Lake Tahoe Travel Guide


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Lake Tahoe Desolation Wilderness Area Use Permits


|| Introduction

|| Trailheads

|| Overview

|| Zone Quotas

|| Regulations

|| Zone Map

|| Use Permits

|| Fees

Desolation Wilderness Area ─ Use Permits

Permits are required year-round for both day and overnight use. There are fees for overnight camping year-round.

Group size is limited to 12 people per party who will be hiking or camping together.

Day users may obtain a free permit from one of the following offices, or may issue themselves a permit at most major trailheads in the summer. During the winter, day permits are available at the Pacific Ranger Station. Day use is not subject to fees nor limited by quota at any time of the year.

Always check with the appropriate Ranger District Office for the latest permit and regulation information.

FEES – Overnight wilderness permit fee is $5 per person for the first night and $10 per person for two or more nights up to 14 days (non-refundable). Children 12 and under are free. Golden passes do not apply to personal use permits. Parking Fee are required in some areas. This fee is waived for overnight permit holders by obtiaining a parking pass, which exempts you from this fee when you pick up your overnight permit. 

PERMIT INFORMATION – Required year-round for both day and overnight use. There are fees for overnight camping year-round and a quota system is in place from May through October.

QUOTA – During the summer a Quota is in effect on the number of people allowed into the wilderness. Refer to the Zone Quota page for more information.

OVERNIGHT USERS — Must register in person and pay fees at one of the following offices. Please make every effort to to obtain your permit in person during business hours. Reserved permits are now mailed. Changes must be made in person and require the original permit to be turned in.

Pick up permits for WEST side entry at the:

RESTRICTIONS – Campfires – Campfires are prohibited in Desolation Wilderness to reduce human-caused fires, impacts to vegetation from firewood collection, and to reduce the visual impacts of fire rings and surface scarring. Your Wilderness Permit is also your campfire permit for your gas camp stove while visiting the Desolation Wilderness. Method of Travel – Travel is restricted to horseback or foot only. All means of mechanical transportation, including bicycles, carts, and snowmobiles, are prohibited in the wilderness. Wheelchairs are allowed. Stay on trails and do not shortcut switchbacks or create parallel ruts by walking alongside the trail. Waste – Visitors are required to bury human waste 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites. Toilet paper must be buried or packed out. Garbage must be packed out. Group Size – Maximum group size is 12 people for both day and overnight use. Pets – Domestic pets are allowed in the Desolation Wilderness at this time. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets are required to be leashed and you must clean up after them. Dogs can disturb other campers, get in fights with other dogs along the trail, and scare wildlife away. The El Dorado County leash laws are enforced inside the Wilderness boundary as dogs off leash can be an impediment and/or hazard to the safety of hikers, and to prevent dogs from harassing or molesting wildlife. Stock – Livestock is limited to two livestock per person, or 12 livestock in one group. Do not hitch, tether, or hobble a horse or other saddle or pack animal within 200 feet of a water source or within 100 feet of a campsite.


Located four miles east of Pollock Pines on Highway 50. 7887 Highway 50, Pollock Pines, CA 95726 Phone: (530) 644-6048 Winter: Weekdays only. Monday through Saturday as of April 1st. Summer: 7 days a week, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through October.

Pick up permit for EAST side entry at the:


Located three miles north of the Highway 50/89 junction at South Lake Tahoe, on Highway 89. Call for hours, phone: (530) 543-2674 Open summer only.


35 College Drive, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150. Phone: (530) 543-2600

Located two miles east of Highway 50/89 junction in South Lake Tahoe on Highway 50. From the highway turn right on Al Tahoe Blvd. and then turn right at first signal.  


||  Desolation Critters ─ Desolation Wilderness provides visitors with the opportunity to witness a diverse population of wildlife.

||  Desolation Geology ─ The granitic mountains of the Desolation are part of the massive Sierra batholith, the combined masses of granitic rock that have been uplifted by tectonic action to form the 400 mile long Sierra Nevada range.

||  Desolation History  ─ The area now known as Desolation Wilderness has a long history of use by both Native Americans and European settlers.

||  Desolation Plant Life ─ As much of the ground surface in Desolation is bedrock granite, soils are limited. Plant life, however, has adapted and the flora is diverse.


What’s on Tap


Lake Tahoe Festivals & Events:


Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival—7/8 – 8/21

North Lake—Imagine your toes in the sand, a fantastic bottle of wine nearby, a gourmet meal in hand and first-class entertainment before you…

Labor Day Lake Tahoe Fireworks Extravaganza—9/4/16 @ 08:30 PM

South Lake—This pyrotechnic exhibition explodes over Lake Tahoe after dusk and features a variety of patterns, shapes, and designs.

Big Band Jazz Concert at the Sugar Pine Point State Park—9/4/16

West Lake—Concert goers are encouraged to bring a picnic, low-back chairs, blankets, and be prepared to have fun.

The Great Reno Balloon Race—9/9 – 9/11/16

Reno—This is the 35th year for one of Reno’s most colorful and spectacular events! It attracts nearly 100 hot air balloons

For more event information, click on our Festivals & Events page for Half Moon Bay.


Top Attractions:

Winter Outdoor Activities  – 2015/16

The ski areas were finally blessed with SNOW! The recent drought took its toll, but finally were seeing some action…

Summer Outdoor Activities – 2016

Lake Tahoe  – In a couple of months, Lake Tahoe will be bursting with outdoor activities!

Desolation Wilderness Area 

Awesome hiking from late spring to late summer. 


For more information on local attractions, click on the Lake Tahoe Attractions or Recreational Activities.



The Region’s Fall Advisories:

Traffic Conditions. During the summer months, Lake Tahoe is inundated with tourists making driving challenging. Another issue, is the warm summer months are the best to complete road work. This combination can create very long delays in certain sections. Go to to learn about road conditions. 

Yes, It’s Still Water! California’s extreme drought has created some long-term consequences. If you are planning a lake vacation be sure to check about water levels. That rafting trip, fishing, or skiing may be impacted. It has also create EXTREME fire conditions, so be sure to check with local authorities about campfire and camp stove regulations.   

The Plague! It sounds medieval, but chipmunks and squirrels around Lake Tahoe can carry the Plague and health officials urge caution. Click here to learn more.

Yellow Jackets! I don’t know why it’s so bad this season, but from Tahoe City south  along the beaches the bees are everywhere! Click here to learn more.


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