Not only is there one and not only is there two, but there are three Velma Lakes in Desolation Wildnerness, the Upper, Middle and Lower. Each one of these lakes is pretty spectacular in itself. This might actually be one of my favorite hikes, with the Lower Velma my favorite lake of all three. The amount and views you see from this hike are endless! Middle Velma Lake sits at an elevation of about 7,900 feet above sea level. There are two main starting points, Bayview Trailhead and Eagle Falls Trailhead. Leaving from Bayview Trailhead, you spend about 4.5 miles on the trail to Middle Velma. If you hike out to see all three lakes, the trek will be a bit longer. Leaving from Bayview Trailhead will get you an elevation gain of about 1,600 feet.
My friend Jeremy and I started the hike from Bayview Trailhead just a little before 9am this morning. That was early enough to find a parking spot at the trailhead as it tends to get quite busy on the weekends. The hike starts where you can go left to Cascade or right to Desolation. You want to go right up to Granite Lake, which is quite steep as you gain just under 1,000 feet of elevation in 0.9 miles. To read more on this section of the hike, check out my post, Granite Lake Hike – Short but Sweet! Below are a few pictures.
We passed Granite Lake on our left and continued up and up. You’ll follow a few switchbacks and this is quite a steep hike up. Make sure to look left as you can see Cascade Lake, Granite Lake and Lake Tahoe all in the same view! Once you complete this section you will get to the Maggies Peak saddle where it flattens out further into Desolation Wilderness. From the saddle you can see Eagle Lake. Continue on the trail and that’s just what we did. You will come to where the trail veers right, but you’ll see a trail go straight as well. The trail straight goes about 100 yards where you can see Snow Lake and Azure Lake. Super pretty! More pictures below!
Get yourself back on the trail, as we did and you will start going downhill. You’ll see a first post and follow that to the Velmas. This is actually where Eagle Falls Trail connects. Continue to where you’ll see a second post. Here you can go left to Dick’s Lake, but you’ll once again follow right towards the Velmas. Continue and the trail will take to you to Middle Velma. Jeremy and I cut right early and went to Lower Velma first. What an amazing lake with islands and cliff walls. We saw some people fishing and they were having some seriously great luck. This is where my phone decided to restart so here is the MyTracks to this point. We followed around the Middle Velma, an absolutely huge lake and then continued the loop to Upper Velma. In the middle of the three lakes, you’ll see a post with trails to each if you end up finding the trail. Upper Velma is the smallest of the three. All were incredibly beautiful however. It seems that Upper Velma feeds Lower Velma, while Middle Velma is fed by a tributary from the Rubicon River. And, even more pictures! Also, here is the MyTracks from Lower Velma back to Bayview Trailhead.
If you start from Bayview Trailhead like we did, drive towards the “Y” in South Lake Tahoe. Make a right at the “Y” and follow Highway 89 or Emerald Bay Road towards Emerald Bay. Past Cascade Lake on your left and just prior to Emerald Bay, you will see the Bayview Campground and Trailhead on your left. Parking here is free. If you’re going to start out of Eagle Falls Trailhead, follow the above past Bayview Trailhead and you will see Eagle Falls Trailhead just at Emerald Bay on your left. Here, you can pay $5 to park in the parking lot or park for free just off the road.
Just to recap, leaving from Bayview Trailhead, we saw Lake Tahoe, Granite Lake, Cascade Lake, Fallen Leaf Lake, Eagle Lake, Snow Lake, Azure Lake and all three Velmas. Can you beat that in a 10 mile hike? That’s just amazing! Have you hiked to any of these lakes? What’s your favorite hike in Desolation Wilderness? Please make a comment below! Also, follow me on twitter @sberei!