View Rating - 4 out of 10
Distance - Approximately 4.5 miles round trip (The trail continues past the lakes and on into the Granite Chief Wilderness Area)
Elevation Gain - 1050
Highest Point - 7600
The Five Lakes Trail is a nice way to experience a bit of "single-track" trail hiking in the Sierra. It does not have spectacular views compared to many of Tahoe's more amazing hikes. And in fact there isn't a single view of Lake Tahoe, which lies to the southeast. However, the trail takes you to a group of small, pretty lakes nestled in a forested "saddle" on the trail. The trail isn't too long, and it is a great way to get a feel for what the Alpine Meadows ski area is like in the summer. (Don't worry, you won't see much ski area stuff, just a few lift towers from a distance.)
The trail climbs across the slope where the owners of Alpine and Squaw Valley hope to one day put in a gondola to connect the two areas. If that happens, the combined area will - by some measures - become the largest lift-served ski resort in North America.
|The trail head is almost hidden in the woods to the right of this photo and opposite where Deer Park Drive intersects from the left. Parking is along the side of the road.|
To get to the trailhead, drive about 4 miles west from Tahoe City on 89 (or about 10 miles south of Truckee on 89). The road follows the Truckee River, and if the rafting conditions are good, you may see dozens of rafts plying the light rapids.
When you come to the River Ranch hotel and restaurant, turn west up Alpine Meadows Road.
Drive 2.1 miles up Alpine Meadows Road to where Deer Park Road intersects from the left. The trail head is in the trees to the right.
As with all trails, if you see what looks like large fireworks or small artillery or tubes that could be dynamite, DON'T TOUCH! These are avalanche control explosives that didn't detonate when they were supposed to. They are still very lethal and may go off at any time.
As the trail heads up, you get your first view of the peaks that make Alpine Meadows skiers very happy. This is one of our favorite ski areas.
This isn't considered a great wildflower hike, but there were still some delights.
Soon, the trail emerges from the forest, and you get nice views.
Ski lifts in the distance.
Ski resort lodge down in the beautiful bowl that makes up much of Alpine Meadows. (Although a good part of the resort is on the far side of the mountains toward the rear of this photo.)
If you turn around and look to back to the east, Lake Tahoe sits in the blue valley in the distance.
Looking up above to the north, you can see the top of Squaw Valley's KT-22 lift, which comes up from the far side and services black-diamond terrain down to Squaw Valley.
The trail rises up to a saddle for a nice level stroll, and goes back into the forest where the shade is cool. Soon, you will come to the lakes.
To the northwest is the back side of Squaw Peak at 8900 feet.
Don't worry about finding all five lakes. Three of them pretty much hide in the woods, and two of them become one when the snow runoff raises the water level in spring and early summer. The lakes are fun to explore and swim. They are also stocked with trout for fishing.
A delightful hike, not too long, not too high. And if you don't demand the greatest views, it could be just right.