Desolation Wilderness: Grouse, Hemlock, Smith, Twin and Island Lakes


Sep 30, 2014

For a few years now, we've made many attempts to hike to Island Lake in the Desolation Wilderness. We chose to cancel on our first attempt because of a nasty storm. Then P got sick right before we were to go the second time. Both times, we lost the $26 reservation fee via
The third time we got that fee back, because the trip was cancelled by the USFS due to heavy smoke and fire danger in the area. And by that time, we were wondering if we were destined to never see Island Lake.
Until this last weekend. It wasn't easy. When P went to to reserve our permit, it told him that there were no more permits for Twin or Island Lakes.
It would take more than that to stop us this time. P had also wanted to camp at Smith Lake...and there were permits for Smith Lake available! The itinerary for our trip then specified the second night at Island Lake, as we were on our way! No traffic accidents, no fires, no running out of gas...

Our friend Robin joined us on this trip as we hiked the first day from Wrights Lake up to Grouse, Hemlock, and finally Smith Lake. Parts of this trail are as steep as anything you will hike anywhere, but happily the whole route is only a little over three miles. You gain 1700 feet in those three miles, and at least one mile of the trail is pretty darn flat. The rest goes right up the side of the mountain. And when you drive up from sea level as we did, this part takes a bit of a toll. But it is only tree miles.
There are few good campsites at Smith Lake, but we found one perched on the ridge to the north of the lake, and enjoyed the fact that all of the day-hikers left in the late afternoon...and we had the place to ourselves. Very peaceful. And beautiful. The views out over the Central Valley in the evening were incredible.
And worth the climb.

The next day we hiked back down to the junction and then took the fork to Twin Lakes and Island Lake. This is an easier trail, and as always in Desolation, we had plenty of company, including a boy scout troop and a couple of charming father and son teams who were out exploring. The route up to Twin Lakes is glorious as it heads up long smooth granite slabs. The views open up, the sun was was a good day for a hike!
Once at Twin Lakes, the trail gets a little less clear, but within a couple of hours we were looking for a campsite at Island Lake---with about the same success as at Smith. But we found a spot on the North shore fairly far along and had a wonderful afternoon wandering around and above the lake. From there the views of Island Lake were worth waiting for--even if it did take us about five years to see them,.

And as you can see in the photo below, evening was once again spectacular.

On the way home, we hiked out on Sunday morning and met a wildly diverse crowd of day-hikers---everyone from young families to old geezers, from urban walkers to Sierra Club vets. locals to travelers from around the world. We've never seen anything like it on a trail outside of Yosemite. But Everyone was in a great well they should have been Perfect day, lovely hike, and the time to enjoy it all.
And now we can finally cross Island Lake off our list of places we'd like to see....and add it to our list of places we'd like to visit again.

you can see the rest of the photos here:


Jul 5, 2014
On the way home, we hiked out on Sunday morning and met a wildly diverse crowd of day-hikers---everyone from young families to old geezers, from urban walkers to Sierra Club vets. locals to travelers from around the world. We've never seen anything like it on a trail outside of Yosemite.

Nice report and looks like a cool hike. Just out of curiosity, what is an "urban walker"?
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
klank Desolation Wilderness - Summer Solstice 2014 Backpacking 5
seekinglost Desolation Canyon, Utah... Any info? Trip Planning 24
Outdoors24 Desolation Canyon Fee Proposal General Discussion 1
neiloro Invite Desolation Canyon River/Rafting Trip - July 3-8 Meet Up (Members Only) 0
Ugly Mill D - Fresh White Milkshake Covered Desolation Winter Sports 15
Nick Desolation On The Water 11
George_Washington_Hayduke 8 Days in Desolation Canyon On The Water 2
Ounce Desolation Canyon 2015 On The Water 8
Nurrgle Desolation Canyon General Discussion 1
M Bob Marshall Wilderness Trip Planning 0
M Overnight Backpacking Indian Peaks Wilderness or Similar Trip Planning 8
Dreamer Alice - Toxaway Loop | Sawtooth Wilderness Backpacking 6
TeamJenkins17 Fox Park-Teton Wilderness Trip Backpacking 6
Tim Valentine Hoover Wilderness August 2020 Backpacking 9
Mountain Wanderer A smoky trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness Backpacking 2
BJett Dolly Sods Wilderness - West Virginia Backpacking 17
Yvonne Zion Wilderness Permits and Canyoneering permits opened up again General Discussion 11
S Conejos - South San Juan Wilderness Backpacking 2
C High Uintas Wilderness - Last minute plans Trip Planning 4
NorthwestWanderer 6 Day Eagle Cap Wilderness Odyssey | Cross Country Travel | The Highlight Highway Loop Backpacking 6
Mountain Wanderer Cedar Lakes Loop in Montana's Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Backpacking 4
balzaccom Ansel Adams Wilderness--smoke and mirrors Backpacking 8
ergelo Trail conditions in Arc Dome Wilderness (NV) Trip Planning 2
McKee80 Roaring Plains West Wilderness Backpacking 8
Titans Pharaoh Lake Wilderness- some much needed Vitamin W Hiking & Camping 5
Mountain Wanderer High Uintas Wilderness - Granddaddy Basin Backpacking 4
Curt Visiting (Part of) the Lake District of Cloud Peak Wilderness Backpacking 15
Miya 2nd Solo - Trinity Alps Wilderness - Wildflower Madness! Backpacking 50
D Recommendations in the Gros Ventre and Washakie Wilderness Areas Trip Planning 10
NorthwestWanderer Overnight Backpack to Louis Lake, Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Backpacking 4
kwc Wiliam C. Whitney Wilderness canoe camping (Adirondacks) On The Water 9
J Grenadier Range, San Juan Mtns. Weminuche Wilderness, CO June 27-30, 2007 Retro Backpacking 9
westy Fishhawk Creek, Washakie Wilderness Area Trip Planning 4
J Mount Nutt Wilderness Cave Spring Area dayhike Nov 26, 2019 Hiking & Camping 0
UtahBrian Sids Mountain Wilderness November 2019 Backpacking 5
J Havasu Wilderness and NWR, AZ. Nov 27, 2019 dayhike exploration Hiking & Camping 0
Mountain Wanderer First trip in to the Eagle Cap Wilderness Backpacking 10
Jackson A Fall Foray into the Teton Wilderness Backpacking 13
NorthwestWanderer Backpacking the John Muir Wilderness : Humphreys Basin Backpacking 3
scatman Whetstone Creek, Teton Wilderness - October 11-14, 2019 Backpacking 19
TeamJenkins17 Fox Park Patrol Cabin-Teton Wilderness Trip Planning 1
TeamJenkins17 Thorofare/Teton Wilderness Trip Trip Planning 12
Curt Lost Twin Lakes, Cloud Peak Wilderness, Wyoming Backpacking 16
TeamJenkins17 Teton Wilderness July 2019 Backpacking 4
wsp_scott Citico Creek Wilderness (TN) Backpacking 4
Eugene Rawah Wilderness Backpacking Trip Backpacking 0
fossana Ruby Crest Trail (Ruby Mountains Wilderness) Backpacking 7
Mikjik86 8 Days Backpacking Dark Canyon Wilderness Backpacking 2
fossana Browns Point > Summit > Whipple loop (Pine Valley Mountains Wilderness, UT) Hiking & Camping 1
NorthwestWanderer Backpacking the Pasayten Wilderness : Harts Pass, PCT, Windy Pass, Buffalo Pass, Foggy Pass, Jim Pass, Hulman Pass & Rock Pass Meadows Backpacking 3

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.