Backpacking to Loch Leven Lakes

8 miles  - Out-and-Back Trail

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.

Read More


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Cliff Jumping


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

"Easy" and "moderate" are a bit misleading...

I'm in no way an experienced backpacker, but I am relatively fit and I found this trail to be miserable at best. The trail at times disappears completely - we only found our way back to it due to Gaia GPS - and to call it a "trail" is in all honestly laughable. It's miles of walking on uneven rocks which makes the climb infinitely more difficult. Those without backpacking packs had an easier time than we did, and those with hiking poles had an easier time still. The dispersed camping at the lakes is beautiful, with spots carved out with logs and even stone fire pits, which I was not expecting. All in all, this is a wonderful spot to go to, but people should be adequately prepared for the terrain. On our way back we passed many people wearing sandals and cautioned them about the rocks coming up ahead. If you are comfortable on mountain surfaces, you'll probably be fine, but I was expecting something a little easier to traverse. Oh, there's an awful, awful amount of mosquitos.

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!

Stay Nearby

Emigrant Gap, California

Big Bend Group (Yuba River)

Overview Big Bend Group Campground is located 19 miles west of Truckee, California in the Tahoe National Forest at an elevation of 5,700 feet. Visitors enjoy the area for its fishing and hiking op...

Emigrant Gap, California

North Fork (Ca)

Overview North Fork Campground is located along the North Fork of the North Fork American River in the Tahoe National Forest, off of Interstate 80, at the Emigrant Gap Exit. Visitors enjoy fishing ...

Colfax, California

Tunnel Mills Ii

Overview Tunnel Mills Group Campground is located along the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork American River in the Tahoe National Forest. It can be accessed off of Interstate 80, at th...

Unnamed Road

Findley Campground

Overview Findley Campground is located alongside the scenic Jackson Meadow Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest. The location, part of the Woodcamp Recreation Area, makes a great base camp for a ...

Nearby Adventures

  • 33mi Loop to Donner Lake

    We love this 33-mile loop on old Highway 40 from Cisco Grove to Donner Lake and back. It has just about everything: a few flats, a long slow pull, rollers, a screaming downhill, a tough Alpine climb and a long, cruising downhill. Not to mention al...

    33 miles

  • Backpack the Palisades Creek Trail

    After driving out to Kidd Lakes and parking at the trailhead, you take off through some easy forest hiking past Cascade Lakes and Long Lake. Pay attention to the cairns marking the trail as you traverse across a large granite section with Devils P...

    15 miles 2200 ft gain

  • Swim at Long Lake near Truckee

    The story goes that twenty or so years ago, long before the advent of the Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Area, some local Truckee boys decided to put a couple rope swings up on Long Lake near Soda Springs, CA, and they remain there to this day.Long...

    1.5 miles 100 ft gain

  • Hike to the Top of Andesite Peak

    From the trail map sign, follow the dirt path straight, following signs for the cross-country skiing route, not snowmobiling. Continue until you see a trail marker. You'll veer left to head over to the Hole in the Ground trail. Once you see anothe...

    5 miles 1000 ft gain