ApproachTake HWY 50 to the parking area on the north side of the freeway at Camp Sacramento just 2 miles east of Twin Bridges and 3 miles west of the Sierra at Tahoe ski resort entrance. The trailhead is at the northeast corner and easily visible regardless of the season/weather.
A permit is required to enter the Desolation Wilderness area. Please see the Red Tape section of the Ralston Peak page for details.
Route DescriptionThis well traveled trail is easy to find and follow all the way to the summit. It loosely follows the west ridge for the most part and then drops a bit at the "mini" ridge and then cuts east again to follow the west ridge to the summit. This is the normal route and needs no special description; hit the trailhead and walk until you get to the top.
However, if you prefer, just break trail and head up the "mini-ridge" at 8450 ft. straight to the top. Just take the faint use trail turning right that follows the gentle ridge soon steepening and continue straight to the summit. Don't be distracted by false trail markers or the instinctual right hand traverse, which will take you a bit to the east.
It's about 2.5 to 3 miles one way. You gain 2800 feet, so it's fairly strenuous as trails go in this area. Not as tough as Rocky Creek to Pyramid which is 4000 foot elevation gain in 3 miles, but bear in mind that there is not much shelter and you will be exposed to much sun and or wind.
Essential GearNone in normal dry season other than the 10 basics.
In the winter you will want to use snow shoes or skis.
Although I can see a practical use, I was a bit disappointed that I had full strength cell signal at the summit. I could have called 911 in an emergency situation or I could have called in a large pepperoni and olive.