Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

February 24, 2011

Desolation Wilderness Grouse Lake

This is Grouse Lake in Desolation Wilderness, CA. 
It is a 3.8 mi round trip hike round trip. Rewards can include swim, fishing, photography, wildflower viewing, or just a picnic and rest!

Difficulty: Moderate (due to some steepness and rocky areas, but you can take it slow, too.)
Trail tread: solid dirt, to rocky, to some giant flat boulder slabs to cross, even rocky "stairs" to climb.
Elevation change 1249 feet,  per Garmin BaseCamp.
Map of hike below with link to download GPS tracks for the hike.

Driving Directions:  Take Highway 50 to Wrights (Lake) Road north from the Kyburz area.  The Wrights Lake Road will be between tract 36 and tract 39 along Highway 50.  Follow the signs to Wrights Lake Recreational area.  Follow the signs, passing Lyons Creek Parking, and Bloodsucker Lake parking, following signs to Twin Lakes Trailhead parking. When you get to the Wrights Lake Welcome Cabin and parking lot on your left, turn right.
To the Trailhead:  From the north side of the parking lot you'll see a closed metal gate.  Go around it and follow the pavement a short distance until you see a sign for the Twin Lakes Trail and Grouse-Hemlock Trail that points to your right.  Follow that and there is a big sign at the trailhead where you need to fill out a day permit, no fees, for entering Desolation Wilderness.

It was my first "adopted trail" as a volunteer for Desolation Wilderness.  The area is designated as a special area, and campers are limited.  This shot if from a grassy shore but there is granite next to the lake's west shore that is great for picnics and swimming.

Wildflowers seem to bloom all season, and seeing all  the colors and varieties feels like someone brought me a bouquet for some special occasion!

On the way up, you encounter various types of ground to cover.  Everything from dirt, rocky, some giant boulder slabs to cross, even rocky "stairs" to climb. Oh, I look forward to those evil things, just to drive myself forward for the pleasure of making it to the top.

The hike is vigorous. On the granite sections of trail, there are some large rocks placed to show you the way.

When I get this far, I take awhile to just sit somewhere and absorb the peace.  Watching fish swim and occasionally leap, then following the ripples is, according to studies, an excellent stress reliever.  Healthier than medication!!!  More fun too.  I swim sometimes in the lake which is quite cold...also a great stress reliever!  Honest.  Try it.  Let the fish nibble at your heels. Brave the cold water; just jump or dive in...forget the idea of easing in~ ~ ~

Above is Grouse Lake, in a giant granite bowl.  Though mostly rocky, there is a shady meadow area on the far side of the lake, too, but sometimes plagued by mosquitoes.

To continue to Hemlock Lake, hike along the north side of the lake, and begin another climb, although it's easier than what you just passed.  It will wind through vegetation, and I found wildflowers blooming en masse.  

If you like to scramble, like me, this is a playground!  My inner child just can hardly pass by and is compelled to climb! The rewards are sweat, a great view, and if you want to work on muscles and work off flab, here is your best gym!

And after I accomplish the work I came to do, or if I run out of sunlight, I return looking across these fantastic views!  Few things are so satisfying after a day of hard work!  (You can backpack with a permit obtained online or from the Pacific Ranger Station along Highway 50, and there are a few authorized campsites around the lakes.)

The trail runs beside the creek part of the way, so you can cool off on a hot day with a microfiber towel worth its weight in gold about that time!  There are more lakes ahead. The link for Grouse, Hemlock and Smith Lakes in one hike is in the list below.  That's a 7 mile round trip hike.

At dusk this is the final view.  Serene even with fishermen and hikers and occasional mountain bikers cruising by outside of the Wilderness.  People like to fish with their kids here from the bridge where you can look down and watch the fish. Okay, if you don't want to be mosquito food, take some spray.

Wikiloc GPS Tracks  for this hike and more.

Maybe I will see you there taking a dive, this coming hiking season?  

For more hikes check Peachy's Trails by Location
with mileage and difficulty ratings, and
these Desolation Wilderness Trails:
·         Tahoe Rim Trail
·         Horsetail Falls & Pyramid Creek
Easy to Strenuous and Difficult
 10-18+ RT
Moderate- Strenuous
·         Rockbound Trail to Maude Lake

Peachy Hiker's Table of Contents
updated 7-2014 
with new map, GPS link, updated 
Table  of Contents