Take a hike: Dicks Pass in Desolation Wilderness | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Take a hike: Dicks Pass in Desolation Wilderness

Adam Jensen
Looking south from Dicks Pass, Half Moon Lake (foreground), Susie Lake (middle left) and Pyramid Peak (back right) are among the highlights.
Adam Jensen / Lake Tahoe Action |

Hiking up Dicks Pass in Desolation Wilderness is a great way to get a good look at a wide swath of the popular wilderness area at the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe. Most people will make the journey to the pass as part of an overnight backpacking trip, although it can be done as a long day hike as well. The 9,390-foot pass is roughly 6 miles one-way from both the Eagle Falls and Bayview trailheads, which start at Emerald Bay.

Front-loaded effort: On your way to Dicks Pass from the Bayview Trailhead, up, up, up is the name of the game until you get to the ridge above Granite Lake. Views of Emerald Bay ease the pain, and Lake Tahoe comes into view once you get to the switchbacks above Granite Lake. It’s a similar story from the Eagle Falls Trailhead, which features a stone staircase you may find yourself cursing at before you get to the top.

The good news: After the first couple miles, the trail mellows significantly. There are still ups and downs, but nothing like the uphill march presented at the beginning of the journey to Dicks Pass. Also, once the initial climbing is done, a few of Desolation Wilderness’ many lakes enter the picture. Upper and Middle Velma lakes, Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake each have their attributes and are worth checking out on your way to or from the pass.

More climbing: While that’s probably the last thing you wanted to hear, the final climb up Dicks Pass is relatively easy compared to the initial push, and you’ll likely reach your destination before you know it. Enjoy the views of Dicks Lake while you’re at it.

The pay off: The view from the top of Dicks Pass is nothing short of spectacular. Looking south, Half Moon Lake and Susie Lake are clearly visible, while Aloha Lake peaks around the corner. Pyramid Peak leads the eye toward distant Sierra Nevada peaks. Looking north, take in all the terrain you just covered, and appreciate Desolation’s granite expanses.

Notes: Entering Desolation Wilderness requires a permit. Day-use permits are free and available at Bayview and Eagle Falls trailheads. Overnight permits are available through the U.S. Forest Service. Overnight wilderness permits are $5 per person for the first night and $10 per person for two or more nights up to 14 days. Weather can change rapidly in the Sierra Nevada, so always be prepared for inclement weather and the possibility of spending a night in the wilderness. More information is available on the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit website.


Bag the summit: Dicks Peak is the third highest summit in Desolation Wilderness. The peak isn’t too far from the pass, although there is more vertical and challenging terrain involved.

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