Permit - Desolation Wilderness only allows a certain number of people per zone per night. Many zones have more than one lake in them. Half of each zones quota can be obtained through the online reservation system at www.recreation.gov, the other half are obtained the same day from the ranger station (two miles east of the Highway 50/89 junction in South Lake Tahoe on Highway 50) or the Taylor Creek Visitor Center (three miles north of the Highway 50/89 intersection). I would get to the ranger station early if you are doing the same day option. Fees: $5 for the 1st night; $10 for 2-14 nights per adult with a $6 service fee per permit. (2 nights for 2 people would be $26)
Mileage - 5 miles to Gilmore Lake (1,800' elevation gain) and another 1.75 to the top of Mt Tallac (1,400' more elevation gain). map
Camps/Water - There are trash cans and bathrooms at the Glen Alpine trailhead but no water. You could pump from the creek that leaves Lily Lake. Gilmore Lake had plenty of water, as did the creeks (but it poured on us day 1).
Hazards - Bears, Lightning, and pesky Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels (they will try to get your food).
NO FIRES ARE ALLOWED IN DESOLATION WILDERNESS (only camp stoves)
So we decided that given the afternoon weather we encountered yesterday, we would try to get an earlier start on our day hike up Mt Tallac. The trail (shown below on the map/profile) is almost exclusively exposed and the top of Mt Tallac is not a place you would want to be when a bid bad dark storm cell passes over. We had strung our packs on a line and then wrapped them with a tarp that, in good weather, we typically sit on.
We gathered our things for the day hike (including rain gear) and headed up the mountain. The trail is well marked and the rockier sections are ducked (cairned, whatever you want to call the stacked rocks that mark trails). We saw this Yellow Bellied Marmot coming out of his home to dry out. He looked a little haggard from the previous day's weather. I was glad to be able to get this shot of him, and his tree home.
As you can tell in this shot, the weather was not exactly cooperating fully with our plan today. No thunder or lighting yet, but clouds that weren't going away.
Make sure that you turn around and catch the views behind you on the way up (and also to catch your breath). Here is Pyramid Peak and Mt Price with some neat lighting and snow/hail patches (not sure which, and wasn't hiking over there to see).
There is this crazy looking tree on the way up that looks like bones of an alien figure of some kind coming out of the trunk.
Looking back you can really see for ways. Gilmore Lake is the closest lake with Susie Lake the next one. Lake Aloha was visible as well, below the high peaks in the distance.
I had heard from some people that did this section of trail (the week prior) that the wildflowers were great. There were some wildflowers, but many looked to have suffered though the hail and not recovered. Here is Lee and Mt Tallac, the very rocky looking thing above him.
The trail to Mt Tallac takes you off the the east side and then up it. The views are simply amazing up here. Here is Lee on one of the cooler looking rock formations. There are some steep drop offs, so do be careful. The squirrels up here are crazy tame, please do not fall for their cuteness and feed them.
Still hiking to the top I grabbed this shot of Gilmore Lake. It is so very round.
Lee was at the peak now, taking it all in.
You truly have a 360 degree view up here. Lake Tahoe is glorious from this perspective. You can then turn around and see all of Desolation Wilderness to the west.
Or, you could turn around and see this guy getting ready to just jump in your pack and get himself a snack. These guys are ridiculous up here. We chatted with a large group from Texas, they do a high school aged school trip somewhere every year. One of the braver ones in that group had one of these squirrels take food right from his hand (not recommended and not good for the squirrels either).
So the weather looked like it might do a repeat of the previous afternoon. No tricks in this shot with the lighting, the clouds looked pretty dark, and I wasn't going to wait for thunder/lightning before getting off the peak.
We decided to get off the mountain just about the time it stated to rain a little, not like yesterdays downpour. On the way down do be careful at the junction with the other way up to Mt Tallac, Tallac trailhead. Never done the summit this way (but many do every day).
We quickly hiked down the trail to camp, without too much weather concerns now. Here are some more marmots drying out on the rocks.
Gilmore Lake that afternoon pictured below, windy but periods of sun. Some people, camped on the other side of the lake, decided to go swimming. Lee and I could not believe that people would be swimming with the cold windy conditions that awaited you when it was time to get out. The mosquitoes were not too bad on this trip (there were only a few times when they would come to attack). The wind seemed to keep them from being too annoying (and DEET also seems to keep them from wanting to eat me). It was nice that the evenings were cool. With the slight breeze all night I was actually in my sleeping bag all night.
Bright red line shows the trail from the parking lot at Glen Alpine trailhead to Gilmore Lake and then to Mt Tallac. Elevation profiles below show the trail to Gilmore Lake and then another one showing the hike from Mt Tallac back to camp at Gilmore Lake. Click on either for a larger image.