Located above South Lake Tahoe, accessible via Hwy. 50 from Sacramento, Upper and Lower Echo Lakes are connected by a narrow channel which is passable by boat only during high-water conditions. The dam on Lower Echo Lake allows for storage of six feet of surface water (about 1,800 acre feet). This water is owned and managed for commercial purposes.
The Echo Lakes community includes the resort and marina, a seasonal post office, over 100 summer residences (located on US Forest Service or private lands), and a summer camp. The housekeeping cabins at Echo Lake, rustic but comfortable, have wide porches with beautiful views of the lake and mountains.
The area offers a variety of outdoor activities including boating, hiking, fishing, and camping in and around Echo Lakes as well as access into Desolation Wilderness.
A favorite hike from Echo Lakes into Desolation Wilderness is to Aloha Lake. Trail access starts at Lower Echo Lake where you can hike past Upper Echo Lake (or take the water taxi to the trailhead for a fee if you prefer) and onto a zig zagging uphill forest hike, with the final destination of Aloha Lake. You can take a brisk swim there, and enjoy the "granite moonscape" view of the lake.
Summer is the most popular season at the lakes. When the lakes freeze, access is only available by skiing in or across the frozen water. It is a popular cross-country skiing area. The lakes are frozen in winter, and the channel becomes navigable when the first two to three feet of water are stored behind the dam (usually late May or early June). The channel remains passable until the top 3-4 feet of water are drawn down in the Fall.
No fees to visit the lakes. There is a fee for the water taxi during the summer.
ADA Accessibility Notes
Park and hike-in access only.
Pet Friendly Notes
Dogs are allowed in Desolation Wilderness and on most other U.S. Forest trails. Pet owners please follow guidelines: Keep pet on 6 ft leash at all times. Control excessive barking. Check paws often; rocky terrain can cause cuts, consider protective dog pads. Pick up or bury canine waste. Keep your dog close by when encountering other people. Remember to bring enough water for you and your pet.