Analysing terrain data
The exposure grade describes the potential consequences of falling or slipping off the path.
Low Exposure: The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.
Medium Exposure: The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.
High Exposure: Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.
Extreme Exposure: Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.
The Desolation Wilderness is a land of sparkling blue lakes in granite basins beneath snowy peaks.
It’s a postcard portion of the Tahoe Rim Trail, even though it features few views of Lake Tahoe itself.
In a more-than-fair trade, this section swaps vistas over the big lake for the rugged shores of smaller lakes in the alpine. The entirety of this section is shared with the Pacific Crest Trail and intersects many other routes popular with day hikers and backpackers.
Therefore, you are likely to encounter more hikers than on other sections, but no bikers because bicycles are not allowed here.
The Desolation Wilderness also comes with permit regulations.
You must fill out a free day use permit at trailheads before entering, and must arrange camping permits in advance online or at a Forest Service office.
The extra logistics are well worth the remote serenity of this section, however. Lower Echo Lake is the first of many alpine waters you will tour.
Though this one is lined by private property and popular with boat tours, the rest are in the wilderness area and are much more pristine.
Beyond Upper Echo Lake, the trail climbs steadily among bare rock and twisted pines into a glacially-carved valley with lakes and streams below, and the snowy hulk of Pyramid Peak on the horizon above.
Tamarack Lake, Ralston Lake, and Lake of the Woods are visible from the main trail and accessible on short side trails where you may find prime, unoccupied camping spots. Lake Aloha is especially large and dotted by innumerable islands of polished granite.
It’s so complex that you really can’t see the full expanse of the lake from any one point.
Scramble up to an elevated perspective to more fully appreciate its scale. The trail then turns away from Lake Aloha and drops downward, passing two smaller lakes and a waterfall before going uphill once more, beginning the trudge to Dick’s Pass.
The steep climb rewards with lofty views of the valleys you just traversed, and at the pass comes a vantage over the next.
Moving north past Dick’s Lake and Velma Lakes, the trail transitions again into a heavily forested landscape, where water sources are fewer.
Traveling mostly in the shade of conifers but occasionally in the clearings of flower-filled meadows, the trail rolls on past the wilderness boundary to Richardson Lake.
From there it climbs gradually to the road and trailhead at Barker Pass. Sources: https://tahoerimtrail.org/maps-trail-info/ https://tahoerimtrail.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/MapBroch_EL_to_BP.pdf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tahoe_Rim_Trail