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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Five Lakes Trail, CA

no permit
46 2 0
Guide 2 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Sierra Nevada
4 of 5 by 1
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 5.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 6,584 feet
Elevation Gain 1,060 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.4
Backpack Yes
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
6  2013-08-13 leonesiegel
27  2010-07-02 AZLOT69
13  2009-08-21 slegal
Author slegal
author avatar Guides 74
Routes 101
Photos 2,962
Trips 56 map ( 351 miles )
Age 57 Male Gender
Location Thousand Oaks, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Sep, Jul, Aug → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  5:48am - 5:58pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
One Hike - Five Beautiful Lakes
by slegal

Likely In-Season!
The Five Lakes Trail provides access to the Five Lakes which are located within the Granite Chief National Wilderness Area. The Five Lakes are beautiful and quite peaceful. While parts of the Lake Tahoe area are quite crowded in the summer months, this area is not very busy. You likely won't have the mountain to yourself, but you won't be battling the crowds that some of Lake Tahoe's more popular trails have.

The trail begins right off of Alpine Meadows Road. The trail winds through a scattering of pine and fir with Manzanita down at ground level. The trail heads up a number of switchbacks. After clearing the switchbacks the trees disappear and the trail is exposed for most of the remainder of the hike until you reach the lakes. With the hike ranging in elevation between 6,500 and 7,600 feet, wear sunscreen. With the absence of shade, you'll burn quickly without sun protection.

Much of the early part of the hike is on private property. While you should always respect the land that you are hiking on, the consequences of not respecting the private property you are hiking on here could cost everyone access to this beautiful place.

There is an interesting story about the property owner that unfolds as you head higher up the trail. About half way up the trail there are ski lift towers that come into view. The towers have no support wheels, cables or chairs on them. These towers have been like this since the early 2000's. If you are familiar with Alpine Meadows Ski Area, just up the road from the trailhead, then you know that the ski area doesn't extend into this area. However, at the top of the ridge to the right of the top of the unfinished lift is another lift. That lift is KT-22 at Squaw Valley Ski Area.

It turns out that part of the Squaw Valley Ski Area is on the property owner's land that you are hiking on. The property owner gave Squaw Valley permission to build KT-22 on his land. In exchange, Squaw Valley had to give him one of their chairlifts when Squaw Valley needed to replace it. The property owner had a great idea that he could build a lift on his land that would connect Alpine Meadows to Squaw Valley. He could sell a lift ticket that would enable skiers to ski between the two ski areas. All he needed to do was get Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley to agree to an interchangeable lift pass. Squaw Valley would have nothing of it. So the lift remains unfinished to this day.

As you climb higher up the mountain the trail enters the Granite Chief Wilderness, leaving behind the private property. Trees come into view at the top of trail. You can't see any of the five lakes yet, but the lakes are just beyond the edge of the tree line.

The official trail only passes near lakes 1 and 5. However, there are well worn paths that will take you past lakes 2, 3 and 4 in a circuitous route. Each lake has a slightly different look to it. Lakes 1 & 2 are the smallest. Being small has its advantages. The water tends to be smoother making for better reflection photography. Lake 3 is larger with a rocky western shoreline (where the trail passes) and nice views of the ridgeline that separates the two ski areas. Lakes 4 and 5 are also larger with granite slopes dropping into the far sides of both lakes.

After making the circuit around all five lakes you will be able to pick up the main trail which is not too difficult to locate. Just make sure to head northeast on the trail to get back to the trailhead. If you are heading southwest you are going the wrong direction and should turn around.


Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2011-03-07 slegal
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Review
    Five Lakes Trail
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    To start off the 4th weekend. Picked the right trail-picked the right footwear-picked the right ride to get to the trailhead. The rest of the day, priceless. Late and heavy snows here, still make for a difficult time at altitude. While only about 5% of the day involved dealing with too much snow , when it happens, the trail disappears. I continued on the Pacific Crest Trail in both directions until the snow turned me around. Also hit a creek that a crossing would have been wet for sure. There have been few others up here and as I was headed down, I ran into two horse groups bringing supplies up for the summer trail maintenance crews. They better get a move on - it will start snowing again in September. Temps felt air conditioned at 70 with a breeze.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Tahoe City head northwest on Highway 89 to Alpine Meadows Road and turn left onto Alpine Meadows Road. Take Alpine Meadows Road approximately 2.2 miles to the trailhead. From Truckee head south on Highway 89 and turn right on Alpine Meadows Road.
    page created by slegal on Mar 07 2011 11:14 pm
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