We wanted to squeeze in one more trip before the season ended, so we chose Desolation Wilderness because of it's proximity to the Bay Area, and we decided on Lake Aloha and Mount Price along the PCT.
With an adventurous rock scrambling climb up to the 2nd highest peak in desolation, you can get an amazing view of Lake Aloha and all of its unique islands!
Backpacking Trip Info
Dates: 10/7 - 10/9
Miles: 20 roundtrip
Elevation Change: 3525 ft
Trail Type: Out and back
Parking Lot: Google Maps
Aloha Lake is in Desolation Wilderness zone - #33. You can reserve 18 spots ahead of time online at Recreation.gov, and 18 spots are available for same day walk in.
For day hikers, you can self issue a permit at the trailhead.
The Backpacking Trip
After camping at Sand Flat Campground the night before, we packed up and headed to the Echo Lakes trailhead to start our hike in. During the peak season, a water taxi runs from the TH to upper Echo Lake, which could save you 5 miles round trip (be sure to bring cash and coins for the pay phone on the way back).
The taxi wasn't running at the time for us, so we ended up hiking along the emerald green Lower and Upper Echo Lakes. Most of our hike would be relatively flat, as the difference between Aloha Lake and Echo Lakes is only around 700', but a lot of the trail was rocky terrain, which made for slow climbing.
As the trail beings to wind through the forest, we encountered several patches of snow and ice. We passed several junctions for the other lakes in the area like Lake Lucille, Lake Margery, and Lake of the Woods. It was only 5 miles from the TH to the south shore of Lake Aloha, but we continued along the eastern side of the shore (passing Lake LeConte and Heather Lake) for another 1.5 miles before veering off the PCT to find a campsite that got us closer to Mosquito Pass.
Lake Aloha is a special lake in that there are hundreds of rock islands throughout the length of the lake, and since the water level was extremely low this late in the season, the islands were more apparent than normal. We ended up setting up camp at a great campsite complete with benches and even a log wind wall before being treated to a vivid pink sunset.
We were expecting temperatures to drop below freezing, but that night was one of the nicest nights I've experienced backcountry - there was absolutely no wind at all. The next morning we woke up and prepped for a long day of hiking. Our goal was to summit Mt. Price, which sits 2000 ft above our campsite.
We set off and continued along the trail that climbs 200 ft up Mosquito Pass. Once we reached the top, we started our off-road adventure and headed straight up the mountain.
We didn't have a specific route up the mountain, but we aimed for one of the lower points to the right of the peak and made several large switchbacks to avoid the large patches of unstable rocks. The climb up was long, as it took a lot of energy to find stable footing on the steep slope of loose rock.
Traversing the ridge was a challenge, and at points we would hit an impasse and have to climb down the back side of the ridge and try to cross over. After 2.5 hours of climbing/rock scrambling from Mosquito Pass, we made it to the peak of Mount Price at 9,975 feet. From up here we could see a dozen lakes on both sides of the ridge, and we couldn't even spot our bright orange tent along the shore of Lake Aloha, which looked quite dry from up here.
After having lunch at the top (click here for my favorite foods to pack!), Vince and I decided to head down while Ed continued along the ridge to summit Mt. Agassiz (9,967 ft) and Pyramid Peak (9,983 ft), that peak bagger. The climb down was a lot more exhausting and tedious than the climb up, and we slipped a couple times because of the loose rock, melting snow patches, and steep incline. A couple times we would find ourselves looking down at a drop off, and we'd have to cut across to make our way around. From leaving the peak, it took us a total of 3 hours to get back to our campsite, and Ed showed up about 3 hours later.
That night there was a slight breeze, but it was still a warm night in the tent. The next morning we woke for sunrise before making breakfast and hiking out.
Our feet were sore from the day before, but it only took us about 4 hours to hike back to our car. On the way out, the trail was crowded with tons of day hikers, kids, and dogs enjoying the views around Echo Lakes. For my first trip to Desolation and my last trip of the season, it was the perfect balance of palm-sweating mountaineering and perfect lake views.
Looking to backpack Lake Aloha in the winter? Check out this post by Paulina from Little Grunts
Favorite gear for this adventure: