Skip to Content

South Lake Tahoe Hiking Trails: Lake Sylvia

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I earn a small commission of product sales to keep this website going.

Lake Sylvia Hike

The hike to Lake Sylvia makes a great overnighter, capped by a summit of nearby 9,983 Pyramid Peak.  But of course you can make it a long day hike!

  • 500MilesTrailhead: Lyons Creek Trailhead.  Go north on Wrights Lake Road off of US50 between Kyburz and Strawberry.  Trailhead parking is 4 miles up Wrights Lake Rd.
    Open in Google Maps.
  • Length: 9.4 miles round trip; 4-5 hours.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.  1,500′ climb in just under 5 miles to the lake.
  • Usage:  Mostly hikers, dogs allowed on leash in Desolation Wilderness.  You’ll need a wilderness permit to camp at the lake.  The permit is $5 per person, the quota is 8 people, and Lake Sylvia lies within Area 43 Lyons – click here to book online.
  • Best Time for Photography: The mountains behind Lake Sylvia get some great lighting in the evening.
  • Are Drones Allowed: Not once within Desolation Wilderness.
  • Trail Info Current: September 11, 2015.
  • Further Reading: 500 Miles of South Lake Tahoe Hikes
  • Go back to Lake Tahoe Hikes map
Lake Sylvia

Plots created using Gaia GPS

Read my review on Gaia GPS for information about this awesome hiking app.

Lake Sylvia Hike Narrative

lake sylvia

Lake Sylvia is a very scenic destination with plenty of peak-bagging opportunities from camp.  And because it’s in Desolation Wilderness, be assured that you’ll be there in…well, desolation.  The quota is 8 people per night and there’s plenty of campsites around the lake to be spread out.

The Lake Sylvia trail starts from a well-marked parking area up Wrights Lake Road and is marked Lyons Creek.  Most of the trail does follow Lyons Creek, which flows pretty aggressively after heavy winters.  The trail goes in and out of covered areas, alternating between tree cover and small grassy clearings.  The climb, however, is steady all the way up to the lake.

lake sylvia

Views from the trail to Lake Sylvia

The trail takes on the typical characteristic of Desolation Wilderness upon entering the wilderness boundary, opening up to cross granite slabs and rocks.  You’ll quickly be back in the trees and immediately get to Lake Sylvia.  You can stay on the north side of the creek and camp there; crossing the creek to the south side can be tricky at times.

If Lake Sylvia is “crowded”, or if you want to check out some other campsites, there is a short spur just short of Lake Sylvia that climbs north up to Lyons Lake (Lake Sylvia is around 8,100′ and Lyons Lake is at 8,600′).

Set up camp and go conquer some peaks!  Start with Pyramid Peak to the east.  You also have Mt Price a little further to the north.  Both of these peaks are just shy of 10,000′.

lake sylvia

Looking down on Lake Sylvia from the trail to Pyramid Peak

lake sylvia

Climbing Pyramid Peak and Mt Price start with a scramble up this rocky slope.

Tips for the Lake Sylvia Hike

  • You can make this a long day hike or an overnighter.  It’s a lot easier to get an overnight permit at this lake than at some of the other more popular lakes in Desolation.  So if you’re going to bother to make the trip up there, stay the night!
  • Bring plenty of mosquito repellent also.  The lake is surrounded by some marshy area and it’s always wet – prime conditions for mosquitos.


Corrections, suggestions, or questions?  Please leave a comment below!