Hiking to Lake Aloha, Desolation Wilderness

Hiking to Lake Aloha, Desolation Wilderness, California

One word sums up the hike from the Glenn Alpine Trailhead to Lake Aloha in the Desolation Wilderness:  STUNNING!

Chris & Mac of Grey Otter Outventures

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Length:  12.3 Miles
Trailhead(s):  Glen Alpine
Elevation Gain:  1,861’
Trail Type:  Out & Back
Dogs:  Allowed
Difficulty:  Moderate/Difficult (Due to Distance)
Permit Required?  Yes, Free Self-Issue at Trailhead
Considerations:  Very rocky trails, make sure your dog’s paws are conditioned or he/she wears booties.
Season:  Late Spring to Fall


One word sums up the hike from the Glenn Alpine Trailhead to Lake Aloha in the Desolation Wilderness:  STUNNING!

Why is the Hike to Lake Aloha so Amazing?

Oh, so many reasons.  From the time you leave the Glen Alpine Trailhead, the beautiful scenery begins.  Along the way to Lake Aloha, you will have not only outstanding mountain scenery, but some small waterfalls, the picturesque Glen Alpine Creek, and three stunning lakes – Susie, Heather, and, of course, Lake Aloha.  This is a hike that rewards you for your efforts every step of the way!

Hiking to Lake Aloha

At 12.3 miles roundtrip, the hike to Lake Aloha is a fairly long hike for most people.  This is the mountains, after all, so most hikes will require some work.  Unlike many hikes, however, where one spends much of the hike getting to a single pay-off, the pay-offs on the hike to Lake Aloha just keep adding up.  Plan on making a full day of this hike, but don’t miss it.  You will be glad you put in the effort.

Leaving from the Glen Alpine Trailhead on the hike to Lake Aloha, you will travel 1.1 miles on forest road 12N16 until you reach the signs for the Glen Alpine Springs resort.  Along the way, you will get your first views of mountain scenery, as well as the very pretty red rock Modjeska Falls.  When you reach the signs for the resort, take a moment to read about this historic landmark.

The Glen Alpine Springs resort was established in 1878 and is being preserved by a non-profit organization.  The signs about the resort do a good job of detailing the resort’s history and you can visit it if you think you have time (which you probably don’t given the distance to Lake Aloha) or decide whether you want to do a hike to the resort at a later date.

After reaching the signs for the Glen Alpine Springs resort, continue straight to the Glen Alpine Trail.  The trail travels 2 miles until it reaches a sign showing Lake Aloha to the left and Gilmore Lake to the right.  Obviously, go left and follow this trail for .5 miles to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which is what will take you to Lake Aloha.

Along the way from Glen Alpine Springs to the PCT, you will be treated to incredible mountain scenery and some views of the pretty Glen Alpine Creek.  You will definitely be gaining elevation through this stretch, but the climbing is not overly rigorous and, although rocky, the trail it is well built and easy to follow.

At the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, take a left to continue toward Lake Aloha.  At 4.17 miles, you will reach the beautiful Susie Lake.  Although by no means as large as Lake Aloha, Susie Lake is a good size.  The lake is incredibly beautiful from every angle, so have your camera ready and take a bunch of pictures.

The PCT continues around the left side of Susie Lake and begins to climb slightly on the way to the next lake – Heather Lake.  Along the way there is a minor creek crossing, but it is easily crossed by rock hopping the placed rocks.  The trail turns from rocky to very rocky as Heather Lake comes into view.  This is the last lake you will visit before reaching Lake Aloha.

Heather Lake is a gorgeous, small lake ringed by peaks with gray granite and orange tinted rock.  We took the pictures in the slideshow in June, so there was still a good amount of snow which only added to the beauty and drama of the lake.  As you move along the trail beside the lake, the scene seems to change constantly, adding to the enjoyment.  When you reach the end of Heather Lake, it is only another .5 miles to reach Lake Aloha.

During the .5 mile hike from Heather to Lake Aloha, you will be climbing and there are a couple of minor creek crossings, but you should be able to easily cross them by rock or log hopping.  When you reach Lake Aloha, the entry is quite dramatic.

Coming around some large boulders on the PCT, your first glimpse of Lake Aloha comes into view.  The lake is stunning.  It is a large lake ringed by granite peaks with granite islands littered throughout, deep blue water, and distant views of numerous peaks in the Desolation Wilderness.

Plan on spending some time at Lake Aloha to have some lunch or at least a snack.  It is one of the prettier, more dramatic alpine lakes I’ve visited and well worth spending some time to enjoy.  If you want to explore Lake Aloha further you can continue on the PCT by taking a left when you reach Lake Aloha or take a right on the Rubicon Trail before retracing your steps back to the Glen Alpine Trailhead.

Concluding Thoughts about Aloha Lake

The hike to Lake Aloha is truly outstanding.  It is not easy to find a hike that offers the amount of gorgeous mountain scenery you will experience on this hike, much less waterfalls and three jaw dropping lakes like Susie, Heather, and Aloha lakes.  Although a long hike, your efforts will be greatly rewarded on your trip to Lake Aloha.  I can not stress enough – if you are looking for a top notch hike by Lake Tahoe, this one should be at the top of your list!  Enjoy and outventure on!

Scroll down to learn about the GEAR WE USE and OTHER OUTVENTURES in this area.

Additional Information (Click below to follow links.)

Hiking to Lake Aloha Slideshow

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Gear We Use for Day Hiking

To see descriptions of the gear Chris & Mac use for day hiking, as well as links to manufacturers and retailers offering the gear for sale, please CLICK HERE.

Hiking Mount Tallac, Lake Tahoe, California

Articles About Other Regional Outventures

Click below to learn about other regional outventures in this area.

SAFETY DISCLAIMER:  The activities discussed in this website are outdoor activities and, as such, have inherent risks to which participants are exposed.  It is not the intent of this website, nor is it possible due to the variability of weather, terrain, equipment, and experience, to detail all of those risks.  The information contained in this site is informational, but not instructive nor exhaustive.  It is the sole responsibility of the user to ensure he/she is in good health, fully prepared, and fully informed as to dangers before undertaking any of the activities discussed in this website and the user does so at his/her own risk.  The user understands that by using this website he/she acknowledges and accepts all risks associated with use of information from this website and participation in any particular activity addressed herein.  Please see “Terms of Use” for additional information.

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