Desolation Wilderness

A photo of a Mountain range reflected in the water of Snow Lake, Desolation Wilderness.

"Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grass and the gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks."
- John Muir


Welcome to Desolation Wilderness, 63,960 acres of sub-alpine and alpine forest, granite peaks, and glacially-formed valleys and lakes.  It is located west of Lake Tahoe and north of Highway 50 in El Dorado County. Desolation Wilderness is jointly administered by both the Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

The land which became Desolation Wilderness was part of the Lake Tahoe Forest Reserve, established in 1899.  In 1910, when the first tourists were beginning to make their way over the narrow dirt roads of Echo and Donner summits, the area was made part of the newly formed Eldorado National Forest.  In 1931, the area was named the Desolation Valley Primitive Area and in 1969 Desolation Wilderness was Congressionally designated and included in the National Wilderness Preservation System.  This unique area now totals 63,960 acres of wilderness land which is ours to enjoy, protect, and care for.  Enjoy your visit and be sure to Leave No Trace so that future generations may return to enjoy its permanent but changing beauty.

Desolation Wilderness is managed according to the Wilderness Act of 1964 to "ensure an enduring resource of Wilderness for present and future generations." The wilderness character of Desolation and its values of solitude, physical and mental challenge, scientific study, inspiration and primitive recreation will be protected, and where necessary, restored. Natural ecological conditions will be preserved under a concept of non-degradation, to prevent further loss of naturalness or solitude.  Follow the links provided below for more information: