Trip · 3-day backpacking trip
For · Friends and intermediate backpackers
Vibe · Challenging and hard
Distance · 24.2 miles and 4,462 feet of elevation gain
Permits · Yep, select Tamarack as your destination zone for your wilderness permit and apply for a CA Campfire permit online
Drive · 3 hours from SF
Ideal dates · August to October
Pets · Welcome on trails and campgrounds!
Eldorado National Forest (ENF) is 596,700+ acres of granite peaks, alpine lakes, and lush meadows. The forest features Desolation Wilderness (and parts of Mokelumne Wilderness), which is one of the most-visited backcountry destinations in the country! Elevation in the area can range from 1,000 to 10,000+ feet so you can experience a diversity of wild ecosystems.
Check Current Forest Conditions
Official Forest Service Website
Main image credit: Tessa Morris
Desolation Wilderness is part of Eldorado National Forest, one of eight national forests along California's Sierra Nevada mountain range
Washoe and Maidu Native Americans were the first to traverse ENF before the Gold Rush brought thousands of emigrants to CA.
10,000+ years ago, glacial ice sheets carved out the basins where Echo Lakes and nearly 130+ lakes formed in Desolation Wilderness
Don't leave the car without a first aid kit. Stuff happens out in the wild and you always want to be prepared.
They're expensive, but you can lean on these bad boys for river crossings and navigating all kinds of terrain.
Light as a feather and versatile enough to use for running, camping, and other nighttime activities.
It's a heavier, bulkier pillow for ultralight backpackers, but you're guaranteed a good night's sleep.
Add up to 14 degrees of warmth and keep your sleeping bag nice and clean with this mummy liner.
Handmade in Seattle, Washington, this sleeping bag is pricey, but you can count on it lasting for years.
A spacious sleeping bag that will help you stay warm for spring, summer, and fall camping.
Winner of the REI Editor's Choice Award, this bag is warm and light, coming in a little over three pounds.
This pack weighs two pounds, has 7 pockets, and has a built-in seat pad, but it can only carry up to 30 pounds.
If you're an experienced backpacker, this is the lightest full-size, full-featured, frameless pack made.
You won't be saving money, but you'll save space and weight with these camp sandals.
These comfortable, breathable, quick drying undies are designed for surviving long treks.
Made with 60% merino wool, these pricey socks are guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Lightweight, grippy, and breathable shoes made for navigating all kinds of trails and terrain.
These down pants will keep you and your legs warm in the chilliest of nights.
Never dig around your pack to find some hand sanitizer. Instead, hang this one on the outside of your pack.
Whether it's coffee or cocoa, bring a silicone mug like this one into the wild. Your tummy will thank you.
Don't let the backcountry stop you from enjoying a hot, quality drip coffee in the morning.
This lightweight pot is for backpackers who want to enjoy warm and cold soaked meals.
These bamboo utensils are designed for the backcountry, and conveniently comes with a travel pouch.
A popular, pricier backpacking stove that's an ounce heavier, but is reliable in the wildest envrionments.
Add a little magic to your experience by hanging these twinkling lights around your tent every night.
Leave your backpacking pack at camp, and use this sleek, compressible pack for day hikes.
Feel fresh, clean, and renewed after each hike with these thick, durable, aloe-infused wet wipes.
The more you backpack the lighter your shelter becomes, and the lighter it is, the more expensive it can be.
You'll always need to bring your hiking poles to use this tent, but it only weighs a little over two pounds.