PCT: Echo Lake to Highway 80 (Donner Summit)
ElevationAscent: 9,230' 2,813 m
Descent: -9,462' -2,884 m
High: 9,349' 2,850 m
Low: 6,946' 2,117 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 41% (22°)
Current trail conditions
Popular runs nearby
Echo Lakes to Lake Aloha
12.8 mi 20.7 km • Loop • 1,434 ft Ascent 437.09 m Ascent
Singletrack South Lake Tahoe, CA( 28 )
3.3 mi 5.4 km • Out and Back • 682 ft Ascent 207.94 m Ascent
Singletrack South Lake Tahoe, CA( 20 )
9.9 mi 16.0 km • Out and Back • 3,266 ft Ascent 995.6 m Ascent
Singletrack South Lake Tahoe, CA( 44 )
Eagle Lake Out and Back
1.9 mi 3.1 km • Loop • 405 ft Ascent 123.45 m Ascent
Singletrack South Lake Tahoe, CA( 11 )
7.9 mi 12.8 km • Out and Back • 1,858 ft Ascent 566.35 m Ascent
Singletrack South Lake Tahoe, CA( 4 )
Daggetts Loop and Castle Rock
7.7 mi 12.3 km • Loop • 1,475 ft Ascent 449.46 m Ascent
Singletrack Kingsbury, NV( 5 )
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“The Lake Tahoe section of the PCT features some of the most beautiful sections of wilderness in the Northern Sierras.”— Kristen Arendt
After this, a short drop in elevation brings you past Heather and Susie lakes and to the bottom of Dicks Pass. From here, start the trudge up the pass for beautiful views and the highest point on this stretch of trail. As you come over the pass, you drop into another small bowl which contains Dicks Lake and Fontanillis Lake, both beautiful and worthy destinations on their own. The next small pass drops you down into the Velma Lakes basin. This area has pretty quick access from Emerald Bay and can be crowded on weekends, but there is plenty of space to spread out and find private camping in this beautiful wilderness country.
After Velma Lakes, the trail heads north through thickly wooded forests with sliver views of the high alpine peaks behind you and to the west. Great camping and backcountry fishing are found at Richardson Lake a little ways up trail from the Velma basin. Stop by the small forest service cabin on the southeast side of the lake and see if any other travelers are camped nearby.
Shortly after Richardson, you start the next climb up to the ridges above Alpine Meadows ski resort. These ridges offer some of the best views of Lake Tahoe along the trail. A quick drop into the Five Lakes Basin, and you’re climbing behind Squaw Valley and very close to the headwaters of the American River, now under the operation of a land trust, it makes a great detour.
From here, the trail stays on high alpine ridges and winds past Tinker Knob and Anderson Peak all the while offering the most vast and open views of the northern Tahoe region. At the base of Anderson Peak and nearly right on trail is the Benson Hut, one of the many backcountry huts operated by the Sierra Club. The hut offers a warm and cozy place to stay along the trail; check the Sierra Club website for availability.
After the hut, the trail drops along a series of switchbacks past Mt Judah and Donner Peak to Donner Pass and the first signs of major civilization in nearly 60 miles. Continue on along granite cliffs with sweeping views of Donner Lake and the Truckee Basin. Two more beautiful alpine lakes, Flora and Azalea lie just off the trail and make for another worthy last detour. The trail turns from granite to dirt as the last few miles of this section sweep through thick conifer forests and at last brings you to the trailhead at Highway 80.
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We need help with the following missing trail information:
Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, Flora & Fauna, Runner Notes