Backpacking: Loch Leven Lakes
I am so excited that I got my first girls’ backpacking trip in this summer! Several summers ago my friends, Lisa and Jenn, became my wilderness soul sisters. We backpacked together four times that summer (Desolation Wilderness, Grouse Ridge, Bear Lake, and Star Lake) and haven’t done it since. We made a point to get out the other weekend to somewhere new and beautiful, Loch Leven Lakes.
There are two different ways (that I know of) to get to the lakes. The first, is a more commonly traveled trail off of I-80 near Truckee. This route is about 3.6 miles with 1,600+ feet of elevation gain to the first lake, Lower Loch Leven. We took the alternate route through Salmon Lake, which is definitely the more moderate route. It is about the same distance as the first route (3.5 miles) but only about 600 feet of elevation gain. To get there you have to be willing to drive about 6 miles on a dirt road, but it is nothing that a Subaru couldn’t handle.
To get to the Salmon Lake Trail from Tahoe take the Yuba Gap exit on I-80. Go left at the exit (over the interstate) and when you see the fork in the road after about a quarter mile, go right toward Lodgepole campground on Lake Valley Road. After another mile (the first big gravel road, just watch your mileage), turn left, this is not marked but has recently been reworked. The road splits at one point and you will want to stay left. There is a tree spray painted with 19, for forest service road 19 at this point. Drive four miles and then take another left on forest service road 38. After 1.5 miles you will reach Huysink Lake and continue on the road for another .5 miles to the trailhead. You will see big pullout for about 6-8 cars on the left and a trail that goes through the trees with a small wooden sign nailed on a tree right before the pullout.
Once you are on the trail you’ll go through a couple of beautiful meadows full of wildflowers (we were there in late July on a giant snow year). Here is where you will start ascending. After about 1.25 miles, you’ll pass a pretty little lake and then go up again over some boulders and granite. After this, you’ll reach Salmon Lake in another 1.25 miles. After seeing the lake from above, follow the trail down to the lake and then take a slight left away from the lake (there was a homemade trail sign made out of a plastic bag). From here, it is a mellow mile to Lower Loch Leven. We made a right at this point and headed toward Middle Loch Leven.
Our original mission was to make it to High Loch Leven, but after walking around the back of Middle Loch Leven, where we thought the trail was, we ended up losing it. We hiked around and up a canyon for a while trying to find it, but never did. At this point, we had been on our feet for several hours with heavy packs (it was the floatie’s and booze’s fault, the bare necessities) that we decided to find the most perfect spot at Middle Loch Leven.
This is the biggest lake of the three, with lots of picturesque islands, so I was okay with that. We picked a spot on the backside that was beautiful. We didn’t have any neighbors and the only people we could see were the two other groups on the other side of the lake.
When we were there we were allowed to have fires with a permit, so we had a small one each night. Along with that we floated in the pristine lake, rocked in our hammocks, and drank Fireball and box wine, duh. We had a great two nights and then hiked out on Friday morning. There were a couple of groups coming in. If you are planning on coming in a weekend, my advice would be to get there early.
Have you ever been to Loch Leven Lakes? What trail was your favorite and why? Leave a comment below!
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