Infrequent visitors, a multitude of faces to climb, and a gorgeous approach along the Pacific Rim Trail all make climbing at Echo Lake well worth stepping off the beaten path. There are a couple hundred routes to choose from on over 10 faces of rock on Lower Echo, which is the lake you see from the parking area. It is connected by a small channel to Upper Echo, which located to the Northwest of where you will leave your car.
What Makes It Great
While you will see many visitors to the area there to hike the PCT or stay in some of the rustic cabins dotted along the lake, you won’t see many climbers in the area. Routes vary from 30 to 300 feet and from 5.7s to 5.12d. The approach is on the longer side but relatively easy along the well maintained PCT. Cutting up to your chosen route from the trail can involve a little bit of strategic bushwhacking and rigorous effort, however.
The scenery, in addition to the quality climbing routes, makes it all worth the effort. The landscape features windswept and sunbleached trees, bright granite boulders, and the deep blue waters of the 2 Echo Lakes.
Highlights include the face of Flagpole Peak, which is the prominent point along the north side of the lake. Bring a flag or old t-shirt to post on the flagpole when you reach the top to leave your mark. Other areas to check out include the 5.12 Wall, Billy Land or Gansta Wall, and Old Peculiar. The area is mostly trad climbing with a few mixed and sport thrown in the mix. There are also plenty of areas to boulder.
Who is Going to Love It
Advanced and frequent climbers who don’t mind a long approach are going to love this area because it’s remote and not a lot of people know about these routes. While there are some easier routes that beginners or middle of the road folks will enjoy, the longer hike and full sun during warmer months might wear on the faint of heart.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking at the Echo Lake Chalet is free, but you will need to fill out a self serve day permit at the PCT trailhead, which is located just past the chalet and across the small dam and outlet of Upper Echo Lake. Parking is often hard to come by at the peak of the season, so getting there early or coming in the off season is highly recommended.
There is no camping allowed along the PCT here unless you continue all the way into Desolation Wilderness, which requires an overnight permit.
Echo Lakes Road is located on the north side of Highway 50 about 2 miles from the summit on the west side of the mountain range. Follow it all the way to the lake, but you might need to park up the hill a bit because most of the spots closer to shore are reserved for handicap and loading.