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Overview.  Dicks Peak is a huge mountain that stands smack dab in the middle of the Desolation Wilderness.  As such, it can be a bit more demanding to get to, but it offers some of the best views in the entire area.  Combining Dicks with a climb of neighboring Jacks Peak provides a great wilderness experience.


Overview:

The typical route to Dicks Peak originates at Emerald Bay and follows either the Eagle Falls trail or the Granite Lake/Maggies Peaks trail into the Desolation Wilderness.  Ultimately, these two trails come together and later greet the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which leads to Dicks Pass.  The peak is a straightforward scramble from here, as described below.  Dicks can also be climbed from Rockbound Valley or along the Kalmia Ridge leading from Mount Tallac, or via a mostly Class 2 traverse from Jacks Peak.  The latter option is described here. 

 

Jacks Peak is usually climbed from the Desolation Valley, starting near the northeast corner of Lake Aloha (or Heather Lake).  This route climbs the steep but technically easy southeast face of Jacks Peak.  That option is discussed here.

 

This annotated topo map shows all three of these routes up Dicks and Jacks.  Many people will combine a climb of these two peaks with an overnight stay in the Desolation Wilderness.  However, Dicks Peak can be climbed from Emerald Bay as a very long day hike.

Hike #1 -- Dicks Peak:  East Ridge from Dicks Pass

One-Way Mileage:

1.5 miles to Maggies Saddle

5.1 miles to Dicks Pass

6.0 miles to Dicks Peak

 

Elevation:

Trailhead:  6,800'

Summit:  9,974'

 

Hiking time:  Most of a day or multi-day

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits This hike leaves from Emerald Bay, the most prominent and beautiful feature along the SW shore of Lake Tahoe.  The bay is located alongside Highway 89, approximately 7.5 miles north of the "Y" in South Lake Tahoe.  Note:  the trailhead area for this hikes gets extremely crowded on summer weekends.  Crowds will thin out as you get away from the roadway, but don't expect to be alone on this trail.

 

This hike leaves from the Bayview Trailhead, which (when driving from South Lake Tahoe) is on the left side of Highway 89, just as the road makes its initial right-hand bend around Emerald Bay (an alternative hike leaves from the Eagle Falls Trailhead, which is 3/4 mile north of Bayview, on the same side of the road.  There is limited parking here, and cars frequently spill out onto the highway.  More parking is available about a half mile north.  The USFS has recently imposed a day use parking fee of $3, free with your overnight wilderness permit.  Click here for more info.)  The Eagle Falls trail will eventually join the trail described here, so you can make a partial loop out of this trip. 

 

The Route:   From the parking area, continue through the Bayview campground.  At the trailhead permit kiosk, one trail heads left to Cascade Falls and one heads to the right to Granite Lake.  Follow the right hand trail for the first 0.5 miles as it climbs steeply through trees up the ridge towards the Desolation Wilderness boundary.  After several switchbacks along this stretch, the trail turns abruptly to the right and emerges from the trees.  Just a short distance from here, you come upon a group of boulders that are perched atop an overlook with tremendous views out over Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe.   Stop to admire the panorama, then continue SW up the trail for another 0.7 miles to Granite Lake.

 

It is an easy hike of less than 1,000 vertical feet to Granite Lake.  With good reason, many people don't go any farther than the lake:  it is a lovely spot, tucked into a shady bowl beneath the twin summits of Maggies Peaks.   The only downside of Granite Lake is that there isn't much of a view once you hike back in towards the lake.  However, the views will improve dramatically as you continue up the trail to the saddle between the two Maggies Peaks.  From here, make a gradual descent down a broad ridge above Azure Lake.  The trail heads west until it meets the PCT just north of Peak 9,190'.  Follow the PCT south past Dicks Lake to Dicks Pass, the highest trail crossing in the Desolation Wilderness at nearly 9,400'. 

 

A quick detour from here leads out to "Janine Peak", the unnamed Peak 9,579' above Kalmia Lake.  The views from here over Maggies Peaks and out to beautiful Lake Tahoe make this peak a fine objective in itself, but we have bigger fish to fry.  From Dicks Pass, leave the trail and head west along the obvious ridge leading up to Dicks Peak.  You will likely see some evidence of footpaths through the talus here.  All roads lead towards the summit.  Stay below the ridge on the left side initially, then gain the ridge as you near the summit.  As you climb, you can follow your route up the PCT past Dicks Lake.  Once on the summit (see photo above), the views are grand.  On a clear winter day or after a rain, you can even make out the Trinity Alps and Sutter Buttes far to the northwest. 

Hike #2 -- SE Face of Jacks Peak from Lake Aloha

Mileage:

1.5 miles to summit of Jacks Peak from NE shore of Lake Aloha

 

Elevation:

Lake Aloha:  8,116'

Summit:  9,856'

 

Hiking time:  A few hours from a camp in Desolation Valley

The Route:   This route description assumes that you are camped somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Aloha in the Desolation Valley.  The route begins at the intersection of the PCT and the Mosquito Pass/Rockbound Valley trail, at the NE corner of Lake Aloha.  Starting here, follow the PCT east, descending initially towards Heather Lake.  Jacks Peak will be on your left as you make this short descent.  After about 0.2 miles, you will cross a stream draining the SE face of Jacks Peak and leading down into Heather Lake.  Very shortly after crossing this stream leave the trail and start climbing to your left up an open face choked with huge boulders and brush, and quite a few wildflowers (see photo at right).  Pick your way up this face, avoiding the brush and keeping the stream on your left (note that the stream may run dry later in the season, and may flow under the boulders and be hidden from view).  As you climb, you will have a superb view behind you of lovely Heather Lake nestled beneath the rocky face of Cracked Crag.  Continue up the face and aim for the notch at the top of the face through which the stream flows. 

Once at this notch, you will see a large buttress directly in front of you.  This is not the summit, but an extension of the long south ridge of the peak.  Head slightly to your right, bearing almost due north, across a flattish area.  Cross this and then climb the talus slopes on the other side up to a saddle.  The summit of Jacks Peak is left of this saddle along the ridge.  As you approach the saddle, angle to your left and go directly up to the summit.  The view over Lake Aloha and Rockbound Valley to the Crystal Range is magnificent.

Hike #3 -- Jacks/Dicks Traverse

The Route:   The north-south ridge in between Jacks and Dicks is not terribly difficult, but it should not be attempted by those who are not comfortable scrambling over rock and using both their hands and feet.  Most of this route is rough Class 2 hiking, but there is a short Class 3 section on the rocky north ridge of Jacks Peak (just above the saddle) that can be tricky for some people.  The south ridge of Dicks Peak is mostly just a talus slog and thus is far more gentle (see photo at left).

The route itself is straightforward -- just drop off the summit of either Dicks or Jacks, and follow the ridge to the other peak.  There's only about a 500 foot elevation loss between the two peaks, so this shouldn't take too long if you are in decent shape.

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