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General Information: The Snow and/or Azure Lakes hike is an extension of the Cascade Falls Hike. It adds about 5 miles round trip of flat to moderate hiking up the Cascade Canyon through some beautiful forest. The trail can be a little hard to find in some places so this is not a hike for novices. Experience with topographical maps and off-trail hiking are prerequisites for this wonderful hike.

Where To Start: Emerald Bay is located a few miles north of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89. The Bayview trail starts at the end of the Bayview Campground opposite Inspiration Point which is the scenic overlook located one mile before you get to Emerald Bay. A wooden sign points left to Cascade Falls, to the right...Granite Lake and Maggies Peaks.

Click to see a map and elevation profile

Trail Description: Follow the sign to Cascade Falls, a very scenic hike in itself. After enjoying the views of the falls, cross Cascade Creek and hike up canyon across sloping, glacially polished granite slabs. This is a terrific area for landscape and scenic photography and offers nice views of Cascade Lake with Tahoe behind.

As you proceed up canyon (you may have to cross the creek again depending on the time of year) you will eventually intersect a trail that meanders first along the stream then away, then through a marshy area (in the spring). After 2 or so miles, the canyon widens and divides into two drainages. The left (south) drainage will lead to Snow Lake while the right (north) will head more steeply up hill following a small stream to Azure Lake.

If you have the time, it is nice to visit both lakes. But if you must decide, then Azure Lake is the nicer of the two. Azure is a small, deep glacial lake with precipitous rock walls that drop from a ridge at 9200' all the way to the lake. An island in the middle of the lake makes a great "dare" as the water is snow fed and always cold.

The second option is to make a loop of the hike by finding an unmarked trail that starts on the east shore of the lake. Follow this trail as it heads east/northeast and climbs steadily away from the lake. After about one mile, the trail will turn north and climb steeply up a broad drainage to the ridge just west of South Maggies Peak. This faint trail will intersect the main Granite/Dicks Lake trail at the saddle. Turn right (east) onto this trail which will climb a little for a half mile or so then start steeply downhill toward Granite Lake. From Granite Lake, continue on the trail to the Bayview trail head. This route requires advanced back-country skills and should not be tempted by inexperienced hikers. The loop adds a couple of miles to the distance and involves more elevation gain as well. The entire loop can take anywhere from 3 to 6 hours depending on the skill and condition of the hikers but is well worth the effort if your party has the experience.

Environmental Concerns: Much of this hike will be on faint or nonexistent trails. Hiking off-trail demands that you pay particular attention to the environmental impact of your passing. Make real effort to avoid trampling the flora as in this harsh alpine environment, growth is slow and damage can take years to heal. Be sure to take care of your personal business at least 200 yards away from any water. Bury waste 6 or more inches deep and we recommend that you carry out your toilet paper in a plastic bag to minimize impact. Do not drink untreated water in any of the streams or lakes as Giardia is prevalent in Desolation Wilderness and is miserable to contract!

Advisory: Desolation Wilderness is a big area and you could get seriously lost on this hike if you have little experience or simply do not pay attention. This hike can take a lot longer than you would think based on the mileage. Take plenty of water, food, and appropriate clothing for the time of year. For more suggestions about back-country travel, go to our Tips Page.

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