Climbing Dick's Pass

At the top!

Leave the PCT/TRT before reaching Fontanillis Lake, and head east back to the Bayview Trail. When you can see the big lake over the tree tops, you know you're close. Descend all the way back to the trailhead.

This is an incredibly challenging but rewarding 26 miles. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, as the technical aspects to trails in Desolation make for slow going. Don't forget to bring a camera!


  1. Thanks for the great pics.
    Brought back memories from '96

    1. Definitely some good memories from these parts, Fiddlehead! I think while I was hiking this stretch of PCT in '96, the Do-Badders were at a casino in SLT placing a bet for me! ;)

  2. Would be great to see a map of the route you did!

    1. You can! There is a link to the map under the "Trail Description" section.