Loch Leven Lakes Trail

Tahoe National Forest, California

Distance3.6mi
Elevation Gain1,882ft
Trailhead Elevation5,795ft
Top6,872ft
Elevation Min/Max5792/6872ft
Elevation Start/End5795/5795ft

Loch Leven Lakes Trail

Loch Leven Lakes Trail is a hiking trail in Placer County, California. It is within Tahoe National Forest. It is 3.6 miles long and begins at 5,795 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 7.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,882 feet. The Vault Toilets (2) restrooms and the Loch Leven Trailhead parking are near the trailhead. The Loch Leven Lakes and Loch Leven Lakes waters and the Big Bend Overlook viewpoint can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Cherry Point Trail and Salmon Lake Trail.

Loch Leven Lakes Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"This hike takes you to three granite-ringed lakes and serves equally well as a good day hike or an easy overnight backpacking trip. An added bonus is its easy access from I-80. Granite slabs surround the island-dotted lakes, inviting you to stretch out, rest your bones, and enjoy the views."

"Winter, spring, summer, or fall, a trek to Loch Leven Lakes offers it all: Scenic overlooks. Muscle-burning uphills. Cool mountain lake swimming. Fishing. Or just plain sitting around. But you first have to get to this string of granite-basin lakes."

"Seek the curvaceous shorelines of three granite-ringed, high-mountain lakes and delight in each lake’s special granitic islands. The photo opportunities are there—vistas of valleys and snowy ridges, glaciated mountain terrain, powdery alpine meadows, and pristine lakes. Ah, but there is a price and a tradeoff. The first 2 miles climb incessantly (1,300 feet of elevation gain); and you’ll see and hear I-80 traffic over that span. The payoff happens when you’re gliding across untouched snow at the trio of Loch Leven Lakes without a trace of civilization. This journey requires some careful routefinding skills. There’s a good chance the snow line is a bit higher up, meaning you may have to lug your snowshoes for a ways, but you’ll have a path to follow. This is also a good snowshoe route lasting perhaps into early May."

"A handy out-and-back day hike from hectic Interstate 80, Loch Leven Lakes provide a dose of classic Sierra beauty—flowers, forest, granite, lakes—without a lot of preparation or strain. For backpackers, the trail also connects with very ambitious routes into the wild American River backcountry."

"The Loch Leven Lakes provide hikers itching for summer an early-season opportunity to reach a trio of picturesque lakes nestled into a granite basin. A pleasant side trip to Salmon Lake increases the total of lakes to four. Swimmers will appreciate the relatively warm waters and scads of slabs and islands for sunbathing, while anglers can test their skills on the stocked trout that inhabit the lakes."

"Loch Leven’s convenient trailhead access makes this a popular day hike destination. Hikers are rewarded for their 1,000-foot uphill climb with a selection of subalpine lakes and generous vistas of tree-clad and exposed-granite slopes festooned with flowers of every color.

Your hike to Loch Leven Lakes begins at about 5,800 feet in elevation on the south side of Hampshire Rocks Road. While you will navigate generally southeast, you’ll need to pay close attention to the obvious trail, often marked by ducks (rock trail markers), as it winds around some of the granite outcrops that characterize this terrain. Initially, rocky switchbacks will help you gain a bit of elevation above the road. It seems as if each crack and crevice in every granite step is graced by penstemon in early July. The flat, sandy, gravelly spots are decorated with pale-pink pussytoes. And there’s more color to come."

"Camping is available at all the lakes, but you’ll want to spend most of your time at High Loch Leven, which doesn’t get as much pressure—and the granite-island-dotted shoreline is protected by white fir, red fir, lodgepole pine, and western white pine and provides much-appreciated shade in the summer. Fishing for brook and rainbow trout is good at all the lakes. Be sure not to abandon this hike in the winter. While strenuous, the trek on snowshoes offers a completely different perspective on the wilderness. Some cross-country skiers traverse the snow from the east on a marked trail to High Loch Leven, but most snowshoers reject the challenge. Don’t be one of them. Though with no trail to follow you’ll need basic routefinding skills, finding the lakes isn’t that big of a problem. One thing to be aware of in winter is crossing the Union Pacific tracks. The company uses plow trains, which in heavy snow years can pile up a mound of snow that can’t easily be climbed in snowshoes. It’s generally a good idea to carry a snow shovel in the backcountry, and you can use it to dig steps in the snowbanks."

"The Loch Leven Lakes provide hikers who are itching for summer to begin an early-season opportunity to reach a trio of picturesque lakes nestled into a granite basin. A pleasant side trip to Salmon Lake increases the total possible lakes to four. Swimmers will appreciate the relatively warm waters and scads of slabs and islands for sunbathing, while anglers can test their skills on the stocked trout that inhabit the lakes.

An old wooden sign marked Loch Leven Trail is all that delineates the start of the trail, which climbs over a shrub- and boulder-covered hillside of exposed granite slabs beneath widely scattered conifers. A short, winding descent takes you briefly into a stand of white firs and lodgepole pines with a lush understory."

"The granitic and root- laced trail zigzagging to the crest before dropping down to the first of the three Loch Leven Lakes won’t necessarily wow you. It’s a narrow, mostly rocky trail that starts on exposed granite slabs before slipping under the cool shade of pines for part of the way. A sprinkling of scarlet Indian paintbrush and delicate lavender daisies add color to the manzanita bushes.

I-80 will come in and out of view, and the hum of the highway won’t hush until you drop down to Lower Loch Leven Lake. But the second you catch a glimpse of Lower Loch Leven, the first of three picturesque glacier- carved lakes suspended on a granite plateau, you will understand why this is a popular day hike and an enchanting overnight. The lakes are favorite plunging pools for hikers and their dogs, and the granite slabs will beckon you and your dog to scamper up to enjoy a scenic picnic."

"Most of this loop alternates between class 3 and class 4. Riders with intermediate technical skills and intermediate strength will be carrying or pushing their bikes for about 40 percent of the time; those with advanced technical skills and strength may be able to ride 95 percent of it. Allow an extra hour for the side trips to Salmon Lake and Upper Loch Leven Lake. This ride can be shortened considerably by riding out-and-back to any of the lakes along the way. I suggest waiting until after July 15 to do this ride to give the trails time to dry out after the deep winter snows melt. Highlights: Deep granite-enclosed lakes perfect for swimming, green wildflower-filled meadows, challenging technical singletrack."

Loch Leven Lakes Trail Reviews

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7/18/2018
These lakes are incredible and it is so fun to bring my family and dogs here. Hiking in is not too terribly hard if you plan well. You have various backcountry camping opportunities at the upper, middle, and lower Loch Leven lakes. There are also a few sweet spots at nearby, secluded Salmon Lake if you can nab one. Views are gorgeous everywhere of lakes and forests tucked away in granite. Gorgeous place.
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7/8/2018
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6/18/2016
All the lakes and the views are gorgeous (including Salmon Lake, which is smaller, more secluded and near the Loch Leven lakes). If you are lucky enough to snag a campsite it is perfect for a few nights of backcountry camping.
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8/27/2013
The directions are good, accurate for all turns, although I think the trail has deteriorated a bit since the book was written. After the upper lake, the trail was difficult to follow off-and-on, much of it was overgrown, and significant portions were unrideable. At this point, I'd say ride out and back to the upper lake. Otherwise, maybe a dirt bike and chainsaw?
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8/15/2012
What a great little hike! We knocked out Donner peak then continued on the loop to mount judah. Great views. After you hit Mount Judah it is a nice down hill hike all the way down the pct! So pretty on the pct side. I would do this trail again for sure!!
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11/1/2010
We did this hike on a Sunday and met plenty of hikers heading down, so I would guess it is pretty busy on the weekends. We went just before the snow and it was gorgeous...although it was 9 degrees at night! Fahrenheit! We were prepared though and never uncomfortable. We had the place to ourselves from Sunday to Wednesday. It is a moderate hike. I would definately do this one again!
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7/19/2009
Started early because of a hot day. The trail is technical because you have to watch your footfalls each step, both ascent and descent. The noise from Hwy 80 is a little distracting at the beginning. Once you get to Lower Loch, you forget how close you are to civilization. Probably won't do it again, just because of the noise. Many other quieter hikes along Hwy 80.
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7/11/2009
You’ll start out with a heart pumping walk up the rock head-wall just after the trail head. The climb continues with many switchbacks. There are several shady rest stops along the way. And the views continually get better as you ascend. When you come out into a clearing under one of the ski runs, you make a decision to head straight (on the PCT) and go around Mt. Judah counter-clockwise, or take a left and go clockwise. Either way is great, just a personal choice. So this time we went left and this way you’ll see wild flowers through mid August in some areas. You’ll even have a chance to make a snowman in August in a snow pond along the trail. As you crest Mt. Judah the views are spectacular in all directions Donner Lake to the East. It’s a good place to rest and have a snack. Once you’ve crested you now use the other set of muscles (it’s all down hill now). There’s a nice little detour to see a famous historical site called Wheeler Pass. This is one spot where wagon trains (yes like the Donner party) came through the Sierra-Nevada mountain range. You’ll be amazed at the ravine they had to get all their supplies through and up the side of a cliff. Now back on the trail you’ve rejoined the PCT and begin to get some much needed shade. Along the way there are many spots where you’ll see geological features including volcanic rocks and sedimentary rocks from the bottom of an ancient sea. Allow yourself 3 hours, more if want to take detours or tend to snap a lot of pictures. You see several fellow hikers on the weekend, but it’s not crowded. We always do this trail during the heat of summer because it’s typically cooler at that altitude, plus the wild flowers last well into August most years. There is always plenty of parking, either just of Old Hwy 40 or you can drive down the gravel road a few 100 feet and park on the side just across the trail-head.
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8/28/2008
My partner and I took a chance on tackling this trail over Labor Day Weekend. Most of the first mile or two requires climbing a large granite outcropping. Once conquered, you can see I-80 winding through the trees below. The trail was steep until you were almost at Lower Loch Leven Lake. We were also exposed to the sun half of the time, so a hat came in quite handy. The lakes were gorgeous -- cool, refreshing, and teeming with pines and flowering red/pink ground cover. The trails are dog friendly, but, they were anything but smooth. Definitely watch out for loose rocks and gnarled tree roots. I don't see this trail satisfactory for equestrian use, but the hike was well worth the memories.
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7/11/2006
Very enjoyable hike, but not very well marked. There were alot of wildflowers in bloom. The views are beautiful.
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Trail Information

Tahoe National Forest
Nearby City
Tahoe National Forest
Parks
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
Tahoe National Forest, American River Ranger District, Foresthill Ranger Station, 22830 Foresthill Rd., Foresthill 95631; (530)367-2224; www.fs.usda.gov/tahoe
Local Contacts
USGS: Cisco Grove and Soda Springs, CA; USFS Tahoe National Forest
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Oct 2018