A late fall Tahoe hike: Ralston Peak

Oh hey y’all!  This is the second installment of my Tahoe hiking posts, as you can tell, because you read the title!  For our second day of hiking I chose Mt. Ralston, another mountain in the Desolation Wilderness and another hike recommended by NorCalHiker.  The views promised to be 360 degrees, and the elevation gain promised to be less than the day before, so it was the PERFECT CHOICE!

So real talk, I chose Ralston Peak because after my adventures in nausea the day before, I wasn’t super keen on doing Pyramid Peak, our original target (cos y’all, it was 4,000 feet of gain in like 3 miles, come on!).  Ralston offered moderate elevation gain of about 2700 feet in about 7.5 miles round-trip (all of the trip reports online say the hike is under 7 miles, but the trailhead sign says its 4 miles one way ::shrugging emoji::), and the mountain tops out at 9,235 ft.


hark, a convenient trail map at the trailhead!

We parked at the empty trailhead lot on Route 50 just west of Tahoe, and started up the short road to the proper trailhead.  The giant trailhead sign informed us to grab a self-issue permit out of a green box, which did not exist.  We took that to mean we could proceed sans permit and act responsibly, as we did the day before.



The trail starts out innocently enough, with a gradual incline through a lovely mossy forest with some tall trees and giant pinecones.  It slowly starts to steepen and the ground beneath your feet gets increasingly sandier and rockier as you climb out of the proper forested area.  You hug a ridgeline for most of the rest of your ascent, which gives you lots of views to the south and some peeks at Pyramid Peak just to your left (west).


it was really hard to control my impulse to just collect ALL THE PINECONES

We climbed steadily and reached a false summit of sorts on a hill along the ridgeline, and got our first view of the actual summit further back and further up!  At this point I started to feel barfy again but was too determined to quit, refusing to wimp out on two summits two days in a row.  I slowly slogged upward like the little slug that could, and luckily the last 30 minutes or so weren’t as steep as some of the trail lower down.

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There is an incredibly short talus section immediately below the summit, which thankfully takes all of 2 minutes to walk through.  We got to the top and were greeted with unobstructed 360-degree views, as advertised, and I sat down and tried to want to barf less 🙂 .

From the summit you get a view of Tahoe to the north, and we could also clearly see our objective from the day before, Mt. Tallac.  We saw how low down on the mountain we had actually been when we crested the hill at the top of the talus field and thought we were almost there.  Ah ha ha, you fools!!!!


pose better!  make your arms look less weird!

To the west was a lovely view of Pyramid Peak, looming several hundred feet above us, and to the east and south there were also mountains n’ stuff but I don’t know any of their names 😀 .  It was a bit breezy at the top but thankfully rather warm on that mid-November day (probably mid 50s) and we sat on the summit a good long while.  We had the summit to ourselves for probably close to an hour, until a group of guys showed up who were clearly going to sit at the top and smoke some recreational drugs while enjoying the view.  TIME TO GOOO!


starting down, looking west at pyramid peak

Recovered from my second random episode of barfiness (hope this isn’t a new trend…) we headed down, which was pretty quick due to the mostly moderate grade of the trail.  Mission accomplished… mostly… at least no one barfed?

‘Til next time!


the wee-est talus field on earth.  looking south


2 thoughts on “A late fall Tahoe hike: Ralston Peak

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