Best backpacking trails in Tahoe National Forest, California

4,194 Reviews
Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Tahoe National Forest with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Map of backpacking trails in Tahoe National Forest, California
Park information
Park hours
Monday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
Tuesday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
Wednesday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
Thursday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
Friday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
Saturday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
Sunday
12:00 am - 12:00 am
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Top trails (49)
#1 - Loch Leven Lakes Trail
Tahoe National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(894)
Length: 7.7 mi • Est. 4 h 6 m
Loch Leven Lakes Trail is the perfect example of high alpine ecosystems in the Tahoe National Forest. Located directly off Interstate 80, this trail will have users hiking deep into the Tahoe National Forest in no time, in search of scenic high alpine Sierra Nevada lakes. The trail is difficult on the way up, with a lot of incline and rocky conditions. It is important to follow trail markers carefully, especially in the first mile, since it can be very easy to get off course in the beginning. The railroad tracks are really amazing to see, with plenty more climbing after them so stay hydrated. The first lake users will arrive is small but beautiful. Middle lake is gorgeous and the water was perfect for swimming in summer. It is highly recommended to camp at Upper Lake, the middle lake has bears that are not afraid to come close to tents, but people at Upper Lake did not seem to have any issues with bears. While camping is a great option to make this hike last, day hiking and short backpacking trips with friends and family makes it a challenging hike if not local to the elevation. Users absolutely recommend going to high Loch Leven and climbing up to one of the peak mountain rocks to the left side to get an amazing view of the mountains in every direction to see the third, the second and some smaller lakes. Eat lunch and take a dip in the water during summer, as the temperature is perfect when it’s a nice sunny day in August. In most warm seasons, users will also enjoy a few wildflowers that are still in bloom. While this spot is gorgeous in the summer, revisiting with snow on the ground during winter is a great option — and users often mention that the winter version is as good or better! Definitely wear microspikes for the first half and even snowshoes for the second, with hiking poles to make the adventure even better. Since the trail can be more difficShow more
#2 - Castle Peak Trail
Tahoe National Forest
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Length: 6.0 mi • Est. 3 h 38 m
One of the easiest peaks (9100') to hike in the Tahoe area and is doable as a day hike from the Bay Area. As you approach Donner Pass from the west on I-80, you can't miss Castle Peak on the left. To get to the trailhead, take the Boreal exit (between Soda Springs and Donner Lake.) From the Boreal parking lot go under the freeway and follow the road up to the right and find a place to park. If you have a 4WD with high clearance, you could follow the dirt road and shorten the hike by a mile or two. Start the hike by following the dirt road. In a mile and half the trail will start to climb and you'll reach a junction at Castle Pass. The PCT crosses this junction. Turn right and follow the ridgeline up to Castle Peak. From the ridgeline you look to your left (north) and see a beautiful green valley and ahead and to the right you can see your destination. Simply follow the well defined trail to the top. The climb gets quite steep (1300' gain, mostly in the last 2 miles) and hiking poles can be useful. If you have the time, you can also hike over to Andesite Peak or Basin Peak.Show more
#3 - Paradise Lake Trail
Tahoe National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(258)
Length: 14.9 mi • Est. 7 h 45 m
An overnight backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail in Truckee, California. Paradise Lake is a classic Sierra Nevada lake with gorgeous sunsets and a pristine lake full of trout. This overnight backpacking trip is easily accessible from Highway 80 and follows parts of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Tahoe National Forest. A fire permit is required to start a campfire in an already established fire ring. You can get the permit for free at any Forest Service, BLM, or CAL FIRE offices. Or you can get one online here: http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Show more
#4 - Crooked Lakes Trail to Penner Lake
Tahoe National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(245)
Length: 6.0 mi • Est. 2 h 54 m
#5 - Glacier Lakes Trail
Tahoe National Forest
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Length: 7.1 mi • Est. 3 h 40 m
#6 - Spaulding Lake Trail
Tahoe National Forest
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Length: 8.7 mi • Est. 4 h 18 m
The beginning of the trail follows an old washed out roadbed for a quarter mile before climbing a series of switchbacks. The trail is mostly under deep tree cover along rocky ground. There is a significant climb of approximately 700 feet to the edge of lake Spaulding. In the spring there are substantial wet areas and small streams to ford. About 3 miles in you will need to cross under a large pipeline (penstock). Follow the pipline up the hill approximately 150 feet before continuing on eastward to the lake overlook. Alternately, follow the pipe line south to a small foot bridge that takes you to the overlook near PG& E's small hydeo-electric power plant. Return by the same route.Show more
#7 - PCT: CA Section L - Highway 80 to Highway 49
Tahoe National Forest
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Length: 37.2 mi • Est. Multi-day
#8 - Fordyce Falls via Spaulding Lake Trail
Tahoe National Forest
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Length: 11.0 mi • Est. 5 h 24 m
Excellent summer 11-miler out-and-back hike through the woods and a lake with pleasant views to arrive at a delightful and invigorating Fordyce Falls (~4 miles to the falls, continue on to Grouse Ridge Trail and end up at Eagle Lakes). Plenty of open granite slabs around the creek to nap, picnic, and do some excellent photography. Some of the Spaulding Lake Trail passes through large pipes carrying a multi-lake water collection and transportation system for hydro-electric generation. This system is minimally intrusive to the natural habitat and beauty of the region. The Spaulding Lake beach along the trail is a nice place to take a break in and out of the Falls. After heavy rains there can be high water near the start of the trail. Some of this old trail is not maintained well and is difficult to follow. Note: Many users have reported that this trail contains rattlesnakes. It is not recommended to take unleashed dogs along this trail.Show more
#9 - Lake Spaulding via Pioneer Trail from Bowman Road
Tahoe National Forest
moderateYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray Star(188)
Length: 4.6 mi • Est. 2 h 30 m
#10 - Palisade Creek Trail
Tahoe National Forest
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Length: 18.5 mi • Est. 10 h 26 m
An SUV is adequate for getting close to the trail head. Park at the warming hut and walk a half mile to the actual trail head. There is an approximate 3.5 mile rocky and bumpy dirt road to get to the trail head. The road is covered by snow until June or so.Show more
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