Explore the most popular lake trails near Norden with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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.

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.

hiking
4 days ago

Lost the trail a bit on the way up, but was a pretty lake

Looking to get feedback before visiting...
Getting to the trailhead, it says above off-road vehicle needed to access. Can a truck handle this or do you need legit off roaming 4x4 vehicle?

Thanks!
N

backpacking
8 days ago

Did this hike mid August. We backpacked as a one nighter 3 adults and 1 five year old. We were hoping to cross more bodies of water or creeks. Still a beautiful hike. It was short and can be done as a day hike. Saw lots of old bear poop, but had no bear activity overnight. It only costed us $5 a night to park our car at the campground as an “extra vehicle.” Did not have to pay for a campsite.

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.

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.

backpacking
29 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!

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

This was a superb trail, and the falls are unbelievable! We camped at heath falls overlook and hiked down to the falls for day trips, very sweet situation. Went in mid July, lots of water, great trails well defined by way of cascades lake trailhead. We met a few homies who came in from the south end, sounded pretty steep, and it seems their trail put them out right near the main falls south of the bridge.

backpacking
1 month ago

Worth the views and almost a hidden gem! We backpacked this in June and had the trail and campsite (next to waterfall) to ourselves. Perfect for a 1-2 night trip and great for beginner backpackers.

hiking
1 month ago

Beautiful trail, but you have to drive on about 6 miles of an unpaved fire road, so make sure you bring the appropriate vehicle. My ‘04 RAV4 did the trick, but any less clearance than that would’ve been rough. I had thought that any trail rated easy would’ve been toddler appropriate. It wasn’t. We hiked the whole way with my 18 mo in the hiking carrier. It was rough in some spots due to climbing on fairly steep granite. But doable. Salmon lake isn’t one I would want to swim in, but there is lots of fish. Lovely, remote. We were the only ones there, and we had a nice hike.

hiking
1 month ago

Great trek today. Up and back in four hours. Stopped several times to talk with other hikers.

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!

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike into the Donner/Castle Peak high country. Beautiful open meadows and views of Granite Chief to the south.Once up at the saddle between the overlook and Castle Peak you are presented with unspoiled Sierra back country. The view of Frog lake is a nice resting area. On my way back down I noticed a single track moving toward Castle peak and decided to try and link up to the traditional Castle Peak trail via this route. The track was hard to follow once in the forest but did take to the base of the peak. Could not find a solid route to Castle Peak Proper but it added a few more miles and more beautiful views. A+

Awesome completely picturesque hike — tons of scenery and views. I love the start from campground on south side of 80. Frog lake overlook is stunning! (Trail signs don’t say Frog Lake — they say summit and warren). Only ding is noise from 80 as a distant backdrop — but still a solid 5-Star review.

I linked up with Castle Peak. As others have said, the trail across the ridge is not easy to follow starting about halfway (no big deal because there’s the ridge-line and the terrain is easy) — but then it disappears at the big rocky step up to the plateau on which the 3 towers sit. That part is absolutely sketchy and dangerous due to scrabbly rock on steep slopes — and no discernible trail. Worse, several bits look “trail-like” that lead to exposed moves which lead to dead ends — and backtracking those same exposed moves.

I eventually cleared the first bit (30 mins hunting around, contemplating risky moves, considering going back), then climbed down and under the second set of cliffs and then regained the path by scrambling up through a broad chute. Either go with someone who knows this section or be prepared for a challenge.

COULD ONE OF THE TRAIL ASSOCIATIONS PLEASE MARK THIS SECTION BEFORE SOMEONE GETS HURT?

After that — smooth sailing. Great little climbs up the towers (the east tower is climbable on east face (exposed class 4 for 50 feet). Middle tower easily climbed from the center as you face from the south. Great views, exhilarating drops on the back side.

Hike down is OK - good views but sun-exposed and loose footling at places near the top.

backpacking
1 month ago

This trail was very challenging, but also rewarding. We went on a Saturday in June , and saw a lot of hikers on the way up, but not so much that I would call it crowded. Everyone was conscientious and kind, good hiking ethic all around. I didn’t see any trash and didn’t see any signs of irresponsible hikers. (According to the forest service, Campfires are allowed with a permit, which you can pick up at any ranger station and online w CALFire.) A wonderful trail to explore! We did it as an overnight backpacking trip and I’m glad we did, because we needed the rest in between. The hike back was also challenging, although mostly downhill, because of slippery rocks and steep terrain. Come prepared with a lot of water and a strong will to succeed, it is worth it. Ps- the trail can be easy to lose at parts, especially around the granite rocks. They have painted orange marks on the granite to help guide the way. A map is helpful.

+1 beautiful great alpine hike. Wildflowers coming out now, still some patches of snow. Trail is indistinct after crossing creek a bit before coming out of the tree line, just head about 15 degrees to the right of the creek at that point and you’ll be on track.

Tried to link up with the trails coming up to Castle Peak from the other side, which looks straightforward on the AllTrails map. However there is no trail that I could find across the peak, and I looked for 45 minutes. Castle peak is a nearly vertical 100’+ rock face with unstable steep scree fields beneath. It appears possible to scramble to where the trail ‘should be’ on the map but you can quickly find yourself in a risky situation if you attempt.

That said the hike over to Castle Peak is great and highly recommended, adds about 3 miles out & back. There isn’t really a trail once you get into the wooded portion of the ridgeline but just follow the couloir around, it is straightforward wayfinding and you’ll find other’s boot prints.

hiking
2 months ago

Moderately difficult. Beautiful hike. And the top is incredible.

This was a good go, up to the three lakes. But, VERY rocky and rooted in sections. If you're looking for a decent hike to a couple of beautiful alpine lakes, consider the Azalea/Flora lake trail which TH just east of Boreal and behind the Donner summit rest area. MUCH better and shorter trail and the lakes are not as big, but very pretty and swimmable.

backpacking
2 months ago

This is a well maintained hard trail with a great reward when you reach the North Fork of the American River. We did the round trip 14 mile hike in about 9 hours which includes an hour of resting by the falls and extra time to take in the views and lots of photos. You have Devils Peak on your right and a huge scene of the valley on the left while hiking on granite for the first 1/3rd and then switchbacking in and out along the creek and rock cliffs for the remainder 2/3rds. 2 litres of water in and 2 out, but may need more for mid-summer heat. There were mosquitoes in the more green meadows and some poison oak at the lower elevations.

The hike out is a constant climb with some flat areas for relief. Once you reach Long Lake you know the journey is coming to an end.

Early June, not a lot of people. Lakes are serene

I went on May 31st. Gorgeous Lakes. The snow is gone now. I enjoyed noticing the freeway get quieter and quieter until the noise disappeared entirely. I started on the trail at 6:30 am and saw no one for four hours. I loved it.

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