Pyramid Peak, Desolation Wilderness

Travel resources | Other California destinations | Other California trails

The hike to Pyramid Peak (3,043m) is one of the most popular in the Desolation Wilderness. The Pyramid Creek trailhead for the Horsetail Falls is at Twin Bridges (2.5 kms east of Strawberry, left-hand side of highway 50 if you are heading to Tahoe from the Bay Area). The trail is initially a loop, so make sure to leave the loop when it starts bending back. The trail continues to a board where where you must self-register. The "falls" (about one hour) are actually a series of rapids that come down from the ridge to the west. Pyramid Peak is to the southwest. As you continue hiking along the "falls/rapids" look for a convenient place to start heading south (90 degrees left from the rapids). If you find a use trail, you don't have to scramble over boulders. The low point in the ridge (about two hours) is marked with huge cairns, but not easily visible from below. When you reach this ridge, you have the first view of Pyramid Peak to the southwest. Cross the little canyon and climb the much higher ridge to the south/left. At the top of this ridge (2.5 hours) there is a vast plateau. Cross the plateau (3 hours) and head for the spine of Pyramid Peak (3.5 hours). Then climb the spine to the top (about 4 hours). You have good views of Lake Aloha to the immediate north (actually a collection of small lakes) and of Mt Tallac (slightly northeast). From the summit look south and you will see a stretch of Highway 50. That's the Rocky Canyon route. Memorize the general direction (basically you'll be heading south) and proceed to the series of meadows that help you gently lose elevation. When the vegetation gets thicker, look for the use trail. It's an excellent trail that winds its way through the forest. It's very steep in places but always very easy to follow. Not "rocky" at all. You are more likely to pick it up on the right/eastern handside (going downhill) but the trail is entirely on the left/western handside of the creek for the last part. If you are doing any bushwhacking, you have missed the trail. The Rocky Canyon "trailhead" is virtually invisible but it's across from an ancient milestone that says "4.3 miles", if you can find it (coming from the Bay Area, right hand-side of highway 50). There is a tiny parking lot a bit before this milestone ("before" if you are coming from the Bay Area). If you parked a second car here, the good news is that there is no parking fee and there is no place to self-register. If your car is at the Pyramid Creek parking lot, you have to walk on highway 50 back (left) to that trailhead for about 1 km, a very unpleasant walk. Print the topomap.