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Many come to Alpine Meadows in the winter to ski, but in the summer another inviting destination thaws from beneath the snowpack.
This is Five Lakes, a collection of pure meltwater that pools high in the mountains.
You can’t see the lakes, nor any hint of them, from down in the valley.
Glance up from the road when driving toward the ski resort, though, and you’ll notice an imposing wall of tiered vertical granite dead ahead.
This natural fortress guards a surprisingly lush, shallow basin just beyond, where the Five Lakes lie. Reaching the lakes requires a steep, scenic climb on sunny slopes.
The mountainside is a contortion of broken, dark volcanic rock and light-colored granite.
Beautiful gray and pink formations protrude from a carpet of green flecked with wildflowers.
Enjoy views of Alpine Meadows farther and farther below as you climb higher, past some ski lift towers, along the side of a steep canyon, and finally over the imposing granite ridge.
Behind is a surprisingly-dense forest of firs and pines, which appear seemingly out of nowhere after the sparsely treed rocklands you’ve just crossed. Dip through the pleasant shade to reach an even better respite at the lakes.
Stay on the main trail for the last and largest of the five, or navigate the network of small trails to explore the others.
Dip your feet, swim, and relax, but remember that you are in a wilderness area, so try to minimize your impact.
Farther along the Five Lakes Trail is Whisky Creek and the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, where you can pursue longer journeys into the backcountry. Sources: https://tahoerimtrail.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/MapBroch_BP_to_TC.pdf https://thetahoeweekly.com/2016/07/five-lakes/