“A moderate run that delivers big with panoramic views and lots of alpine lakes.”
— Eric Ashley
Lake · River/Creek · Spring · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers
Travel in the area requires a self-serve wilderness permit that cab be issued at the trailhead. No open campfires are allowed in the Desolation Wilderness.
There are lots of beautiful lakes and views along the steady moderate climb. The final portion of trail would be hazardous to run due to the rocky terrain and narrow, exposed trail.
From the trailhead parking, follow the dirt road 14N42- Desolation Wilderness/Meeks Bay Trail access for about 1.3 miles to where the singletrack begins. On the other side of the the road from a good sized pond, the trail heads uphill onto the northern reaches of the unofficial "Tahoe-Yosemite Trail." The climb proceeds steadily before leveling out where it reaches the side of Meeks Creek as it cascades downhill. For just over 1.25 miles, the trail remains within sight of the creek, including through an open meadow near the start.
After the meadow, the climbing returns. At 3.3 miles a double-log bridge facilitates a crossing over and away from the creek. A short climb up-and-around a depression brings the trail to a rocky outcropping above Meeks Creek. Just ahead sits Lake Genevieve, the first in a chain of several beautiful alpine lakes. At the intersection, continue along the left side of the lake.
There's a lot to look at for the next few miles as the trail passes Lake Genevieve, Crag Lake, Hidden Lake, Shadow Lake, and Stony Ridge Lake one after the other. Travel will either seem to go quickly because of all the sights, or it may slow because you'll want to do plenty of exploring.
The granite slope looming behind Shadow Lake signals the start of a challenging climb up to Phipps Pass. Several tight switchbacks lead up to Rubicon Lake. The route ahead never gets excessively steep, but it is rocky, narrow, and at times exposed, as it traverses striking granite walls and formations. Sure footwork is required in places.
Around the nine-mile mark, things level out as the trail continues around the summit of Phipps Peak. The western end of the trail zig-zags down though the trees to connect with the Pacific Crest Trail below ( PCT: Echo Lake to Highway 80 (Donner Summit)
The view below the west side of the summit is worth a look, but most runners won't want to descend to the PCT if using the Meek's Bay Trail as an out-and-back. If completing as a point-to-point, consider exiting on the Eagle Lake Trail or Granite Lake Trail.