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A pair of Desolate Lakes
Lyon's Creek Trail and the associated lakes is a good introduction to the Sierras and the Desolation Wilderness. There is a nice reward for this hike that experienced hikers will likely find to be a very good, 'moderate' hike. That is, there's enough here to make you feel like you did a substantial hike... but it's not THAT strenuous.
Wilderness permits are required for entry to the Desolation Wilderness. Day users can write their own permits at the trailhead (NOTE: Day-use permit requirements suspended during COVID-19 pandemic, but other rules/regulations remain in place for day users). Overnight users should reserve their permits on Recreation.gov. The Forest Service manages overnight use through a zone-quota system.
From the Lyon's Creek trailhead, the trail starts as a wide two-track through exposed meadows. The lower portion of this hike could be hot during summertime. Lyon's Creek parallels the trail just to your north, and if you listen carefully you can hear it flowing. For most of the hike, the creek will be parallel to the trail but generally not visible from the trail.
As you get farther from the trailhead, the trail narrows and you will go in and out of forests. Some exposed areas, but some decent spots to stop for shade/rest. At 2.0 miles you will come to a trail junction with the Bloodsucker trail, so named because of the ample mosquitoes. Continue on the Lyons Creek trail as it gently climbs, continuing to parallel the creek and winding in and out of forests. You will start to notice exposed Granite rock formations around you, scenery typical of the Desolation Wilderness.
You will soon come to a sign marking the boundary of the Desolation Wilderness and indicating that permits are required for entry. Assuming you have your permit, continue on. At this point, Lyons Creek is closer and more easily viewed from the trail flowing through granite bedrock and creating some cool pools.
At 4.7 miles you will come to a trail junction and a decision. Turn right to visit Sylvia Lake (smaller, more forested). Turn left to visit Lyons Lake. We opted to first visit Sylvia Lake. The trail will cross a couple of small creeks before you reach Sylvia Lake 0.4 miles after the junction. Enjoy the beautiful forests and lake before heading back to the trail junction and taking the other trail to access Lyons Lake.
The 0.5 miles to Lyons lake is by far the steepest part of the hike, but the payoff is worth it. A beautiful lake surrounded by granite rocks and peaks. I've heard the fishing for Brook Trout can be pretty good here too.
You will return to the trailhead via the same route, back down to the lakes junction and turn right to descend via Lyons Creek Trail.
Remember to leave no trace and be aware of the rules and regulations in place to preserve the area's natural splendor before visiting. Enjoy!
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