Backpacking Desolation Wilderness – Middle Velma Lake

Perfect Camping Spot

Details: Middle Velma Lake – Desolation Wilderness

Trail Head At: Bayview Trailhead Campground, South Lake Tahoe

Length:  10 Miles

Elevation Gain: 2100 Feet

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This was our first time backpacking Desolation Wilderness in South Tahoe and we absolutely loved it! We took a long weekend, hiked to Middle Velma Lake, and were blown away by the alpine lake dotted with fir tree covered islands, sparkling crystal clear waters, our own private swimming cove, and violet sunsets.

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We made our first stop at the bright green Granite lake for some water and a little break. We drove up right after work, spent the evening sleeping in our car and woke up bright and early to hit the trail head, because we wanted to make sure and beat any possible crowds. Truthfully, we were pretty exhausted. We didn’t get to the campground until around 9:30pm (partly to blame was the half hour it took in the drive through at InNOut,) so we had enough time to change into our jams and then crashed out. Oddly, BayView Campground doesn’t have any potable water, so we had to fill at Granite Lake.

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How are these magenta wild flowers? ❤
Purple Wildflowers at Middle Velma Lakes Trail
Are these mountain bluebells dotting the paths? Welp, that’s my guess!

Our Campsite and own Personal Swimming Cove

We found a gorgeous campsite right on the water’s edge, and had the most wonderful time swimming in the crisp take-your-breath-away refreshing waters, swimming to the little islands, lounging on our rock in the sunshine and reading. We even had a mama duck and her babies share the cove with us, paddling around and leaping out of the water in ridiculous little cute flop movements, propelling themselves out of the water.

Our swimming cove - Middle Velma Lake
Check out our perfect lounge spot!

I don’t know about you, but I have to ease myself into cold waters. For me, this means standing in the water to my waist for about twenty minutes just shaking my head before going in. This trip, we decided to go for a morning swim, and as Brad was bout to dive in I just went for it and jumped. I think the latter is a much better way to go about things. Gives your body less time to acknowledge the frigidity and just feels more adventurous!

Islands at Middle Velma Lake
I love a good lake swim!
Perfect Camping Spot
Perfect Camping Spot

Mosquitoes were a little intense at night, so we just avoided them entirely by getting into our tent for dinner around 7:30pm. We lounged in our tent reading, taking in the woodsy lake view, and munched on veggie korma with salty ramen, and later creamy hot chocolates with trail mix Cliff Bars (my new fav).

I knew the sunsets were going to be spectacular. South Tahoe boasts amazing sunsets and I was really looking forward to this one at our mountain campsite. We were fairly worried about mosquitoes, especially as the sun went down after our massacre at Young Lakes, Yosemite but this was just fine, particularly near the water’s edge where the breeze kept them at bay. We slapped on some Deet and found a perfect spot on a flat rock outcropping to settle. We sipped our steaming coffee and Kahluas, as the sun set deep purple over the undulating lake.

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What I read: I read two great books this camping trip! The Guest List –  twisty turny mystery thriller in the vein of Agatha Christie, set during a glamourous wedding on a stormy island off the coast of Ireland. I also read Darkdawn, the third and final book in the Nevernight series, a rip roaring revenge fantasy, about an elite school of assassins and a woman on an epic quest of vengeance.

New purchase: We also absolutely loved our new sleeping pads, the NeoAir XTherm courtesy of my Aunt Bea, as an early anniversary gift. These pads are excellent – they kept us very warm (which, for me, is always a very pressing concern), they were comfy and well padded, and they weigh less then a pound! Great purchase.

Next up on the Hiking Blog – Kennedy Lake, Stanislaus National Forest!

Backpacking Paradise Lake in Tahoe National Forest

Spoiler Alert: I would not recommend taking this trip in early summer!

This weekend we really wanted to fit in a backpacking trip, get some fresh air, clear our minds and just enjoy the beauty of the back country. Many national forests will be opening up next weekend (YES Yosemite!), but most were still closed this weekend. Tahoe National Forest was open and had decent weather so we decided to try our luck. As you’ve probably picked up from some of these blog posts, I am an eternal optimist. Mostly things turn out well. This time, it bit me right in the ass.

Paradise Lakes Mountan Trail
How’s that view? Tahoe you show off 😀

Details: Paradise Lake, Tahoe National Forest

Trail Head At: Paradise Lake Trailhead, parking north side of I-80 at Exit 176

Length: 14.9 Miles

Elevation Gain: 2,582 feet

While the hike was beautiful and sunny, it was also almost completely covered in snow. I figured I’d give it the old college try, but after hiking about four miles and biting it pretty several times, I was done. About half way through the hike, I slipped, twisted my ankle and decided that’s it! I’m calling it! Brad was a total Champ and took some of the heaviest items out of my pack to carry so the return trek would be easier for me.

Paradise Lakes Trail - Covered in Snow

Paradise Lakes Snow Covered Meadow - June

We could have finished hiking to Paradise Lake. since we had a downloaded map we were still able to follow the trail through the snow, but trudging and slipping and falling then trying to recover with those heavy packs is fairly miserable. At least for this gal! Guess I’m just a fair weather camper. John Muir would probably have been quite disappointed in me. We headed home and drove directly to InNOut 😀

So my advice on hiking Paradise Lake: I think it depends on the season and amount of snow fall, but in general terms, for elevation over 7,000 feet in the future I will wait for at least mid summer. This hike was very beautiful though. I think it will have amazing sunsets and swimming in the lake will be super refreshing, so we hope to try this trip again in August!

Brad and Brie Paradise Lake

Next up on the hiking blog – Hetch Hetchy Yosemite!

How to Spend a Wonderful Winter Weekend in Lake Tahoe

Oh, how I love Lake Tahoe! Brad and I usually visit a few times a year – once in the summer, once in the winter and if we’re lucky, once in the fall, but I dream about it year round. About a three and a half  hour drive from Oakland, Tahoe is a gorgeous destination for a long weekend. Our favorite place to stay is South Lake Tahoe, at the Lakeshore Lodge and Spa. We love the deck, fireplace, hot tub, pool, and perfect lakefront views. This trip we stayed at The Hard Rock Hotel as a free holiday through the Kars 4 Kids program, so we mainly stayed around Heavenly Village.

Here are some of our favorite things to do for a fabulous winter holiday:

Go for a hike and breathe in the breathtaking views:

Lake Tahoe Hike
Beautiful views, beautiful Tahoe

Hikes are gorgeous and plentiful in Lake Tahoe! We drove straight to Heavenly and chose a trail at Van Sickle National Park. We used the All Trails app.

Hiking Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe Hike

Have some lunch at Heavenly Village: we like California Burger Company. Grab a place by the outdoor fire pits, order a happy hour boozy slushie (I highly recommend the Cherry Limeade),  a gourmet burger with onion rings, and if you’re lucky soak up the sun! Enjoy the live music and views of the surrounding snow topped mountains. The bustling, joyous atmosphere can’t be beat.

Outdoor Fire Pits Heavenly Village
Enjoying the sunshine and vibes at the outdoor fire pits at Heavenly

Go snowshoeing! Rent your gear from Rip N Willies, Choose one of the many gorgeous trails, marvel at the sprawling cabins along the road on the drive up, and enjoy sweeping views with almost no people! Hiking through the glittering snow, the scent of pine in the air, fresh stag prints in the snow, and the panoramic views was incredibly peaceful. We had glorious weather – sunny and about 50 degrees in January. Aside: snowshoeing really takes it out of you. Brad swears our trip was only 3 miles, but it felt like at least 6! Tip: The earlier, the better for a hike.

Gorgeous hiking views south Tahoe
Breaktime! Taking in the gorgeous views, while dreaming about breakfast at the Driftwood Cafe!

Brie Tahoe Snowshoeing

We've got this! Snowshoeing with Brad
We’re going on an adventure!
Stag prints in snow south Tahoe
Fresh stag prints ❤

Sweeping views south Tahoe Winter

Grab  a fantastic breakfast at The Driftwood Cafe. Homey, cozy cafe with super friendly staff at Heavenly Village. Serves brekkie until 3pm. We woke up early, went snowshoeing and then for pancakes. It was a perfect day!

Breakfast time Driftwood Cafe

Nightlife: Lounge by the fire pits, enjoy some live music at Basecamp Pizza and check out one of the bustling eateries at Heavenly Village. We like Azul for the vibrant scene and shrimp fajita bowls. We also really like McDuff’s – a rustic scottish pub in South Lake serving comfort pub food with a chill vibe.

Wine by the fire Tahoe
Flickering flames, bubbles and perfect winter vibes. How’s that for a wine pour?!

Alpine Union – Bar outside of Hard Rock cafe with patio and expansive fire pits. We swear we saw Fitz & The Tantrums performing here one year, before they were famous!

Fire Pits at Alpine Union Lake Tahoe
Alpine Union’s expansive fire pits ❤

Check out the listings for cabins for sale and drive around dreaming about living in Tahoe year round!

Final notes: Winter trips to Tahoe are a completely different experience to summer. Summer holidays all about enjoying the glittering, cerulean lake, swimming in the refreshingly frigid, take your breath away water, hiking one of the many glorious trails, picnics, and lounging on a deck sipping your drink of choice while the sun sets magenta and fire orange over the mountains. I plan to write about a summer Tahoe getaway in an upcoming post.

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