Fall in the Desolation Wilderness

Words and Photography by Mariah Llacuna


In the Sierras Nevadas, right on the rim of Lake Tahoe, lies a wild landscape that is around 12.5 miles in length and around 8 miles wide. Elevation ranges from around 6,500 feet to over 10,000 feet. The wilderness is only accessible by foot and with a permit. It’s a beautiful cluster of granite mountains and alpine lakes that sits just a couple hours away from San Francisco. This particular backpacking trip was just a single overnighter, taken on the second weekend of August in 2019. While it was at almost peak summer temperatures below in the valley, and even on the coast of Northern California, the mountains stayed cool and were still in the throws of spring. The wildflowers appeared to be at the height of their bloom, soaking in all the sunshine and snowmelt coming down from the mountains. The trail that we hiked was called Red Peak Trail and was just on the eastern edge of Desolation Wilderness. We had come at just the right time, for it was the final days of summers lushness prior to the onset of dry warm days, before Autumn would usher the landscape to sleep once again. We camped just outside an unnamed lake and watched a fiery orange and pink sunset from a ridge overlooking the foothills. It’s a place we have been before and try to return, as much as possible. Although its terrain can be tough and testing, the views and the life surrounding it are well worth the reward.




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