It's hard to beat the ratio of distance to views on this trail even though the climb is quite tough.”
— Mike Ahnemann
With less than 3 miles to travel to the top of Ralston Peak, it would be hard to find a better bang for your buck than this trail. The climb is steep, and rises 2,600 feet, but the views are outstanding. It's a route definitely worth checking out if you just have time for one great hike.
Features: River/Creek — Views
There's a small trailhead parking lot on the north side of Rte. 50, right across from the Sacramento campground. Follow the dirt road to the obvious parking, or if that's full, you can park along Rte. 50.
The trail starts climbing right from the trailhead, mellows out a bit at about .75 miles in, and then really kicks up at about 1.5 miles in. You'll start out making your way through a dense forest of fir trees, with plenty of shade. You'll get close to Tamarack Creek for a bit - enjoy the lush vegetation and wildflowers there, but before long, you'll start working to gain the ridge, navigating switchbacks through more open, drier forest.
Around 2.3 miles, look for a junction, with a less-worn trail heading off to the right (northeast) to Ralston Peak. Take this small branch, and finish out the climb through beautiful wildflowers, and then continue over a rocky section. You’ll be rewarded with epic views of the Desolation Wilderness and a far away glimpse of Lake Tahoe.