Desolation Wilderness Area, California
With its stunning alpine lakes, high peaks, open meadows, and California sunshine, Desolation Wilderness was the perfect destination for my mom’s first hiking adventure-or any backpacking trip, for that matter. The trails are in good shape, and the elevation gains aren’t brutal.
Location: To get to the Eagle Falls trailhead from Tahoe City, head south on CA 89 for about 20 miles. Parking is on the right.
Season: Mid-June to mid-October. We went midweek in June and didn’t see anyone. Mosquitoes can be a nuisance through mid-July, although they steered clear of us. August is the prime visitor month because the days are warm and the lakes are swimable; weekends are downright crowded. The bulk of the wilderness area is at about 8,000 feet, so be prepared for cool nights and unpredictable mountain weather, regardless of the month.
Permits: Backcountry permits are required, and quotas are in effect from June to August. You can make an advance reservation by phone (530-644-6048) for a $5 reservation fee, or you can show up at a ranger station and try to score one the day you start your trip. Either way, it will cost $5 per person for the first night and $10 per person for two or more nights. For more information, call Desolation Wilderness Area Information Center, (530) 644-6048.
Map: Desolation Wilderness, Tom Harrison Cartography, 2 Falmouth Cove, San Raphael, CA 94901; (415) 456-7940. $7.95.