Sierra hikes: Ralston Peak at Desolation Wilderness offers grand rewards
Special to the Sun
The trailhead for the unique hike to Ralston Peak can be found about five miles west of Echo Summit at the parking area for Camp Sacramento.
This four-mile hike is not for the fair at heart. It is a straight 2,800-foot vertical climb that challenges even the most fit hiker, but the rewards are so worth the daunting effort to get to the top and peek at what is below.
The hike begins through an old forest full of lime-green, moss-covered branches of towering old-growth trees that beg to tell the tales of yesteryear, when Snowshoe Thompson crossed their roots to deliver the mail.
My companion and I traversed about a mile and came upon a bed of ferns growing along a creek bed that also housed yellow columbine, purple lupine, queen lace and mule ear flowers. A quick glimpse to the right gave way to emerging views of Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort and a tease of Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
Another half mile and the trail goes through what appears to be a long-lost water source. The near-vertical walk is quite intense and boulder-laden, making each step a true workout on the legs — for about two miles.
At the top of this part of the climb, the view is simply breathtaking – Sierra-at-Tahoe is below and Kirkwood is visible in all its glory, reminding one of the winter fun to come. Pyramid Peak is begging to be climbed to the left — its brown coat awaiting the footsteps of those that dare to cross its path.
The last mile of the hike is straight up Mount Ralston itself, step by step until reaching an outcropping of boulders slightly to the left that lead to the top of the peak and to the edge of the magic below — Desolation Wilderness in all its untamed glory. Upper and Lower Echo lakes are visible to the right, Lake Tahoe is straight ahead, Lake Ralston is directly below and Aloha Lake is to the left.
The views leave the eyes dancing with amazement at what is truly a peak at a most-amazing part of the Sierra Nevada. Ralston Peak captures the heart of the Desolation Wilderness so many have written about, explored and peeked at from many directions.
Ralston is a true peak, a place to eat lunch and be thankful for the gift of Tahoe and what is out there to be discovered.