I grew up snowboarding and skiing in Lake Tahoe. My dad used to toss me in the car in the early hours of the morning. I’d wake up practically on the slopes. Despite growing up so close by, I’d never been to Tahoe without snow on the ground.
I’d been hearing all these things about how gorgeous Tahoe is in the summer. Middle Velma Lake in Desolation Wilderness was my first pick.
My first experience with Desolation Wilderness was phenomenal. Despite the crowds, it is one of my favorite places.
The Bayview trail begins with mellow ascent beneath redwoods with Emerald Bay on your right up to Granite Lake on your left. This is just the first bit of picturesque freshwater bodies on this hike.
After passing Granite Lake, make your way up steep granite switchbacks until you reach the top of the hill. You’ve finished the most strenuous part of the hike! Bask in the beauty of the wilderness in front of you and follow the trail down the hill to where the trail splits to Eagle Lake. Stay to the left to make your way towards the Velmas.
Traverse through open terrain until you come up to a lake on your left. This is Upper Velma Lake.
From there, follow the trail across a stream. This stream feeds into Lower Velma Lake, but more on that in another post. Follow the trail until you reach another split. Stay to the right to make your way to Middle Velma Lake. This trail continues to Fontanillis Lake, another beautiful lake in Desolation Wilderness.
Once the lake is near and in your sights, feel free to venture off the trail and frolick across the granite to its edge. There are some great spots to drop your pack and jump in.
One thing though, the bottom is incredibly rocky, slippery, and muddy. If you’re planning on swimming, bring a pair of water booties. Your feet will thank you.
Looking for other trails like Middle Velma Lake? Try Lake Aloha. For something more strenuous, Pyramid Peak is it. Or hike to Meiss Lake in nearby Mokelumne Wilderness.
Once you’re done, trace your steps back to the trail and head back home.
To sum up this hike: initial steep ascent with switchbacks, picturesque lakes, crossing a stream, granite structures everywhere, beautiful.
Hike: Bayview Trail to Middle Velma Lake
Where: Desolation Wilderness
Trailhead: Bayview Trailhead off of HW89 (across from Inspiration Point)
Length: 10~ miles out and back
Gear:CamelBak Women’s Aventura 100oz Hydration Pack, Icebreaker Women’s Tech T Lite T-Shirt, Ahnu Women’s Montara Waterproof Boot, Black Diamond trekking poles
Cost of Parking: Free on the side of HW 89 and at the trailhead