Back to index Shadow Lake Hike
Trip Date:  8/13/2021

: 11.2 Miles

Vertical Gain: 1200'

Group Size: 2

Hike Rating:  Easy   Moderate    Hard    Strenuous
Shadow Lake Route
  Download GPXGPX for this trip
Shadow Lake Elevation Profile
Start Coordinates:   N 38 55.860   W 120 19.301     End Coordinates:   Same as Start Coordinates
Car Shuttle Req'd:   No Parking Directions:   Take Highway 50 to Ice House Road.  Head north on Ice House for about 17 miles until you reach the turnoff for Van Vleck Bunkhouse (Cheese Camp Road.)  Follow this road for a little over 5 miles until you get to the Van Vleck Trailhead parking area.
Hazards of Note:   Early spring and after a rainstorm will swell a number of water crossings on the way. Crowd Factor:   Moderate.  Any trailhead into Desolation Wilderness will be popular, but this one is fairly remote and you will cross in and then back out of the Wilderness area proper before reaching the lake.
General Notes:
From the parking area near the Van Vleck bunkhouse, head back up to the paved road that you drove in from Ice House, and turn to the west.  There is a (probably) locked gate here, which you will walk around to start the hike into Desolation Wilderness.   This first part of the hike is along a jeep road, which early on takes you past a new (as of 2016) culvert over a river crossing which used to require rock hopping even late in the year.   Follow this road until you reach the junction for either the Highland Lake trail (to the left) or the Red Peak trail to the right at a vertical wooden signpost.  Be sure to head to the left at this junction.
The Highland Lake trail is a single track path that will take you through alternating forest and meadow areas along the way, until after a couple of miles you come to a junction for Shadow Lake trail to the left.   Continuing on for a couple of miles along this trail you will pass a smaller lake on the way, but then Shadow Lake will be your destination found at a little over five miles from the start of the hike.

At the parking area this is a popular trail but you want to NOT follow these signs or you will end up somewhere you are not planning to go. First junction well before Red Peak Trail
From this parking area head uphill, away from the Desolation Wilderness kiosk that is near one end of the area.Parking area
About a mile into the hike you will come across an open meadow with some snow measuring equipment in it.   This is a snow pillow that is used to measure the water content of the available now during the winter.Snow pillow
You will leave the Highland Lake trail after a couple of miles when you reach this wooden signpost pointing to Shadow Lake to the left.   Staying on the main trail will eventually take you to Forni Lake and potentially even Tells Peak beyond. Trail junction to look for
The trail continues to climb as you near the lake, and there are a couple of open meadow areas that are passed through that offer some variation from trekking through the forest. More open meadows
About a mile from the lake we randomly happened upon a co-worker of mine, Terry, returning from an overnight stay at the lake with his wife Michelle and their two hiking pups.   Small world! Work meeting
This reasonably remote lake is situated pleasantly in a granite bowl, with a steep rise of rock to the east and south.   On another trip we came across a backpacker who was going to spend the night here and then summit Tells Peak from this point the next day. At the lake
Walking around to the north end of the lake we found some very nice spots for camping with good views of the lake looking back to the south. Looking South
A little close to the water but there were a number of nice campsites scattered around the lake edges. Open campsite
Climbing up the rocks just a little to the north of Shadow Lake offered some nice views further up to Look Lake and area. Loon Lake
My hiking friend Mark provided a nice panorama of the lake. Panorama
Didn't see any wildlife on this day but we did come across a really interesting spider while we were stopped for lunch at the lake. Lake resident
GPS track of the hike. GPS track of hike