Five Lakes: A beautiful, accessible hike at Tahoe’s North Shore

Five Lakes trail will have hikers all smiles after the initial uphill stretch.

Five Lakes trail will have hikers all smiles after the initial uphill stretch.

While everyone who visits Lake Tahoe is left enthralled by the stunning scenic beauty exuded by the Jewel of the Sierra, the throng of visitors can often leave one hankering for the solitude and tranquility associated with natural beauty.

The Five Lakes Trail, a moderate five-mile round trip to the fringe of Granite Chief Wilderness, provides an opportunity to view placid and clear Sierra lakes without all the bustle.

Located next to Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, the trail actually begins on the flank of KT-22, the famed mountain that is one of the favorite haunts of downhill skiers at Squaw Valley.

The route slopes gradually upward through areas of exposed granite characteristic of the area intermingled with some droppings of jagged volcanic rock.

The trail slowly gains about 900 feet in elevation, but it is spread out over two miles of gradual incline requiring moderate exertion as the terrain demands a few switchbacks on the way to the Five Lakes Plateau.

There is not much shade on the hike, so late September and early October present the perfect time to pursue the hike as hot summer days can be a drain and the winter brings snow loads that render the route arduous without the benefit of snowshoes.

If you happen to set off during a particularly sunny day, rest assured plenty of shade awaits once you reach the Five Lakes area.

Also, make sure to bring a swimsuit as all five lakes present cool waters for a refreshing afternoon dip.

Fishing is allowed as well and there are trout to be had.

While the combination of family friendly terrain and a moderate hike make the trail somewhat busy, the fact that there are five lakes at the top means it is easy to spread out and avail yourself of whatever level of solitude you desire.

At the top of the trail you will encounter the first of the five lakes. It is skinny and shallow compared to its brethren and does not have the same wealth of access points.

Continue on the trail (staying left) to reach each of the four other lakes situated in the small basin in the Granite Chief foothills. There are also smaller, accessible trails that lead from one lake to the other, and as long as you stay in the basin, it is difficult to get lost.

The last lake at the end of the trail is also the biggest with the most access points for swimmers and fishermen.

Granite slabs and large monolithic boulders flank either side of the serene reflective lake, making it an ideal spot to post up for a picnic and spend a few contemplative moments before turning around and heading back.

The trailhead is off of Alpine Meadows Road, about two miles after the turnoff from Highway 89. There is ample roadside parking and the trailhead signage is recognizable from the road.


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