Trail Report: Ralston Peak

Check out this detailed trail report brought to you by TMS employee and trail runner extraordinaire, Helen Mino Faukner.

Pretty much anything in Desolation Wilderness is worth going to, and Ralston Peak is no exception! This hike or trail run takes you up to 9,200ft and promises views of beautiful lakes and Pyramid Peak, Dick’s Peak, and Mt. Tallac. Roundtrip this route is about 6.5 miles, but there are plenty of options to add on miles if you want to visit and take a swim in any of the lakes below!

Ralston Peak Trail Report


The Ralston Peak trailhead is off of Highway 50 before you get to Twin Bridges. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Truckee, but absolutely worth it! The trailhead is on the right and is easily accessible, you can park in the lot right off the highway or drive a little up the road to get to the singletrack. An alternate option is to start at the Glen Alpine Trail Head, this makes the route about 11 miles but cuts down on drive time.

Trail Description:

If you park at the lower lot off highway 50, start by running up the gravel road. You will see a trailhead sign for Ralston peak to the left about a quarter mile up the road. From there, follow the singletrack trail that will start to take you up the mountain. You gain about 550ft in the first mile on the flowy, well traveled, dirt trail. The second mile is more climbing and some places are a little more rocky. If you choose to run up this there are a few sections that you may have to hike. The second mile has about 850ft of gain. A little over 2.5 miles up the trail there is a fork, take the trail that goes up and to the right to reach the summit. The final mile up to the top is the steepest and has just over 1,000ft of gain. Once you get to the top you will be rewarded with 360 degree views. All the climbing is over and you’ve gone up almost 2,500ft!

Ralston Peak Trail Report
View of Echo Lake from the summit

From here you have the option to turn around and go back the same way you came up. Or maybe you’re like me and think out and backs are the worst, if this is the case you can make a small lollipop to get back to the trail head. There is a faint trail to the NW edge of the peak that will take you down the ridgeline. About .2 miles later you will reach a fork if you stay left it will take you back down. If you’re feeling like a longer hike/run and want to swim in a lake stay right. If you choose to continue you have the option of stopping at lake of the woods or continuing past there to Lake Aloha.

Ralston Peak Trail Report
View of Pyramid Peak and Lake Aloha in the distance

If you decided to take the lollipop down after you stay left there will be a left turn not much further down the trail. Take the left and continue back down this trail to get back to the trailhead.

This is a great peak with beautiful views. I went on a Sunday in July and only saw one other person on the trail. This summit is beautiful during any time of the year, but early summer once the snow melts is one of the best to see all the wildflowers! Because of the fire during summer of 2021 some of the lower elevations of the trail were burned, this limits tree cover making it a toasty one. Remember to be prepared for the conditions of the day!

Elevation Profile and Map:

Ralston Peak Trail Report
Ralston Peak Trail Report
Looking for new running shoes? Check out this review on a TMS favorite, the On Cloudventure. Or Learn how to beat the heat with this guide to Early Morning Running.

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