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California, United States

Five Lakes, Granite Chief Wilderness, Lake Tahoe

One of the easiest and most accessible hikes in the Granite Chief Wilderness in Lake Tahoe.

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 (14 votes, 9 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.0 miles / 6.4 km
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
Overview: Nestled in the foothills of the Granite Chief Wilderness peaks just north of Lake Tahoe, the Five Lakes promise dramatic yet tranquil surroundings, a place to relax fish or swim.

Best visited after the snow has retreated in the summer, the Five Lakes Trail is one of the easiest and most accessible hikes in the Granite Chief Wilderness so you're unlikely to have this trail to yourself. Don’t be disheartened if the trail is busy however, as the lakes themselves allow for plenty of chances for quiet and solitude.

Elevation gain:
• 900ft (from 6,600 - 7,500ft)

• Snow closes this trail in winter months due to avalanche risk.
• Mosquitoes can be found up here through early summer, so insect repellent comes in very handy at that time of year.

Points of Interest


Alpine Meadows Rd and Deer Park Rd

The trail begins at the side of Alpine Meadows Road, located by the intersection of Deer Park Road. Parking spaces can be found along the side of the road.

The hike begins along the Southern flanks of the KT-22 mountain (you might recognize it as one of Squaw Valley ski resort's peaks) and gently ascends towards the Five Lakes plateau through expanses of exposed granite and jagged volcanic rock.

Half Way There

The trail to Five Lakes maintains little more than a slight incline, but gains nine hundred feet of elevation before reaching the lakes. One the warmest Tahoe days this trail may lack a great deal of shade, but the lakes themselves provide plenty of cover from the sun and opportunities to cool off in the waters.

[JCT] Head for the Lakes?

A junction here gives you the opportunity of branching off and exploring the first of the five lakes. You'll find trails linking all the lakes up here, making them nicely accessible.

[JCT] Keep Left

Keep left at this junction to explore the five lakes - the other path heads off deeper into Granite Chief Wilderness.

The Five Lakes nestle in a bowl, surrounded on all sides by hills. Explore the lakes within these boundaries and you'll find it impossible to get lost.

Five Lakes

You've reached the end of the Five Lakes and arrived at the biggest of the lakes. Each of the five lakes are quite different and well worth exploring.

From here we recommend picking your way around the sometimes faint lakeside trails in a circuitous and counter-clockwise route.
Pictures in this guide taken by: Trailspotting

Trailspotting content © Stuart Green 2010 including text, images, videos and route detail.
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Visited on Jun 02, 2016

by karin93 on Jun 01, 2016
Absolutely lovely. The ascent is not terribly steep, but is unrelenting and without a lot of shade. The lovely views, however, are a compensation, and in my mind would justify the effort by themselves. But once the trail tops out, it becomes absolutely stunning. We took the first (unmarked) trail to the left, and by picking randomly at the various branchings managed to see four of the five lakes, each of them with a unique and striking beauty. Trail markings are virtually nonexistent, so be sure to bring some kind of map, if only on your cellphone.

The greatest confirmation of this hike's high rating is that I went with six rather jaded 18-25 yeard-olds, and all of them gushed about the esperience.

I do recommend to come early, as we did. We had the lakes mostly to ourselves, but on our descent passed about 40 people upward bound.

Visited on Jul 28, 2015

by jackrabbit_slim on Jul 29, 2015
The lakes are beautiful and there is plenty of shade once you get to the lakes. There is a steady and steep ascent on the way to the lakes and steady deline on the way back. There are some rocky and narrow paths that are too narrow and unstable for a stroller. Very dog friendly. Keep your eye out for the lakes, you will come to a point where the path splits and there is a sign telling you the PCT goes one way and the lakes are another way but the trail towards the lakes is hidden by some fallen trees. I cant imagine doing this when it is snowy or icy though.
Visited on Jul 03, 2015

by cchapin on Jul 06, 2015
It is a very beautiful hike and even more picturesque at the end. It takes a while to see all the lakes, but the best place to hang out is around the 2 biggest lakes. Bring some food, drinks and a blanket and spend the whole day there. Very peaceful and serene.

The hike itself is of average difficulty (7 out of 10). If one takes it slow, its very enjoyable. There is a lot elevation gain and the trail gets a little rocky at places, but nothing manageable. I saw kids, families and people of all ages attempt this. Its a dog friendly area, and pretty shaded near the lakes.

Visited on Aug 09, 2014

by aravinthanr on Aug 24, 2014
Worth the effort. After a good climb we ate lunch next to one of the lakes with a cool breeze. Still a little snow on the ground which made the time my the lake that much more refreshing. The climb is on a south facing trail so bring water. Even in May the trail was crowded but everyone was friendly.
Visited on May 24, 2014

by spehanich on Jun 16, 2014
Thanks to everyone for the comments and the likes. Based on your views, we've changed this hike from 'Easy' to 'Moderate'.

by Trailspotting on May 05, 2014
Panoramic views toward Alpine Ski Resort and Granite Chief Wilderness.

I would not rate this as an easy hike either. The near-1,000' elevation gain in 2 miles is not for the rank beginner. I also slipped a few times on the decent on sandy sections on the boulders.

Mild temps, lack of accumulated snow on the trail and relatively few other hikers made this a very enjoyable hike for mid-November. I only found 2 of the 5 lakes. The trail linking them wasn't abundantly obvious on the day I hiked. There was a bit of packed ice and snow in sections.

Visited on Nov 11, 2013

by Sunluvn on Nov 12, 2013
Warning, I'm a begining hiker age 39, and this was tough. The path is very traveled which is a plus but its not easy as you climb 900 ft in 2.5 miles to the lakes. some of the trail is granite face too...saw a lot of age groups from young to senior. The reward was the lake beautiful, warm enough to swim....i enjoyed it pack a lunch and drinks.
Visited on Jul 14, 2012

by suzeq0131 on Jul 14, 2012
I would not say this is an "easy" hike since it is 2 miles of steady climbing. My mapmyride hike had it at a catagory 2 climb. 980 vertical feet in 2 miles. It is very beautiful with very little shade.
Visited on Jun 03, 2012

by tom111869 on Jun 04, 2012

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