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A Day in Desolation

The threshold between Spring and Summer in the Tahoe region is an interesting time. A season meant for exploration, the rushing streams and snowcapped peaks seem to beckon the locals out from under their winter dwellings. To catch the bug, all you have to do is turn your gaze westward—to the Desolation Wilderness—and the siren song of the mountains will call you home.

Driving around the southwest corner of the lake, there are innumerable trailheads, some more obvious than others. Even after years as a full-time Tahoe resident, it is easy to drive this stretch and wonder what lies beyond those deserted forest roads and seldom used dirt-tracks. Sure, there are many classics in this corner of the lake as well, but one can’t escape the feeling that the best trails are often the ones less travelled.

With this notion in mind, my friend Katie and I set out to find and explore something new in this majestic corner of the lake. We parked at the Cascade Canyon trailhead, but instead of taking the normal short hike to Cascade Falls, we opted to go right and follow the trail we’d never explored into the wilds of the Desolation.

Our chosen path would eventually take us to Granite Lake tucked just under the Maggie’s Peaks district. However, as is often the case with exploration, the best part of this hike came halfway-up. The trees thinned--Katie and I came to a spectacular granite ridge that opened up to yield exceptional views of Emerald Bay, Eagle Canyon, as well as the entirety of South Shore in the distance.

In Tahoe, and everywhere for that matter, this sense of discovery is why people love to explore. Setting out into the unknown leaves a person open to anything, and when the circumstances are right, this thirst can lead to ever-greater vistas.

I always say it, but if you're bored in Tahoe—you might not be trying hard enough, because in this basin, the untravelled paths can last you a lifetime...

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