Bike Rides & Hikes

Weekend Hike: Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha, Tahoe Rim Trail

The Echo Lakes (in 2004, above) are at the start of a 12.5-mile round trip to Lake Aloha, elevation 8,540 feet.
The Echo Lakes (in 2004, above) are at the start of a 12.5-mile round trip to Lake Aloha, elevation 8,540 feet. Sacramento Bee file

Breathtaking? Really? Can’t I harness my descriptive powers to come up with something, anything, more original?

Sorry, but as I stood at Lake Aloha, 6 miles into this trek on the famed Tahoe Rim Trail, looking out over the expanse of sheered white granite and boulders forged through geologic epochs, I was – wait for it – breathless.

Maybe part of it was the altitude. We Sacramentans aren’t used to being 8,500 feet up. Maybe it was the exertion of a challenging yet readily accessible stretch of trail, starting at Echo Lakes, that can test one’s balance with some tricky granite slabs. Truly, though, I gasped more out of wonder than fatigue at the sight of Lake Aloha, which would make you stop in your tracks even if it weren’t the turnaround point on the 12.5-mile, out-and-back course we had plotted through the Desolation Wilderness.

My immediate, albeit unoriginal, thought: This is a lunar landscape, bleached white and so nearly denuded of vegetation as to be otherworldly. But then your eye goes to the glinting, shimmering water, made an even more vivid blue by its offset against the monochromatic terrain.

Weekend Hike: Tahoe Rim Trail – Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha

Length: 12.5 miles out and back

Elevation: 7,225 to 8,540 feet

Directions to trailhead: From Sacramento, take Highway 50 and look for a sign for Echo Lake and Berkeley Camp. Turn left off Highway 50 on Johnson Pass Road. Travel half a mile and turn left at Echo Lakes Road. Follow 1 mile to the trailhead parking area on the south shore of Lower Echo Lake.

Route: Starting at the Lower Echo Lake trailhead, follow the Tahoe Rim Trail 2.5 miles to the Upper Echo Lake water taxi trail. Stay on the TRT up rocky terrain away from the lakes. After seven-tenths of a mile you will reach the Desolation Wilderness boundary sign. Over the next 2.9 miles, you’ll come upon several side trails. Stay on TRT through open granite areas and shaded woods. Turn around at Lake Aloha and follow the signs back to Echo Lakes.

Difficulty level: moderate (hiking) to strenuous (running)

Water and toilets: Both at Echo Lakes trailhead

Parking: Free