Backpacking to Loch Leven Lakes

Lake Tahoe Loch Leven Lakes

  • Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    8 Miles

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Scenic
Cliff Jumping

Relatively easy access to beautiful scenery, low traffic. 5-8 mile hike depending on which lake you want to go to (Lower, Middle, High). Cliff jumping at the upper lake, catch and release fishing, pet friendly. No permit required however a permit is required for campfires.

To get to this trail go west on I-80 from Truckee, Ca. After 17 miles take the Big Bend exit and turn left at the stop sign at the bottom of the exit ramp. Follow that road 3/4 of a mile and the small parking lot will be on your right hand side. There is a bathroom there and the trailhead is directly across the street.

The trail is easy to follow for the first half mile until you get to some large slabs of granite. As you continue up the trail look for stacked rocks, these will give you a an easy route as you continue up the mountain. The trail then starts to switch back eventually leading to a small bridge. After crossing the bridge you will proceed roughly 1/4 of a mile and end up at a set of railroad tracks, the trail continues on the other side of the tracks straight across from where you came out.

Once on the other side the trail will continue up some switchbacks through the forest for another mile and is moderately steep until eventually defending into the first lake. If you continue from the lower lake another mile on the trail you will end up at the upper lake where there are rocks to jump off and more places to camp. The distance to the lower lake is 2.5 miles one way. If you intend to stay the night be sure to pack for any variables. I recommend this to anyone who wants a relatively easy trail to get into backpacking.

Pack List

  • Sunscreen
  • Water/ filter
  • Bug spray
  • Snacks
  • Meals (if spending the night)
  • Rain gear (just incase, the weather can change very quickly)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag/ pad
  • Camp stove
  • Knife
  • Backpack
  • Warm clothing (the temps are colder near the lake)
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • Sunglasses
  • Hiking shoes
  • Swimsuit
  • Gloves
  • Camera
  • Batteries
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Reviews

Overall rating: 

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We figured out that there is an easier route to Loch Leven. We have young kids and a dog and had heard that the Loch Leven trail is a hard one. We parked at the Salmon Lake trail head and hiked an easy mile or so to Salmon Lake. Found a beautiful campsite there and left our gear there and took day packs to Lower Loch Leven (an easy 1 mile) and went as far as the middle lake for great swimming. We were happy that we made this decision because Loch Leven was crowded (Labor Day weekend) and we were the only ones at Salmon. Still beautiful, maybe not as enticing to swim at, but gorgeous scenery and solitude was worth it. An easier hike and you can still access Loch Leven. We saw others with dogs that had come via the normal trail head at Loch Leven and some of them had bleeding paws.

21 days ago
21 days ago

This was a great weekend hike. I went mid June via salmon lake. A large portion of the trail was covered in snow and difficult to find but it was worth it.

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

The hike to these lakes was fabulous. We camped at the middle lake and campgrounds were plentiful and the lake was very warm. We saw a rattlesnake so beware. Overall, however, this was a fabulous trip.

about 2 months ago
about 2 months ago

I did this with my Boy Scout troop and it was just amazing. The lake was little cold but it was fun swim in.

8 months ago
8 months ago

I have taken this trip twice in the last two years. Took scouts on two of the trips. Great break in hike for new backpackers. For an easier hike, enter via Salmon lake.

11 months ago
11 months ago

I did this with a buddy of mine as a day hike towards the end of August and it was a really great, not-too-long-but-long-enough hike. The first part is pretty steep from where you park until you hit the train tracks, but after that it's not so bad and the lakes themselves are really beautiful. We hiked all the way up to the High Lake and back, but we stopped to swim in the Middle lake which is a great spot with some islands out in the middle of it. Make sure you double-check for trains though, we caught it at just the right time and trains passed us going in both directions before we were able to cross the tracks and keep hiking on the way up.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

This hike was pretty good, and for someone who is an avid hiker but beginner-backpacker, this trail is a good length to get into it. There's a decent amount of ups and downs, but mostly elevation gain on the way there and downhill on the way back. We camped at Middle Lake which was very beautiful. There is a little peninsula on the immediate left as you approach the lake that is perfect to camp on. The stars are absolutely incredible from there. It was a bit crowded to camp at Middle Lake (although it was Labour Day weekend, so perhaps that's expected). Salmon Lake had no one camping there but it is another small lake that would be nicer since it's secluded. Remember to check campfire regulations before lighting any fires!

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

There is a route with much less elevation gain via the Salmon Lake Trail from Husyink Road. It also has no granite slab traverses with duck cairns (although still rocky with short steep sections) and the least visited lake, Salmon Lake is at the end of a short spur trail about half way through the hike.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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