Make an escape to Loch Leven Lakes |

Make an escape to Loch Leven Lakes

Greyson Howard/Sierra SunThe Middle Loch Leven Lake is seen this past Saturday afternoon. The set of pristine backcountry lakes can be reached from a trailhead starting just east of the Big Bend visitor center on Old Highway 40.

While Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake dominate the Truckee-Tahoe area both in size and in draw, it’s the little granite-rimmed glacial lakes that define the Sierra Nevada backcountry.

For those who want to get to a set of pristine backcountry lakes in a hurry, the redundantly named Loch Leven Lakes are perhaps some of the easiest to get to.

Starting just to the east of the Big Bend visitor center on Old Highway 40, the trail picks its way through ” and over ” large granite boulders before taking a distinct turn upwards into the forest, gaining over 1,000 feet of elevation in roughly three miles.

Part-way up, a the trail crosses a wooden foot bridge over a small creek with a series of small cascades ” a good place to stop and cool feet on the way to the top.

About a mile in, the trail crosses the railroad tracks still on their original 1860s route, as built by the hands of Chinese laborers.

The trail tops out on a ridge at about 6,800 feet, then descends into the Loch Leven Lakes Basin. The forest then opens up to a mosaic of granite and some of the area’s heartier plant life.

Snow is all but gone, and the clear, sometimes island-dotted lakes are ready for swimming.

The U.S. Forest Service characterizes fishing as generally fair, and campsites are scattered throughout the basin.

If you intend to camp and use a stove, barbecue, lantern or build a fire, you’ll need to swing by a Forest Service Ranger station (Truckee’s is located at the intersection of Highway 89 North and Interstate 80), and pick up a campfire permit.

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