Desolation Wilderness: Mount Tallac

Destination: Mount Tallac
Mileage: 9ish miles round trip
Trailhead: End of Mount Tallac Rd, off Hwy 89
Elevation: 6,440 up to 9,890 feet

Mount Tallac is truly a choose your own adventure hike, there are so many approach options! You can wrap around the base of the mountain and come at the summit from the west via the Glen Alpine Trail, which starts at the end of Fallen Leaf Lake. If you’re exiting Desolation Wilderness, Mount Tallac is a great last stop on the way out. There’s a trail that comes up from Fallen Leaf Lake and joins the Mount Tallac trail just north of Cathedral Lake. Then there’s the main summer route, which is what we did, from Mount Tallac Trailhead. Even then there are two options for the big climb from Cathedral – a more direct route or one that I’m assuming has more switchbacks. You could stand on Mount Tallac at least a dozen times and have a new hike every time!

Mount Tallac Trailhead and mapDay hikers, don’t forget to pick up a self-issue permit for Desolation Wilderness at the trailhead. Click on the photo above for larger view of the map.

Ridge along Fallen Leaf LakeAfter the initial climb, the trail follows the ridge above Fallen Leaf Lake, mostly among evergreens providing a shady respite.

Floating Island LakeThe first lake you reach is Floating Island Lake, which I hear has a floating grass island. It may have been bumped up against shore while we were there as I saw no island…

Cathedral LakeThe second lake is rock-rimmed Cathedral Lake. This could make a good cooling off point on the way down if you don’t mind passersby as it is a small lake right on the trail.

Elevation gain to the final summit pushA bit after Cathedral Lake the trail splits, one route being more direct while the other switchbacks up the eastern slope. There was a trail crew along the switchbacks so we headed up the “escalator,” as some locals called it. Once you reach the pass, enjoy the first views into the heart of Desolation Wilderness with Pyramid Peak towering over far-off Lake Aloha.

Mount TallacEnjoy the 360-view at the top, but keep an eye on your pack! There is a scurry of chipmunks or golden-mantled ground squirrels, I’m not positive which, waiting for you to let down your guard long enough to make off with your lunch.

To the guy taking a nap on the peak – I’ll admit that is a pretty sweet nap spot assuming you don’t roll around in your sleep, but you and the sheep you’re counting are hogging the summit photo location! For photo opportunities without other hikers in the background get an early start or snap some shots below the true summit.

Kiva BeachAfterward, you and your adventure pup can take a quick 2.4-mile drive to Kiva Beach where friendly dogs are welcome.

What route will you choose for your hike up Mount Tallac?


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