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Overview.  Who would pass up an opportunity to bag the highest peak in the Desolation Wilderness?  Although it stands only slightly higher than its neighbors, Pyramid Peak nonetheless dominates the Crystal Range atop which it sits.  Great views from the summit make this a must-do.


Pyramid Peak can be climbed from a number of directions.  Here we will focus on the three most popular routes:  The west ridge from Lake Sylvia, the south face from Rocky Canyon, and the east face from Pyramid Creek.  This annotated topo map shows all three of these routes.  Many people will combine a climb of Pyramid Peak with an overnight stay in the Desolation Wilderness.  However, any of these hikes may be done as a very long day hike.

Option #1 -- West Ridge from Lake Sylvia:


4.6 miles to Lake Sylvia

5.7 miles to Pyramid Peak



Trailhead:  6,700'

Summit:  9,983'


Hiking time:  Most of a day

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits:  Take Highway 50 to Wrights Lake Road. This road is located about 35 miles east of Placerville (or about 6 miles west of Twin Bridges). Follow the winding Wrights Lake Road about 5 miles in a northerly direction until you reach the "Lyons Creek Trailhead". There is limited parking here.  At the trailhead, you can self-issue a required wilderness permit for day hikes (overnight permits are subject to quota and must be issued at the Visitor Center or at Forest Service Ranger Stations).

The Route:   The route is fairly straightforward to Lake Sylvia (see map at right).  Simply follow the well-defined Lyons Creek trail up Lyons Creek, until you reach Lake Sylvia (about 4.6 miles).  Over this distance, you've gained about 1,300 feet. Pyramid Peak is now only 1 mile away, but almost 2,000 feet above you.

From Lake Sylvia, aim for the obvious notch SSE of the lake. This is the trickiest part of the climb, as it involves some scrambling up the the saddle over loose rock, with some routefinding required. Fear not, however, as this is pretty easy going.  From the notch, hang a left and walk up the south ridge of the peak. Don't stop until you're on top of the mountain.  It is that easy. This is a longer route up the peak, but it is unquestionably the easiest way to summit.  Click here for a photo showing the entire Lyons Creek route.

Option #2 -- Rocky Canyon:


3.3 miles to summit of Pyramid Peak



Trailhead:  5,908'

Summit:  9,983'


Hiking time:  Half a day

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits From the direction of Lake Tahoe, take US 50 over Echo Summit and continue down the hill past Twin Bridges. After Twin Bridges, but right before Strawberry, look carefully for a creek that flows underneath the highway. There is a small turnout immediately west of the creek alongside US 50. At last check (August 2002), parking was permitted in this turnout. Walk back over the bridge spanning the creek and look for a use trail that begins on the right (east) side of the creek.  Note that because this is not an official trailhead, you cannot self-issue a required wilderness permit for a day hike here.  However, you can do so at the Pyramid Trailhead one mile east of here (near Twin Bridges).  Overnight permits are subject to quota and must be issued at the Visitor Center or at Forest Service Ranger Stations.

The Route:   The Rocky Canyon route to the summit of Pyramid Peak is probably the greatest vertical climb in the Tahoe Sierra. Starting from a base elevation of 5,900', the route climbs up nearly 4,100' to the blocky summit of Pyramid Peak. Rocky Canyon also presents the shortest route to the summit from a roadway, and thus sees a reasonable number of daytrippers.  This view of Lake Aloha from the summit (pictured here) is but one reason for the peak's popularity.

From US 50, follow a use trail along the right side of the creek that drains Rocky Canyon. The trail passes upwards very steeply through some brush and forestland for a couple of miles.  Try to follow the use trail on this section. The alternative is a murderous bushwack up a steep mountainside above the highway.  As the trees thin out above 8,000', you will begin to get nice views to the south over Sayles Canyon, towards the Carson Pass area.  From here, the route should become obvious -- head towards the broad SE ridge that drops down from the blocky summit of Pyramid Peak. The ridge is not difficult to follow, but there are some large talus blocks to contend with in the last 500 or so vertical feet below the summit.

Option #3 -- East Face via Pyramid Creek:


1.2 miles to near bottom of Horsetail Falls

2.3 miles to Toem Lake

3.6 miles to summit of Pyramid Peak



Trailhead:  6,100'

Summit:  9,983'


Hiking time:  Most of a day

Trailhead/Wilderness Permits From the direction of Lake Tahoe, take US 50 over Echo Summit and continue down the hill just past Twin Bridges to the well marked Pyramid Creek trailhead.  Parking is available for a fee of $3.00/day.  This is a popular trailhead; thus, self-issue wilderness permits are also available here. 

The Route:   Follow the trail along the west side of Pyramid Creek as climbs steeply up in between the granite walls of Horsetail Canyon (geologists consider the bare granite cliffs surrounding Pyramid Creek to be among the best examples of Pleistocene glaciation in the Sierra Nevada).  Before you reach the falls, leave the trail by angling upwards and to climber's left.  You should be aware that climbing out of Horsetail Canyon involves some Class 3 scrambling, which may prove difficult with a full pack.  Many people have been injured attempting this route, so be aware of your abilities.  If in doubt, try one of the other two routes described here.  After about 1/3 mile of steep off trail climbing, the hillside begins to level off and you will finally exit the canyon.  The crux is behind you at this point.  From here, aim cross country towards Toem and Gefo Lakes at the base of the east face of Pyramid.  From Gefo Lake, simply pick your way up the east face.  This involves some steep travel over talus, but none of it is as difficult as what you've already climbed to get to this point.  Once on the summit, enjoy the views.  Retrace your steps down the east face to return.

Pyramid Peak Photos and Links:

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