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Soda Springs, California

Backpacking to Loch Leven Lakes

8 Miles Total - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Alex Shaw

Relatively easy access to beautiful scenery, low traffic. 5-8 mile hike depending on which lake you want to go to (Lower, Middle, High). Cliff jumping at the upper lake, catch and release fishing, pet friendly. No permit required however a permit is required for campfires.

To get to this trail go west on I-80 from Truckee, Ca. After 17 miles take the Big Bend exit and turn left at the stop sign at the bottom of the exit ramp. Follow that road 3/4 of a mile and the small parking lot will be on your right hand side. There is a bathroom there and the trailhead is directly across the street.

The trail is easy to follow for the first half mile until you get to some large slabs of granite. As you continue up the trail look for stacked rocks, these will give you a an easy route as you continue up the mountain. The trail then starts to switch back eventually leading to a small bridge. After crossing the bridge you will proceed roughly 1/4 of a mile and end up at a set of railroad tracks, the trail continues on the other side of the tracks straight across from where you came out.

Once on the other side the trail will continue up some switchbacks through the forest for another mile and is moderately steep until eventually defending into the first lake. If you continue from the lower lake another mile on the trail you will end up at the upper lake where there are rocks to jump off and more places to camp. The distance to the lower lake is 2.5 miles one way. If you intend to stay the night be sure to pack for any variables. I recommend this to anyone who wants a relatively easy trail to get into backpacking.

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Cliff Jumping


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Overall rating: 

Day hike to Loch Leven Lakes

We hiked this round trip in one day in the fall and only ran into a few other people. It’s an intermediate and more lengthy climb to the first lake, but quick to the second two. I loved the diversity of the landscape as we changed elevations. The trail is very easy to follow except when crossing some huge rocks that aren’t very clearly marked. We only had to look around for a few minutes until we found the trail again. We got to the top fairly quickly and were able to spend time enjoying the beauty while the dogs swam and ran around. We’re going to hike it again in the springtime to see it from a different perspective.

Overnight camp at Loch Leven

Hiked up to loch Leven mid July and camped overnight. We had a wonderful time. The hike it’s self is a good challenge and is pretty much a climb from the start! There is a small stream about halfway through that crosses is the trail with lovely clear water that’s safe to drink. Very rewarding when you get to the top and jump in the lake to cool off. We set off pretty late so we ended up camping at the first lake but had we known the second lake was so close we would of just pressed on and camped there. The second lake is far more scenic and there are plenty of nice camping spots near the water. The lake itself is perfect for swimming, the water is warm and there’s lots of islands to swim out to and jump off. We had the lake all to ourselves! Would definitely recommend and hope to camp there again in the future. Also the stars at this elevation are magical!

Perfect first backpacking trip with my daughter

Heard a lot of good things about this hike prior to going. Now I know why. Challenging 4 mike walk in with a 1,500 elevation climb. In most areas, trail is almost all loose gravel and bedrock making ankle injuries a concern. More traffic on the trail than expected for mid-week, but only one other group of campers for the two nights we were there. Hiked to both nearby lakes on the second day. Scenery is incredible. If you’re looking for a hike where challenge is equaled by the rewards of beauty and solitude, this should be high on your list.

Leave No Trace

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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