Tahoe National Forest

A cool experience with 6 to 10 mile hikes
Trek into the wilderness and sleep in the backcountry
Ideal for first-timers
Pups are welcome at camp and on hiking trails
Places we've visited and fallen in love with

Trekking to Penner Lake and 5 Lakes Basin in Tahoe National Forest

Trekking to Penner Lake and 5 Lakes Basin in Tahoe National Forest

Trekking to Penner Lake and 5 Lakes Basin in Tahoe National Forest

Trekking to Penner Lake and 5 Lakes Basin in Tahoe National Forest

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Last updated
March 8, 2022

Trip · 3-day backpacking trip

For · Friends and new backpackers

Vibe · Moderate and fun

Distance  · 19 miles and 2,995 feet of elevation gain

Permits · Nope, just apply for a CA campfire permit online

Drive · 3.5 hours from SF

Ideal dates · May to September

Pets · Welcome on trails and campgrounds!

Tahoe National Forest (THN) is 871,400+ acres of breathtaking mountains, wildflower meadows, and crystal clear reservoirs. It's one of the most popular national forests in the country, and you don't need a permit to explore its backcountry. TNF is located northwest of the popular Lake Tahoe, but swap the crowds for climbing the Sierra Buttes, hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, or swimming in the Yuba River. TNF has it all.

Official Forest Service Website

Latest Forest Alerts and Notices​

Directions To Trailhead

Main image credit: Reddit

Stuff to know

  • The last 12 miles to the trailhead is a bumpy forest service road. It's doable in a car, but 4WD is recommended.
  • Apply for and print out a CA campfire permit before your trip. It only takes a few minutes to complete online.
  • Welcome to bear country! Rent or bring a bear canister to store your food overnight.
  • This trek is technically in the Grouse Ridge Non-Motorized Area, which means you'll find protected nature and wilderness
  • Face masks and social distancing are required. Stay safe out there!


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Five Lakes Basin
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Day One

Exterior of Ikeda's Country Market
Ikeda's Country Market. Credit: SF Gate

Leave SF by 10 AM and swing by Ikeda's Country Market for lunch

  • Located at 13500 Lincoln Way in Auburn, CA
  • Locals love their chicken pot pie and fruit pies!
  • Open everyday  · 9 AM to 7 PM
  • Last pit stop · 76 - 25 Canyon Creek Road in Dutch Flat

Drive to Lindsey Lakes trailhead and begin your backcountry adventure

  • Hike along Lindsey Lake Road towards Rock Lake
  • Lindsey Lake Road to Lindsey Lake Trail
  • Lindsey Lake Trail to Crooked Lake Trail

Arrive at Penner Lake and set up camp

  • Set up your tent on the NE side of the lake, and treat yo' self to a late-afternoon snack.
  • Or if you're feeling ambitious, scramble up the ridge for a brilliant view!
  • Prep dinner, dessert, and enjoy an evening of stargazing. Woohoo, you made it!​

Car to camp: 4.5 miles - 1,040 feet of elevation gain - 2.5 hours

Tahoe is one of eight national forests along California's Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Day Two

5 Lakes Basin in Tahoe National Forest
5 Lakes Basin in Tahoe National Forest. Credit: Curt Mekemson

Make brekkie, pack up, and pack out

  • Top off your water supply, snack up, and scan your site for any litter!

Return to Crooked Lake Trail and hike to 5 Lakes Basin

  • Hike along Crooked Lake Trail towards Island Lake
  • Crooked Lake Trail to Round Lake Trail
  • Round Lake Trail to Grouse Ridge Trail
  • Grouse Ridge Trail to Glacier Lake Trail. Enjoy lunch or a late-afternoon break at Glacier Lake
  • Glacier Lake Trail to Sand Ridge Trail

Set up camp at 5 Lakes Basin and unwind

  • What. A. Day. Prep a delicious meal and warm up with your favorite bevvie.
  • Soak up your last night in Tahoe National Forest. Tomorrow's an early start!

Camp to camp: 7.5 miles - 1,220 ft. of elevation gain - 4 to 5 hours

Washoe and Maidu Native American tribes were the first to traverse Tahoe National Forest, before the Gold Rush brought thousands of emigrants to CA.


Penner Lake in Tahoe National Forest
Penner Lake in Tahoe National Forest

Cook up brekkie, pack up, and pack out before 10 AM

  • Load up your backpack, snacks, and refill your water supply for the return hike
  • Clean up around camp, and throw away any random pieces of litter

Trek back to Lindsey Lakes Trailhead

  • Continue hiking along Sand Ridge Trail towards Grouse Ridge Trail
  • Grouse Ridge Trail to Round Lake Trail
  • Round Lake Trail to Carr Lake Campground, then walk along Forest Service Road 17
  • FS Road 17 to Lindsey Lakes

Head home!

Camp to car: 7.1 miles - 728 feet of elevation gain - 4 to 5 hours

Black bears roam TNF all year, but keep your site clean and store food and scented items properly, and you'll rarely spot them. Learn more.
June 1, 2024

Bewilder at LAist Super-Fun Saturday

Make wildflower seed bombs with Bezzi the Yeti at LAist's Super Fun Saturday

Event in 2 days

Bewilder Basecamp: Spooky Wonders

Join Bezzi the Yeti on her first spooky camping adventure!

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Bezzi's Pick

NEMO 4-person Aurora Highrise

This colorful tent has plenty of standing room, is easy to set up, and pack out!

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NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair

Lean back, and we mean all the way back, in this comfy camp chair. You'll never want to sit up.

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NEMO Moonlander Camp Table

We can confirm that these camp tables withstand hot bevvies and rock collections.

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Food For The Sole Blueberry Banana Crunch

Gluten Free • Vegan

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Packit Gourmet Diner Deluxe Eggs with Sausage

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Campfire cinnamon roll ups


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Brookside Dark Chocolate Covered Blueberries


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Angie's Boom Chicka Pop

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Summer rolls with almond butter satay

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Dan dan noodles

Gluten Free · Vegan

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Asian chicken lettuce wraps

Gluten free

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Pho ramen

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Curry ramen

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Peanut butter cheesecake overnight oats


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