Hikers near the crest of the Sierra Nevada on the Five Lakes Trail.
It’s not far to travel, but the two-mile Five Lakes Trail near Tahoe City, Calif., leads visitors across some major Western geography.
“You’re hiking over the Sierra Crest, from the Great Basin to the Pacific Basin,” says Joe Flannery, a wilderness and trails specialist for Tahoe National Forest.
Starting at the trailhead on Alpine Meadows Road, hikers gain 1,000 feet before reaching the lip of a watershed that drains west all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
The path’s namesake lakes lie below the pass in a scenic basin that’s part of the Granite Chief Wilderness. As the route descends, it leads through old-growth red fir and Western white pine, then passes stretches of oddly shaped boulders and exposed granite where you’ll have sweeping views of the surrounding peaks.
To the visitors who schedule an outing before autumn’s cool weather sets in, the walk up and over to the five lakes has a special appeal. “It’s a really pretty little spot with great swimming,” Flannery says. sierrawild.gov/wilderness/granite-chief.
Photography by Matt Palmer
This article was first published in July 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.