My second visit to the Desolation Wilderness was in late August for an extremely pleasant loop entirely on trails that hits most of the highlights in the region including great views of Emerald Bay, vistas from Dicks Pass, and gorgeous Lake Aloha. Total mileage according to GPS was just under 26 miles, hence the “Desolation Marathon Loop” name. Complete photo album here.
On the way to the Bayview trailhead I enjoyed a spectacular sunrise over Emerald Bay. The first couple miles out of Bayview are fairly steep but once at the pass between the Maggies Peaks the trail levels off. The trail begins a steady climb before reaching the junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail, and the climb continues all the way up to Dicks Pass. I opted to do the loop clockwise which ascends to the highest point of the loop at Dicks Pass first thing. The descent from Dicks Pass is rocky but I made my way down to Gilmore Lake in good time. I continued along the TRT to Lake Aloha and then split off for Mosquito Pass. This stretch along the shores of Lake Aloha is the most scenic part of the loop, particularly when the trail begins its climb to Mosquito Pass. I stopped at a natural rock balcony below the pass to enjoy the beautiful scenery. From Mosquito Pass, the first couple miles down Rubblefield Canyon are difficult technical trail strewn with rocks making for slow going. The remainder of the trail through Rubblefield Canyon (~ 6 miles) is delightful single track in the meadows and forest. It’s obvious this remote portion of the Desolation Wilderness sees a fraction of the foot traffic as the more accessible regions. The junction with the Velma Lakes trail marks the beginning of the last climb on the route. While the climbing is fairly moderate I was tired from the preceding running and the trail is fairly technical so I walked a good chunk of the climb back to the TRT and up to Bayview Trail. On the way back I stopped at the saddle between the Maggies Peaks to gaze at gorgeous Emerald Bay below. The route took just under 5.5 hours with plenty of photography stops.