Crystal Range Traverse

A Long Time Coming

Back in 2017, Kylie and I hiked the Tahoe Rim Trail. We were treated to a torrid thunderstorm as we walked the shores of Lake Aloha, but I still had enough awareness to notice the aesthetic ridge line connecting four peaks above. At the time, I didn’t know what it was called, but I made a mental note to come back some day for this traverse.

Fast forward to 2024, and Kelly and I were heading to Tahoe to crew and pace Blake in the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run. We arrived a week early and I convinced Jacob, who now lives in the Bay Area, to come up and join me for the “Crystal Range Traverse”.

View of Lover’s Leap at the start.

We started up the hot, dusty Pyramid Peak Trail, which burned back in 2021. Kelly joined us for the hike up Pyramid.

At the top of Pyramid.
Marmot on the summit.
Looking at the traverse of the Crystal Range.

Kelly turned back from here, while Jacob and I continued on the traverse. Jacob had done the traverse once before. After the descent, there is one class 4 section. Other than that, the traverse is pretty easy ridge rambling.

Halfway through the traverse, we looked down and saw a turquoise blue pond with a bunch of humans around it. They had an inflatable kayak, skis, and boards. A pond skim!

Now that’s a pond skim.
Quite the setting!

Later on, I would discover that this is actually a world famous pond skim spot, “The Fountain of Youth”, that has been written about in magazines.

Lots of sharp dropoffs to the north.

We made good time to the summit of Price. There was some fun scrambling to get down to snow. Then we got our skiing in!

My turn to ski.

The benches above Mosquito Pass provided, in my opinion, the best perspective of Lake Aloha. You could see the depths of different parts of the lake, along with the hundreds of islands.


Once we reached Mosquito Pass, we were back on trail, although the trail along the shore of Lake Aloha was often a puddle. The Desolation Wilderness is essentially an elevated plateau of granite, so it does not drain well.

The Crystal Range Traverse.

We followed the deceptively slow, rocky trail around Lake Aloha, Lake of the Woods, and finally Ropi Lake. From here, there is a cairned path down the steep slopes just west of Horsetail Falls. Although this section was tedious, I really enjoyed it. The quiet lakes, thundering creeks, and rocky pines reminded me of a quintessential Sierra basin.

Above Horsetail Falls.

Beneath the upper falls, we found a perfect pool of water to jump in. The water was refreshing on this hot California day. It was a great way to finish the day before we hiked out to Twin Bridges.

Jacob taking a dip in Horsetail Falls.

It was enjoyable to return to Tahoe and get to do something I had been wanting to do for many years. It was especially great to reunite with Jacob and learn about what he is up to in life!


  • The route was about 15 miles and 5500 ft gain, but it took us nearly 10 hours. The terrain is quite slow and rocky, although never too difficult.
  • While there is a small amount of class 4 on the traverse, most is pretty typical Sierra class 2.
  • The Pyramid Peak trail is a hot climb, so be sure to get started early!
  • We finished a mile or two from where we started, so you can run back down the road or do a short car shuttle.

2 thoughts on “Crystal Range Traverse”

  1. Beautiful! I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and as a WA native and someone who recently got into exploring more of this state, I enjoy you allowing us to follow along on your outings and the backlog of content to pull ideas from! Keep them coming.


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