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Tahoe to Yosemite Trail: Desolation Trail from Meeks Bay to Pacific Crest Trail junction near Middle Velma Lake | High Sierra Backpacker

Tahoe to Yosemite Trail: Desolation Trail from Meeks Bay to Pacific Crest Trail junction near Middle Velma Lake

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 08 January 2010

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The start point of the Tahoe to Yosemite Backpacking Trail is at Meeks Bay.

This is also the Start Point for this Tahoe to Whitney Trail Guide.

Trail Guide Page
Desolation Trail, The Meeks Bay Trailhead.

Meeks Bay Trailhead

Desolation Wilderness


Meeks Bay sits about halfway between the North and South Shores along the very heavily forested Western Shore of Lake Tahoe.
Meeks Bay is located at the very Northeastern edge of the Desolation Wilderness, at the beginning of the Desolation Trail as well as the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through the Meeks Bay Trailhead on Highway 89.

For road access check out the Google Map at the bottom of this page.

For a big view of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail through Desolation Wilderness, check out this huge topo map of Desolation Wilderness  and the Western shore of Lake Tahoe.

Scroll your cursor along the marked Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route to link to more detailed maps of that particular section of the trail. On those detailed maps click the red dots along the route for the corresponding Trail Guide page. 


Each Trail Guide page is linked to a Forum Page, like this one, which invites your questions and comments. This Forum was created so you could easily post up your own updates and notes about the segment of trail covered, as well as whole pages about your backpacking trips around Desolation Wilderness in this Desolation Wilderness Forum, and any of the others you have experience in.

Independent of your level of experience, this Trail Guide is going to walk you from Meeks Bay along the shores of Lake Tahoe down to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite along the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route.
Along the way we will have the opportunity to hike alternative routes, hike the TYT by sections between the trans-Sierra Highways, and even pick our way around the unmaintained sections through Summit City Canyon and over Saint Marys Pass.

We will be able to expand or shrink the trail distance and difficulty, and most importantly to change routes to suite our tastes and capabilities.
Specifically, we can follow the Pacific Crest Trail route as an alternative to hiking the sections of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail we may not be ready for.

We can walk hybrids of the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail that bypass the hard parts.

In every case, this is my invitation to come hike with me. We'll kick back with and along one of the most beautiful collections of rivers, meadows, mountains, and forests in the world.

 Decorating the trail and deepening our experiences along it are a collection of some of the finest trail local folks, people from all over our country, and backpackers drawn from all over the world.  
We'll kick it for a few moments and a few words with everyone we meet while we're heading down the trail, we'll hang out in camp, and meet a cross-section of cowboys, hunters, fisherman, day hikers and a wide range of humanity at the resupply points between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney.

We'll share most aspects of the things we find on and along these trails. You should add your two-cents worth.

In physical terms this trail guide describes both the Tahoe to Yosemite and Pacific Crest Trails down to T-Meadows from Meeks Bay. South of Tuolumne Meadows we follow the John Muir Trail  down to Yosemite Valley before finding our way back to the JMT over Voglesang Pass to continue our hike down to the Mount Whitney Portal, as well as exploring alternative routes to the JMT and the short sections where the PCT and JMT diverge.

We've also got interesting alternative routes to the main trails that connect Lake Tahoe to Mount Whitney, and too many side trips to count. And it is more that likely that you do too. I want you to post your experiences on High Sierra Trails here. Trail Crew, Day hikers, horsemen, and hunters, and all participants in Trail Culture are welcome here.

I'll provide the framework: All the main trails between Tahoe and Whitney with pictures, videos, maps, miles and elevations.
You fill in the side routes, the custom loops, updates on trail conditions, and an alternative perspective.

Anyone can post comments and limited-capacity pages in the Forums and on the Home Page.
Registered hikers can post up their own custom-awesome pages in the Forums that cover the trails between Lake Tahoe and Mount Whitney, as well as in the gear, navigation, and other forums covering various aspects of backpacking. On a personal note, "Welcome to Tahoe to Whitney!"

I answer all questions and comments to the extent I am capable, and welcome them all, and most especially informed additions to these forums.
Your experience adds an extra dimension to the trails described, as well as describing new trails.

Meeks Bay Trailhead sign marking the Desolation Trail's route into the Desolation Wilderness

Getting There

The Western Shore of Lake Tahoe is not too easily accessible, especially for people like me, who don't have a car, but it is not quite remote, either. The West Shore of Lake Tahoe is not quite Country, and it is not nearly urban, though the region contains people of both persuasions. The housing density under that dense forest has gotten pretty thick in recent years. And very dry...

Public Transportation can get you pretty close, to the "Tahoe Y" where Highways 50 and 89 split in South Lake Tahoe. From there you're on your thumb...

In any case,  it takes me the better part of a day to get to the Meeks Bay trailhead from the Bay Area. And I don't have a car. I am generally starting to run out of daylight when I finally arrived at the Meeks Bay Trailhead.

Hiking Plan

My experiences indicate just how important a factor time is on the first day of a backpacking trip, especially if you are going up to high elevations. The most important question concerns when you are going to arrive at the trailhead.

There are two optimal ways to start a long distance trip at high elevation. The first is to get to the trailhead well-rested and very early in the day. In that case you can hike a few casual few miles on the first day and still make good miles without killing yourself, due to your early start. 

Another good option is to arrive later in the afternoon, and spend a casual evening and overnight stay at or near the trailhead adjusting to the elevation.

Or you can do it my way: arrive at the trailhead at 4 in the afternoon after spending the whole day traveling on my thumb and wits, then, rather than setting up camp and kicking it at the trailhead, hit the trail  and push  to make the  4.39 mile hike up to Genevieve Lake before dark. Hell, you could have probably gone further...

Each of us are unique, and require a different "run-up" to High Sierra Backpacking.

In any of these cases your first day's mileage must be tailored to fit the very real constraints imposed by your arrival time at the trailhead, the extremity of your increase in elevation, the physical stresses that carrying a heavy backpack uphill at a high elevation imposes on the human body, and your physical conditioning. Don't undermine your trip before you even start!


Enough of Me, and what I think. What do You think? What experiences, questions, or comments do you have concerning the Desolation Trail? The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail? How did you feel at the trail head? The sandy trail to the first trail junction? The ascending ridge-side trail to the Desolation Wilderness boundary?

What do you think about the little temperate zone around the bridge over Meeks Creek?

Post your comments or questions thorough the comments link below. If you have had any experiences on this trail, I invite you to Register, which will give you the power to post stand-alone pages in this, and the other Trail Section Forums.

I'm especially curious about the cool loops y'all short and medium distance backpackers run through here...

It's real easy for registered users to post pictures, embedded videos and maps about your experiences, once you get the hang of it.

Below: View from the trailhead.

Tahoe to Yosemite Trailhead into Desolation Wilderness at Meeks Bay

Trail Guide Page: Desolation Trail, The Trailhead.

Trail Guide Page
Desolation Wilderness Boundary to Lake Genevieve

Check out the Mad Squirrel and the Big Black Ant.


Meeks Bay News

If you have hung out along the West shore of Lake Tahoe you know that the forest floor is filled with dry litter. That forest is due for a major fire. The thousands of residents there are freaking out at every Summer fire season.

Hopefully the improvements in forest management and the improvements in the Meeks Bay fire station will reduce the danger.


Check below for links comments and to the next page in the Trail Forum...

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