When we were in Tahoe last summer we didn't get a chance to do a lot of hiking. The Tahoe basin had experienced one of its longest, most snow-filled winters ever and most of the hiking trails were still closed in late June due to still-thick snow banks. We did try to hike the Loch Leven Lake trial but only made it to the bridge. This winter was much more mild and pretty much everything in the Tahoe basin is snow-free. Given that, we thought we would try this trail one more time. What a difference a year makes!
The Lock Leven trail is located off of Interstate 80, west of Donner Summit. The trail head is just off the South Yuba River. Although this is a relatively low elevation trail you do gain more than 1700 vertical feet and the hike out to the lakes is a continual, sometimes steep climb. The beauty of the lakes is well worth the effort.
An old wood sign is all that delineates the start of a trail that climbs over a shrub and boulder covered hillside of exposed granite slabs beneath widely scattered conifers. The trail winds into a grove of trees with a small pond.
Soon you reach the bridge (first photos in post). Past this bridge you make a steep quarter mile climb until you reach the Union Pacific railroad. (1.25 miles from the trailhead)
Then begins a LONG climb through a mixed forest of incense cedars, white firs and Jeffery pines. There are many, many switchbacks and just when you think you've reached the top you round a corner and find yet one more grade to climb.
When you finally, gratefully reach Loch Leven Summit you have just a slight descent into the basin where the three lakes are located. The first lake is located 2.75 miles from the trailhead. As we were descending to the first lake we were greeted by 100's of little blue butterflies. They were flittering here, there and everywhere seemingly saying, "Welcome, welcome come see our pretty lake!"
Our first view of the lake made all the difficult climbing worth it. It is lovely and so inviting. So inviting in fact that Anthony quickly stripped down to his underwear and dove right in. Only to come up gasping because of the frigid temperature.
We debated about whether or not to hike to the other two lakes and decided that after climbing for so long that we just couldn't "waste" all that effort by just seeing one lake. So, we consulted our hiking book and headed out to see the other two lakes in the area.
The second lake was just a quarter mile from the first lake. I'm so glad we decided to hike further! While the first lake was pretty the second lake (the largest of the three) was just spectacular. It was dotted with all kinds of little, "Tom Sawyer" islands and beautiful little coves. The hiking book extols the beauty of the third lake but this second lake was the unanimous favorite of all five of us.
The islands were so tempting that Anthony again braved the cold water, this time coercing Ryan to come with him. They swam out to that little island and back again.
There were hundreds of blue dragon flies all along the shore.
Having traveled this far we had to push on to see the third and final lake. To get to that lake you walk around the shoreline of the second lake, ascend a rock cleft and then climb over granite slabs until you reach High Loch Leven Lake. (4 miles from the trial head).
Having reached this lake we found a big, warm boulder and had ourselves a picnic lunch.
After lunch Anthony and Ryan climbed the peak above the lake and took some panoramic shots.
This was definately one of the more challenging hikes that we have ever taken. We were all wiped out by the time we made it back to the car. But, the memories of this beautiful place will remain with us for years to come.