Desolation Wilderness Overnight & Dick’s Peak Summit: July 23 – 24, 2016

Objective: Quick backpacking overnight & midday lakeside meetup with friends

Date: 07.23.16-07.24.16

Crew: Sara/Connor + Tahomies

Location: Desolation Wilderness, CA


Wildflowers everywhere!

We’ve been busy this year with a small side project (getting married!) which we successfully wrapped up in mid July, complete with Jamaican honeymoon. Naturally, this consumed a lot of our time, energy, and attention for the last several months, making it a challenge to get outside as much as we’d like, but of course it was well worth it! We’ve also reintroduced road biking into our list of outdoor activities since we signed up for a charity bike race in the fall ( All of this to say, we haven’t been keeping up with regular posts about our adventures. However – we have both been REAL eager to get back outside and we were finally able to over this last weekend.


Fontanillis Lake

It started with an email of “camp counselor enthusiasm” from one of our good Tahoe buddies (aka, one of the Tahomies) who is hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail this summer. She suggested a meetup in the Desolation Wilderness – an area which we have become quite fond of, so we quickly agreed. We showed up at the Pacific Ranger District station outside of Pollock Pines, CA at 7am on Saturday morning to try to get a first come, first serve wilderness permit. This region keeps 30% of their permits for same-day permit issuing, and most of the ranger stations that can issue the permits open at 8am. We were third in line, so we were pretty sure things would work out our way, and sure enough, we snagged a permit for camping near Fontanillis Lake.


Dick’s Peak & Dick’s Lake

Connor & I have been in this region twice before, so we knew we were getting into. The first time was for a long trail run: we entered at the Bay View TH, ran around the Velma lakes & Fontanillis Lake, and then looped back to Bay View TH (highly recommend).  The second was to do some snow camping and splitboarding in mid winter. We camped out by Dick’s Lake, which was absolutely beautiful and a lot of fun. The next day, we attempted to summit Dick’s Peak, but we were shut down by strong winds and icy slopes. So, this weekend we returned, hoping to meet up with good friends and get on top of Dick’s Peak (unfortunately sans snowboarding gear).


Squad chillen at Middle Velma Lake

We arrived at the Eagle Falls TH around 9am and hit the trail around 10am. We only chose Eagle Falls over Bay View because we hadn’t started there before. Finding a place to park can be a challenge here especially that late in the morning, but Connor & Hank pulled it off. We hiked leisurely up to Middle Velma lake where our crew had decided to meet “midday”. Sure enough, we ran into two of our buddies on the trail (+one baby), and we met the other two successfully up at the lake! We enjoyed a lot of sunshine, a few beers, and a refreshing swim before parting ways. Four of us headed toward Fontanillis and the others headed home.


Evening light, view from camp

We found a great camping area near the North side of Fontanillis (as you approach the lake) that had spectacular views of Lake Tahoe and the Velma lake basin. It was all time. We chilled out, enjoyed some dinner and wine, and hit the hay.


Sunrise view from camp

The next day, our friends continued on their Rim Trail hike, and Connor & I headed up to Dick’s Pass with a goal to summit Dick’s Peak before heading home. We left our packs at camp so that we could move quickly, and were able to get up to the summit and back to camp in ~3.5 hrs. We did the 2nd or 3rd class scramble to the top, which was a little spicier than we had anticipated, but fun! Epic views from the summit of the whole Tahoe Region. We descended down the main North-Northeast bowl of the peak to shorten our trip, rather than taking the time to do the reverse scramble down from the summit and take the ridge back to Dick’s Pass. The trail down through the bowl was faint and there was a lot of loose rock, but if you went slowly it felt totally safe. We cut across the West side of Dick’s Lake and made it back to camp, thankfully without any route finding snags (maybe we’re improving?).


Departing the trail at Dick’s Pass and heading up the ridge to Dick’s Peak


Dick’s Peak summit – Lake Tahoe view


Dick’s Peak Summit Northeast view – Dick’s Lake, Fontanillis Lake, & Velma Lakes basin

Then it was back to our packs, back to the car, and back to the bay. We estimated our total mileage to be ~18 miles or so, not including a lot of scampering around to find the perfect camp site. Great success! We’d highly recommend checking out this area to anyone, be it for day hikes, backpacking, or backcountry skiing. It truly is a gem of the Tahoe region, with pristine alpine lakes, huge granite basins, and beautiful trails. It’s hard to describe how good it felt to be back outside, back in our element. Looking forward to future adventures!


Adventure buddy & expert hiker Bailey


2 thoughts on “Desolation Wilderness Overnight & Dick’s Peak Summit: July 23 – 24, 2016

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