Five Lakes Trail

Tahoe National Forest, California

Elevation Gain1,864ft
Trailhead Elevation6,543ft
Elevation Min/Max6543/7581ft
Elevation Start/End6543/6543ft
Five Lakes Trail is a hiking and horse trail in Placer County, California. It is within Tahoe National Forest and Granite Chief Wilderness. It is 2.6 miles long and begins at 6,543 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 5.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,864 feet. The Five lakes trailhead attraction is near the trailhead. This trail connects with the following: Pacific Crest Trail (TRT) and Squaw Saddle Trail.

Five Lakes Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"This moderate scenic hike between two popular ski resorts climbs across an exposed granitic landscape before entering the Granite Chief Wilderness, where you and Pooch can enjoy the sights and refreshing coolness of one or all three of the five lakes along this popular trail."

"The surprise of summertime at a ski area reveals beauty viewed through a different lens. And it requires effort: Slopes traversed easily when covered with snow require work when their rocky bases are revealed—and you have to hike up them as well as come down. The climb to Five Lakes offers access (not lift-served) to the slopes near Alpine Meadows, then mellows in the shady forest surrounding the first of the Five Lakes.

Three distinct settings, and thus three distinct moods, lie
along the trail to Five Lakes. The most arduous part of the
trek is at the outset, where switchbacks climb through a sun-fed thicket of manzanita, mule ear, and snowberry. The second section features great views of the Alpine Meadows Ski Area, metal ski lift towers punched into smooth, colorful granite slabs, as well as an exposed traverse of a shallow granite-walled canyon."

"Although the climb to Five Lakes basin is fairly stiff, the shores of the five lakes on the forested flat require only an hour’s worth of hiking to reach, leaving plenty of time to fish, swim, or simply relax.

The only drawback is the area’s popularity, no doubt a direct result of the relatively short access. The overuse has resulted in a ban on camping, campfires, and the use of stoves within 600 feet of the lakes-backpackers can find decent campsites near a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail or better sites 1.5 miles away at Whisky Creek Camp."

"The Five Lakes Trail climbs along a ridge overlooking a rocky canyon into the Granite Chief Wilderness with spectacular granite formations and sheer cliffs. The hike up to the lake is the best part of the trip. The dramatic cliffs and eroded, rounded shapes of the surrounding rock is stunning. All five tree-lined lakes are small yet beautiful. They make an excellent picnic and play area."

"In the summertime, the bare rock underpinnings of ski slopes are revealed—and become hikeable. The climb to Five Lakes offers access (not lift-served) to the slopes near Alpine Meadows, and then mellows in the wilderness surrounding secluded Five Lakes."

"This hike offers quick access to the Granite Chief Wilderness, climbing
through rugged terrain to the peaceful Five Lakes Basin."

"A short but steep climb leads to a forested basin holding five serene, forest-rimmed lakes which are well suited for an afternoon of sunbathing, picnicking, fishing, or just relaxing. Since the lakes are only an hour from the trailhead don’t expect to be alone, particularly on weekends."

Five Lakes Trail Reviews

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This is a great half day hike to tackle. We hiked this in August 05, I recommend trying it in late summer or fall as the August heat can take its toll. The varying terrain keeps it interesting. There are some nice views of the Reno valley at a few points. The top opens up to treeless rock to the peak. As it is the highest peak in the basin, the view is great. Don't underestimate the elevation on this one as the air is thin at the top. We often stop to hike the first mile of the trail when we are in the area as it is a quick out and back with great lake and valley views before the trail turns in toward the mountain.
The start of the trail is less then impressive and for a good ways you can still hear the cars and motorcycles along the road but don't be discouraged. Eventually you wind inwards and away from the din of the road and the views are beautiful and quite surprising. The trail winds through many different terrains and eventually leads to an open rocky area. The final 700 feet up look rather intimidating but are not nearly as bad as they look. The trail is heavily used thoguh so don't expect solitude on the trail but the view from the top is worth the climb. I would definitely recommend taking this half day hike if you are in the area.
Trail is well maintained. If you're looking for solitude, you'll have to make a very early hike or try a week day. We started on the trail at about 830 in the morning on a Sunday. Hiking up the backside of KT-22, there weren't too many people but on the way down, it felt like we were at a shopping mall. The scenery was spectacular. Towards the top of your climb, you definitely are in alpine territory with great views of Alpine Meadows. The lakes are nice, but nothing to write home about.

Five Lakes Trail Photos

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Trail Information

Tahoe National Forest
Nearby City
Granite Chief Wilderness