The Loch Leven Lakes are located in the Tahoe National Forest about 17 miles west of Truckee, CA. The trailhead starts out directly across the street from the parking lot and is marked by this sign. It's about 2.5 miles (almost all uphill) to the Lower Lake. The hike to the middle lake is about .5 miles further than the lower lake, but it is all on level ground. Then, it's about .5 miles of mild uphill hiking to get from the middle lake to the high lake.
The first mile is mostly uphill. Some parts were more difficult than others, especially with a 40 pound pack and all the camping gear for a two-night stay.
The trail is not always clearly marked. Some people have put piles of stacked rocks (cairns) to help you stay on track. I also used the "All Trails" app with the record option to make sure we did not get too far off track.
Occasionally, you will see a sign nailed to a tree to let you know you are on the right trail.
After about a half mile of pretty steep uphill climbing, you will wind up at a little pond. Follow the trail to the right (west) side of the pond to stay on the right trail.
After the pond, the trail becomes a little less rugged and flattens out for a bit before making another ascent towards the railroad tracks.
Eventually, you will cross a small wooden bridge, which is an indication that you are pretty close to the railroad tracks.
Once you reach the railroad tracks, you're about 40% of the way to Lower Loch Leven Lake. The trail continues near this structure.
The trail from the railroad tracks to the top of the hill is pretty strenuous with a heavy pack, particularly because there are a lot of boulders that you have to navigate (and I'm out of shape). The trail winds up the hill for about a mile or so before it starts to flatten out.
Once you reach the flat part of the trail, you are basically at the top of the mountain, and it is only a short trek before you reach Lower Lock Leven Lake.
Lower Loch Leven Lake is beautiful. The water is crystal clear and relatively warm (in mid-June).
It's only about a quarter mile from (the far side of) Lower Loch Leven Lake to Middle Loch Leven Lake. Middle and High Loch Leven Lakes have numerous (unofficial) campgrounds scattered around the shoreline (and some that are hidden up in the trees). They are clearly marked due to the use of many campers over the years, and they are first come first serve. Most of them have a rock fire pit, but wood is pretty scarce and you have to walk around quite a bit to find it. We came in on a Thursday morning (it was early afternoon when we arrived at the lake), and although there were people aready there camping, we were able to snag a nice spot right by the lake.
From Middle Loch Leven Lake it's only about a half mile hike to get to High Loch Leven Lake. There were nice spots to camp at the high lake, but there were already quite a few people there when we hiked up there on a Friday from our camp at the middle lake.
The water in High Loch Leven Lake was pretty warm. I was able to swim around in it without feeling uncomfortable at all.
This is a view of the high lake looking towards the direction of the middle lake.
The sunset on the first night we arrived was nice...BUT the mosquitoes were out in full force for about two hours (right before dusk until after it got dark). The swarms of mosquitoes were massive. We had to cover up in long sleeves and cover our heads with scarves/hats just to deal with it.
Here's a bunch more photos from our trip. Enjoy!
Things to note:
1) There is a well-maintained public outhouse at the trail head but no restrooms in the interior portion of the park.
2) There is no potable water, so you need to bring your own for the hike up.
3) If you plan on camping, you need to have a wilderness water filter to get drinking water (from the lakes)
4) It is free to park in the parking lot, but the parking lot is small. We got the last spot, but there were a lot of vehicles parked along the roadside. Just watch out for the "No Parking" signs so you don't get a ticket or towed.
5) In order to operate a camp stove or have a fire, you need to have a fire permit from Cal-Fire. You have to watch a video and take a 10 question quiz to get the fire permit.
6) Camping is free and is first come, first serve. There were many more people on the weekend when we were leaving. My suggestion is to go during a weekday (preferably not a Friday as there were plenty of people hiking in on Friday, too).
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