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Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

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Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby mangomegan » Thu Jul 09, 2015 10:12 am

My husband and I did a fair amount of backpacking before kids; we are now ready to try our first trip with kids (ages 8 and 5--both very strong and athletic). Two years ago, my husband became a below-knee amputee, so that's also a factor when deciding on a route.

We will be meeting family at a vacation home in Tahoe (North Lake), and hope to find an easy backpack between the Santa Cruz area and the lake.

I've been doing a bit of research, but would appreciate any feedback.

Our priority is stunning scenery, and maybe a place where the kids can play by water (though a stream is preferred, or shallow water, so I don't have to constantly worry about them drowning!)

Some ideas so far:
1) Twin Lakes from Wright's Lake TH
2) Loch Leven Lakes from Salmon Lake TH
3) Lake Margaret
4) Winnemucca Lake/Round Top Lake

These options all sounds like they could be really crowded, and, unfortunately, timing has it that we will be camping over a weekend (August 15 & 16). We'd like (of course) to avoid crowds as much as possible!

This will be my husband's first trip as an amputee with a prosthesis; he has a hard time walking on slopes, and water crossings could be a real issue.

Thanks for any input!



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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 09, 2015 1:57 pm

Hi Megan,

Welcome to HST! Personally I am worried about recommending a place because of your husbands limitations, and to avoid crowds, you would have to get off the beaten path. Hopefully someone with kids will chime in with a location, that satisfies all your needs. If not, then a more popular location may be the safer option, at least until he feels comfortable with demands of backpacking/hiking again, and then take on more demanding routes.
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby giantbrookie » Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:25 pm

Given that scenery is your main priority, options 1 and 4 of your Tahoe-area choices are best with Lake Winnemucca being the better of the two. I recall that Winnemucca L. has a camping restriction for much of the area around it (it's been awhile so I don't know the exact details). Both the Twin Lake and Winnemucca L. options, in spite of their popularity have enough room around the destinations to find a place to camp sufficient far from others. Winnemucca, in particular has this little unnamed lake/pond above the lake on one side (the old DFG (now DFW) name for this lake is "Marmot Lake") where you can sort of hide from the crowds and be a very nice place. August 15-16 will be a bit too late for one feature for which the Winnemucca/Carson Pass area is legendary for: this is one of the greatest wildflower displays in the Sierra. From what I've seen (was up Sonora Pass on Monday) the wildflowers will be looking very good up there right now, but will be well past peak by Aug 15-16.

In any case, I figure I'd add some other scenic spots in the Tahoe area that are good for easy family backpacks. 1. Susie Lake and vicinity, Desolation Wilderness, Glen Alpine trailhead. This is a bit further in, so it may be too far (I think the one-way hiking distance is about 5 mi) but the scenery is really nice with the colors of metamorphic, rather than granitic rocks making a nice play with the greens of the vegetation and the deep blue of the lake(s).
2. Penner Lake and vicinity, Grouse Ridge area, north of I80. This is a short hike and this area features a somewhat muted version of the sort of scenery mentioned above: alpine scenery enhanced by more colored rocks. In fact there are several options in this area that are very short hikes such as Culbertson L., Bullpen Lake etc.
Loch Leven/Salmon by comparison are low granitic slabs amongst tall trees (similar for Margaret) and the scenery is not as alpine or nice as Winnemucca, Susie, Twin Lakes, or the Grouse Ridge area.
3. Lakes Basin area. Perhaps this is too far north to be considered but the Lakes Basin area features a number of destinations reachable by short hikes. The scenery is pretty nice, too.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby wildhiker » Fri Jul 10, 2015 5:47 pm

Years ago, my wife and I took our three children ages 1.5 to 7 (we carried the 1.5 most of the time) backpacking into both Twin Lakes out of Wrights Lake and into several parts of the Grouse Lakes area off I-80. I've also done many day hikes into the Salmon Lake and Loch Leven Lakes area - I wouldn't recommend them for backpacking. Very crowded, due to the short (but extremely rough) trail directly off I-80, and the scenery is pretty plain, in my opinion.

Twin Lakes is quite scenic with classic alpine granite peaks above the lake and lots of granite slabs around it. It is very popular, and subject to a trailhead quota. Check on www.recreation.gov (search on Desolation Wilderness) to see if you can still reserve permits. The trail is less than 3 miles long, but gains nearly 1,200 feet elevation, which could be an issue for your husband.

The Grouse Lakes area is not as dramatically scenic as Twin Lakes, but very pretty and alpine-like because it has so much exposed granite and lots of little lakes. No permits are required, except a California campfire permit, which you can pick up at any CalFire station or Forest Service station (or search online to find one of the offices that will issue it online after you watch a short video on fire safety). It can be as heavily used as the Twin Lakes area. A very easy hike starts at the Carr Lake trailhead off the Bowman Road and rises gently past Feeley Lake to Island Lake - about 1.25 miles and only about 400 feet elevation gain. You can camp at various locations around Island Lake, or take a practically level trail north about a mile to camp by one of the many small Crooked Lakes. These warm up enough to swim in. It's another 300 feet up in less than a mile to Penner Lake, which is more dramatic but doesn't seem to have much good camping.

Another fairly easy hike in the Grouse Lakes area starts at Lindsey Lake trailhead (also off the Bowman Road). It follows an old dirt road still used by the Nevada Irrigation District to do maintenance on their small dams that hold extra water in the lakes, but closed to public motorized use. That road surface may be easier for your husband. A hike of about 3 miles and about 600 foot elevation gain gets you to lower Rock Lake, which has many campsites in timber on the west shore. The old road ends here and trail continues less than half a mile to upper Rock Lake. Campsites aren't as nice here, but the upper lake is more scenic.

-Phil
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby fishwrong » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:31 pm

I haven't been to Loche Leven, but your other three locations are all nice destinations, and suitable for kids first trips. I have another couple years before my youngest is ready, but each time I'm out I scout for locations to take the kids.

Winnemuca is probably my favorite of the spots you listed, just be sure to check ahead with the Amador Ranger station. Camping is restricted to designated locations and I'm not sure if you can reserve, or it's fist come first serve. You will certainly have company, but a walk a few hundred yards off the trail will get you some solitude (You just have to camp in the designated spots).

Another option you have if an easier hike (Winnemuca is pretty easy) becomes necessary would be Shealor Lakes, across 88 from Silver Lake. Not as scenic as the others but a very short easy hike and nice swimming.

If the family enjoys fishing, Margaret and Shealor wouldn't be options, but Winnemuca and the Desolation lakes have brook trout that aren't very hard to catch.

I hope you enjoy your trip.
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby Niels Reimers » Fri Jul 10, 2015 9:32 pm

Hi-
Should be a fun trip, we started with our family around that age. A little complaining about how hard it is to hike and then they are running around bouncing off the boulders for hours when you get into camp! Here's one that hasn't been mentioned yet, start at Echo Lakes, take the water taxi across the lakes and hike into Tamarack, Lake of the Woods or Lucille. If you like more open granite, grab a spot around Aloha. The trail and sites around Aloha are crowded but if you can manage the granite, it doesn't take much off trail to leave the crowds behind. And if you are 5 or 8, the boat ride across Echo is better than Disneyland!
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby HiSierra » Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:04 am

I've been to all of these with my kids. I agree with the consensus that you should start easy. Any area that meets your criteria will be busy, no way around that one unless you go mid-week. You may want to try some of these as a day hike before committing to a backpack.

I recommend the Penner Lake option because the trail is pretty level and it goes by lake after lake with nice scenery. Not "stunning" but very nice. This was our "go to" area for a fun relaxing family trip when the kids were kids - day hike or backpack. I've had many grateful families thank me for this recommendation. I would plan on camping at Island Lake and day hiking from there, but there are other lakes further along that trail. Penner is a bit of a climb from Island Lake, maybe continue eastward to other lakes. The swim area on the south side of Island lake is shallow with a rocky peninsula, west side is also good. Trailhead is Carr Lake off of Bowman Lake road off HW20 off I-80. The last few miles are rough, but a passenger car can make it fine.

Second option would be Lake Margaret, more up and down, tougher trail, more scenic.

Lock Leven has a lot of climb and the trail is rough, I strongly recommend against it.

Twin Lakes is harder than it appears on paper. There are some rocky switchback areas.
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby HiSierra » Tue Jul 14, 2015 8:11 am

Forgot to mention Winnemucca, that would make a better second choice actually.
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby mangomegan » Thu Jul 16, 2015 7:26 am

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone! We plan to sit down and check out all of the options in the next few days, and then make a decision.

My husband did his first Spartan Race a month ago, and will be doing another one this coming weekend, so theoretically he should be ok for an easy backpack :)
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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby Chris B » Mon Jul 27, 2015 1:18 pm

Mangomegan,

I would check out Niels' suggestion of starting at Echo Lakes. You start hiking at the Top of Echo Summit and can get the water taxi. You are already at 7,500ft so you can get to some awesome places with very little vertical and relatively good trials. Aloha Lake is a good option but anywhere in the Desolation Wilderness is good. It can get busy due to its easy access and close proximity to Tahoe but usually most people camping there do respect the place and other backpackers so I have never had a problem. If you have the option it is best to go in September or as soon as the snow breaks in spring. Note the water taxi won't be running at these times.

You do need to get permits from http://www.recreation.gov/wildernessAre ... rkId=72202

They are limited so you need to book them as soon as possible, be aware that you have to specify the area where you plan to camp on your first night.

Have fun

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Re: Need suggestions for 2-nighter near Tahoe with kids

Postby mangomegan » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:52 pm

We were aiming for Echo Lakes area, but permits were all gone...Until I randomly decided to check again one last time. Something opened up, and we were able to get 2 nights at Tamarack Lake!

I appreciate the input; this seems like a great resource. I hope our first trip is a grand success, and that I have the chance to participate more in this community :)
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