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    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    156 m
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    8.5 km
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
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    These ratings are completed by users who have completed this trail and not subject to reviews by 10Adventures.
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    Directions to Trailhead

    Echo Lakes Trail

    Echo Lakes Trail

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    Table of contents

    Hiking the Echo Lakes Trail is an immersive experience. Explore California’s high country and marvel in the sweeping alpine vistas along the way. Family-friendly and incredibly scenic, this lakeside route is at the top of many adventurers’ bucket lists, and we encourage you to add it to yours too.

    Route Description for Echo Lakes Trail

    The Echo Lakes Trail is a wonderful expedition through the alpine basin bounded by the impressive Sierra Nevada peaks. Almost entirely exposed, this route boasts panoramic vistas but also warrants extreme weather conditions. In the summer months, be sure to wear sun protection to avoid overexposure and check the forecast to avoid getting caught in an afternoon storm that is common at such high elevations. Additionally, the path travels over lots of scree and uneven terrain, so wear a pair of sturdy footwear with ankle support! Finally, note that hikers are required to pick up a free permit at the trailhead before heading out on this trek.

    Immerse yourself in the scenic mountain setting along the Echo Lakes Trail. Explore the Desolation Wilderness amongst intrepid travelers tackling the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. Stretching over 8km out-and-back, this route is ideal for families and novice hikers alike. Head out into nature and let the fresh mountain air fill your lungs along this scenic footpath. Marvel in the beauty of the crystalline alpine lakes bounded by granite mountains as you wander along the granite terrain, adorned with juniper, pines, red fir, and wildflower meadowlands. Don’t forget to charge your camera; the panoramas are unparalleled! We love this trek, and we know you will too.

    Setting out from the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) at the end of the Echo Lakes Road. From here, the path will venture north, past the Water Taxi pier, before climbing up to the Echo Lakes scenic overlook. Revel in the sights of the postcard-perfect scene and notice distant views of Lake Tahoe in the north. From here, you will be guided northwest along the northern shores of Lower Echo Lake. As you wander along the shoreline cliffs, you will weave through mixed pine forests and wildflower meadows. Enjoy the serene environment, and the path will intensely climb to an overlook beneath Flagpole Peak. Before descending the route, be sure to admire the sights of Becker Peak and Talking Mountain across the water in the south.

    Now traveling over to Upper Echo Lake, you will be overwhelmed with the views of the encompassing Sierra Nevada Peaks that hem the cirque. Notice several adventurers enjoying the blue-hued waters and the water taxi running back and forth. Next, follow the PCT route down to a junction on the western side of Upper Echo Lake. Here, turn left down to the Water Taxi pier. Rejuvenate your tired feet in the waters, and if you are already exhausted from your trek, take the taxi back to the trailhead. If you still have some gas left in the tank, then head back the way you came, retracing your steps along the route all the way back to the trailhead.

    Trail Highlights

    Echo Lakes

    The Echo Lakes are two glacial pools that sit between the granite summits of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Sitting at an elevation of 2,260 m in the El Dorado National Forest, the Upper and Lower Lakes boast postcard-perfect alpine scenes. An adventurer’s oasis, you can hike the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, kayak, paddle board, swim in the waters, and cross country ski or snowshoe in the winter. The possibilities are endless!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you swim in the Echo Lakes?

    Yes, swimming is permitted in the roped-off area of Echo Lakes. Swimming in the natural area is discouraged.

    Can you kayak in the Echo Lakes?

    Yes, the Echo Lakes is a popular kayaking destination.

    How long is the Echo Lakes Trail?

    The Echo Lakes Trail is an 8.5 km out-and-back hike in South Lake Tahoe.

    Can you hike along the Echo Lakes?

    Yes, the Echo Lakes Trail travels along the northern edge of the lake on the Pacific Crest National Trail.

    Insider Hints for Echo Lakes Trail

    • Enjoy the Echo Lakes Trail in the winter months with a pair of snowshoes
    • Wear a sturdy pair of footwear, there is lots of scree and uneven terrain to navigate
    • Note that cell reception is spotty along this route
    • Charge your camera, the stunning scenes along this trail present countless photo opportunities

    Getting to the Echo Lakes Trail Trailhead

    The Echo Lakes Trail begins from the Pacific Crest Scenic National Trail (PCT) Trailhead at the end of Echo Lakes Road.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground:

      Backcountry Camping, Wilderness Permit Required

    • When to do:


    • Pets allowed:

      Yes - On Leash

    • Family friendly:


    • Route Signage:


    • Crowd Levels:


    • Route Type:

      Out and back

    Echo Lakes Trail Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

    Check Area Weather


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