Within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Desolation Peak lives up to its name and provides dramatic views that have inspired day hikers and renowned authors alike. The Desolation Peak trail itself is only 6.8 miles long, but the extra steps it takes to get to the trailhead is what makes this trek an often-solitary experience. It is accessed either by a chartered boat ride across Ross Lake or by hiking 16 miles on the recommended East Bank Trail, which parallels the steep cliffsides of this enormous reservoir. Half the fun of the Desolation Peak trail is just getting started, and the other half waits for you along the trail and at the top.
For the first two miles of the trail, views of Ross Lake accompany hikers with each step and for the remaining 4.8 miles, more than 4,000 feet of elevation gain climbs into stunning displays of subalpine meadows, as well as dramatic vistas and a retired fire lookout to soak it all in. Jack Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 at this lookout and it is referenced in many of his popular books. Today, you can see the same views of Hozomeen Mountain, Skagit Peak, Ross Lake, and Jack Mountain that inspired the voice of a generation.