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Hiking Into Desolation Wilderness to Grass Lake

Updated on July 15, 2012
From trail head to lake
From trail head to lake
By car, from Hwy 89
By car, from Hwy 89
A great rock to drive off
A great rock to drive off
Grass lake
Grass lake

Grass Lake sits among granite slopes at 7,000 feet in the Desolation Wilderness. The hike to Grass Lake passes Lily Lake, crosses Glen Alpine Creek and includes several waterfalls. You can bring your dog. The hike is 4.5 miles round trip by some accounts, others indicate it is six miles. Much of it is rocky, so wear good jogging shoes (no sandals). It takes 1.5-2 hours to reach the lake. So, allow for 3.5-4 hours just for hiking there and back. Allow for the time you swim and sun.

Getting to the trail head is easy by car, from Hwy 50, at the Y, take the Hwy 89 exit and proceed a few miles. Once you past Camp Richardson, look for a road, Fallen Leaf Road, take a left. This is a two lane road for a few miles before it becomes a single lane. Continue until you see the Glen Alpine trail head sign and turn left. Trailhead parking is across from Lily Lake. The road will take pass a lodge and a firestation and a small boat marina. If you have not passed all three, you have taken the wrong road split. Basically, you want to hug the rim of the large Fallen Leaf lake until it dead ends at the trail head.

The hike to Grass Lake begins on a wide, very rocky path, essentially a fire road. The further you go, the road becomes a true narrow path. The climb in elevation to the lake is not excessive, the lake itself is near the 7000 ft. altitude. A few other paths cutoff from the path to Grass Lake, so, pay attention to them (they are easily missed!), especially the sign that tells you which way to Grass Lake and Susie Lake. If you miss it, like we did, you will start climbing a mountain trail leading to Susie Lake, which is another two hours! When in doubt, ask hikers going the opposite direction.

If you do not cross three creeks to Grass Lake, stop, and re-evaluate. Even in July, the creeks are there and easily crossed. But there are three of them. Once you turn off to Grass Lake, the path becomes a "hunt and seek" affair. The first creek is baffling because the path vanished in rocks-just look around. The other two creeks are easy as is the path. By this time, you have walked an hour or more and you keep wondering, "where is the lake"? You will have to start climbing in order to reach it. Lots of stair steps to walk up. Just when you are tired of looking for it, you stumble into the lake seeing it through the woods!

Look for an opening to rest and swim. The water is actually warmer than Lake Tahoe because it is shallower. Relax and enjoy. then hike back. You will be tired when you get back to the car. Hiking this path from June through Sept.-Oct. is easy, no snow, however, if in April-March, snow and raging waters in the creeks may present a problem!


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      You are right, both work! Sometimes, a typo is okay.

    • SteveSpencer profile image

      SteveSpencer 5 years ago from USA

      This place looks beautiful...and I think the rock is a great place but I'd rather "dive" off it than "drive" off it! Was that a typo or a clever play on words?