Explore To Do Difficult - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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Absolutely love this trail. I’ve done it three times now. It’s definitely a work out and a climb so bring plenty of water. I made the mistake of not bringing enough for both my dog and myself and it hurt me bad. Also watch your footing as the granite and loose rocks can make for an easy ankle roll (did that my second time on the hike). Lakes are gorgeous at the top and there’s plenty of spots for everyone to sit and enjoy. You’ll see backpackers and day hikers at the top and you’ll share smiles because the hike was not an easy one. Recommend bringing a lunch or snacks if you’re making it a day trip :)

I always forget about the bouldery portion after the train tracks- strenuous but then eases up on the knees after that. The higher lake is definitely worth getting to, less crowded.

Love this HARD hike but FYI the trail is closed for August due to high heat! We showed up at 6 am with tons of water and found closed sign and had to divert to mission trails. Def hike when cooler!

Tough hike but very rewarding. Visited the three lakes and Lake Salmon on the way back. I’m glad I wore ankle high hiking boots over the rough, rocky and rutted trail.

I love this trail! I've hit it in skis, snowshoes, and hiking boots. Good times all around.

So a buddy and I did this hike on 8/6/18. Not a good idea. Do not do this hike in the summer. Wait until it cools off. There is very little shade to stop in. And please for the love of all that is holy, bring more than 3L of water. You will run out. You will be miserable. The hike itself is intense. A lot of big hills, the top has a 360 degree view of nothing but mountains. The last few hundred feet are tough. Small trail through big rocks.

Kicked my butt trail. Nice elevation change. Wish the smoke wasn’t there right now. A lot of the normal views were not visible but the hike was a lot of fun and I’m so glad that people have kept the trail so clean.

Super nice and diversified trail! We did it as a half day hike (a little bit under two hours to the highest lake). In my opinion more a MODERATE then a hard hike (there for sure is a rocky section tho). The first 0.5 mile of the trail is a little tricky to follow, I was glad I brought my phone for GPS. Bring your dog and plan on taking a dip in the lake(s)!

I agree that it is a hard hike, especially coming back down. If you have a knee issue, use poles to soften the impact on the rocks, tree roots and just altogether steep and rugged trail terrain. The lakes are worth all the hard work to reach them. Middle Loch Leven is about 6 miles RT, but don’t get fooled by the shorter mileage. It’s still tough go. I have thought to make it a shuttle by putting a car at the Salmon Lake TH & hiking out by way of Salmon Lake & in at the Loch Leven TH. This would make hiking out less strenuous on folks with knee problems like I have.

This trail kicked my butt! Thankfully I went with a group who knew the trail, otherwise I never would have been able to stay on track. There are portions where you’re climbing/hiking over big slabs of rock and I still have no idea how they knew which way to go. I’d definitely recommend having this mapped out before losing service (although my phone worked the whole time). The views were beautiful at the top, but this is definitely strenuous; it was uphill the entire way. My group hiked up to the second lake because it wasn’t much further and it was worth it. We stopped there and had lunch, got in the lake, and then went back. Be prepared to work hard and bring lots of water because you’ll need it! The way down was a little rough too just because it’s very steep and my poor knees felt the impact the next day. Overall- great workout and beautiful lakes.

This hike is legit and very steep and tiring. Bring tons of water and be prepared for uphill both ways. We did it on 7/21/18 and one of our good Freinds had a heat stroke and was life flighted out. Be prepared.

mountain biking
24 days ago

Do not attempt on a mtb. I couldn't find any info saying it's not allowed. You'll find yourself carrying your mtb 80% of the time and that's from RR tracks and down. Was not fun.

off road driving
26 days ago

Got my first 4x4 (2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee-High Altitude). While still getting familiar with off-roading my buddy and I followed each other (up then down) 7 miles each direction. Had a blast!! Great views and a nice upward windy trail to the top where you can have lunch overlooking the valleys. Some partial spots w/ jagged rocks but nothing any all-terrain tire can’t handle. Did it in 4WD high the whole way, but the majority could be done in 2WD in a truck or SUV with good clearance. Unfortunately I still had the stock (non all-terrain) tires on that day (July 2018) , the jagged rocks took a few half-inch chunks out of my stock tires (265/50/20) so I upgraded them last week to the Nitto Terra Grappler G2’s (same size) and wow...what a difference! Went back on the same trail w/ my wife last week and had the confidence to tackle it with ease. She wasn’t as enthusiastic about the windy and bumpy trail as my friend and I were (ha!), but kudos to her for being a trooper. Fun trail, will do it again in the near future.

hiking
28 days ago

This is a late review but I hiked this trail back in the winter when the temps weren't too bad. I started the hike super early before the sun came up. It took a couple hours to finish the hike but its not too bad if you start early and do it before it gets too hot. I brought a gallon of water and pretty much drank the whole thing. I saw one girl practically having a heat stroke when I was hiking back toward the car. Her friends were pouring water on her head. I probably wouldn't recommend this hike unless you are in decent shape.

backpacking
28 days ago

Took my kids up to the middle lake for two nights. The lake was beautiful and perfect for swimming with some great jumping rocks. Trail was rocky and steep at times. Did it in running shoes and regretted not having hiking boots. We were tired so decided not to head up to the upper lake, also heard it was pretty crowded up there. The lakes were beautiful but the rocky trail was tough on the feet. Would do it again!

off road driving
30 days ago

Good trail for beginners looking to get their feet wet with off-road adventures. I completed it in a stock 2018 Raptor. I used 4H just to give me a bit more stability, but it could have easily been done in 2WD. A truck this wide will get some pin striping and there are some tight turns but I didn't have any issues

The trail is not terribly challenging. You'll need more clearance than your typical car has, but any cross over should do just fine. RAV4's, CRV's, Ford Escapes, Subaru's shouldn't have a problem here, especially if you have AWD variants. There are protruding rocks and ruts so you'll want to mind your speed if you don't have a huge amount of ground clearance to avoid bottoming out. If you have something more capable like a SUV, Jeep or truck, you can carry a bit more speed without worrying about bottoming out.

There are virtually no side trails here, you get to a dead end and head back the way you came with no options to explore much of anything else. I personally find Otay Truck Trail quite a bit more enjoyable. It's longer, better views, and has tons of side trails, many of which can be pretty challenging.

Full Video here: https://youtu.be/yXLEDW6JnNs

backpacking
1 month ago

Up hill to lake..lake seemed to be dead ( no fish) pretty but better hikes

Great hike, but hot this weekend (Mid July). Bring lots of water. Plan to swim or bring a float to enjoy the beautiful lakes.

A tough one. Specially in the summer time. Took 5:50” heat definitely a factor. 4.5lt, barely enough. Nice views up top. Save energy for the return leg since you will find steep hills. Would recommend trekking poles and an early start.

Super wildflowers!! Nice moderate but long hike. Did not summit, the last couple hundred yards were a little too sketchy for me, but would be completely doable for others.

recently backpacked loch levens for an overnighter. trail is mostly uphill and rocky, but not horrible. The hike was quick and lower loch leven had a great camping spot towards the back. Overall, was a great hike and camp.

Day hike, over night camping, fishing, dog friendly and beautiful granite basin lake to swim!

I highly recommend this hike but read the cautions below.
My fiancé and I went in April and had an amazing time. We are a young and fairly active couple and this trail was not extremely difficult but I can see how it’s difficult for others. I recommend to head out first thing in the morning as the afternoon sun is VERY hot and with the dry heat, it becomes unbearable. There’s barely no shade on the trail so when that sun is blazing, you’re completely exposed to the sun and heat. Come prepared with plenty of water and high energy food. We brought eight bottles of water each and went through 6 easily. The trail is a 1 person wide dirt trail with no barriers and minimal markers. I’m scared of heights and the trail made me uncomfortable at times when it was steep and if I fell I felt like it would be to my death of tumbling down the rocky side with minimal to no shrubs to stop my fall. Other areas of the trail were fine. As we got closer to the waterfalls, there was more shade and trees but larger rocks we had to climb over. We got to a point that we weren’t sure if we were on the right track as there wasn’t a distinct trail to follow nor markers, but then we would randomly find a ribbon on a branch.
At the end of the trail are the waterfalls, they are awesome. I would recommend to bring a swimsuit and a towel, freezing water but a great way to cool off. To get to the top waterfall you have to climb the rocks which are smooth and steep and only have a rope to help you up. Bring good gripping shoes and gloves (if you’re hands are on the sensitive side).
CAUTION!!!
So this trail is completely do able, but be SAFE. On our way we ran into a group in which one of the guys broke his leg and since there’s no signal, they had to carry him back to the car (in which there is still no signal in the parking lot and only signal after an hour drive back towards the highway). If you have a radio, I would recommend to bring a radio with you so you can call for help incase. The man broke his leg going down the old trail in which the rope was removed to prevent people from going down, sever accidents will entail if you try this. Do not rush down the ropes at the waterfall, I saw someone loose balance and almost flew into the tree and stones and would’ve broken his back or head if it wasn’t for his friend saving him from falling to his death. Like I said, be safe, go prepared, don’t be stupid, and you’ll survive without any issues.

Tough as it's made out to be. I hiked it when it was a high of 75 and felt like it was 90. I went through 4 liters of water and could have used more.

Hiking boots, 3 liters of water, hat, and snacks are a good idea. You should be prepared doing this hike. It's very hot, lack of shade, loose trail, unstable ground. This is not a place for kids or dogs. The ground is 110 degrees so this could kill your pup. We had to carry a dog off the mountain before. Lots of dogs die hiking in the heat.
This is one of my favorite hikes. The new trail is as a lot easier, but I prefer the original route with the ropes. There is a total of 5 ropes to help you up and down the steep ledges. I bring gloves because it is rough on my hands.

great hike for training for whitey. beautiful day...

I am just starting to hike and agree it is a moderate hike. Only downside was the heat, can get really hot so make sure you take lots of water and are hydrated before. On our way down to waterfall sun was out so I was pretty drained getting there, but on our way back up sun wasn't as strong and I was able to make it up easily. Took us a little under 2 hours both ways. Good hike overall.

March 26th 2018 the waterfalls were flowing and gorgeous everything green and birds are chirping

Fantastic day-hike trail, will post again once I’ve walked the whole thing!

One of my favorite hikes in SD and also one of the hardest I've done! Great training climb for those working towards higher peaks and distances.

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