Back to Nature ~ Here our our picks for 7 Great Family Hikes for Kids on the Eastside of the Sierra

For the past 6 years of producing Sierra Rec Magazine online, the number one question i get from friends and readers is, “Where is a Good Place to Take my Kids Hiking?” We’ll today I am finally getting around to producing a written document of what i would consider the 7 Best Kid friendly adventure hikes on the eastside of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

Where is a Good Place to Take my Kids Hiking?

Kinney Lakes

Upper Kinney Lake

Kinney Lakes – HWY 4 – Approx. 17 miles from Markleville CA, the trail to Kinney Lakes follows the PCT from HWY 4 North for approx. 2 miles. Kinney Lakes are a trio of reservoirs on the eastern side of Ebbetts Pass at the headwater of Silver Creek. The lakes are at an elevation of 8,500 feet and become accessible as soon as the highway opens, usually about mid-May, although ice may still cover the lakes until June.

These are also a great place to introduce your kids to backpacking at elevation, with the Upper Kinney lake being a great place to overnight camp, swim, play in the forest and explore a variety of unique geological features.

There is a parking lot just below the top of the pass on the Left side of the Road. It has a pit toilet there and provides a trail that accesses the PCT for your hike in.

Roosevelt / Lane Lake

Roosevelt / Lane Lake – Off Sonora Pass & Leavitt Meadow – Approx. 23 miles West of Bridgeport Ca off HWY 108 Sonora Pass is a trailhead that leads back into the Hoover Wilderness. The trail access is located behind Leavitt Meadows Campground and gives hikers several options for hikes. Our favorites for families is Rossevelt/ Lane Lakes. The 3.5-mile hike from Leavitt Meadow to Lane Lake can be done in less than 2 hours. Lane Lake and its sister Roosevelt Lake offer good fishing and comfortable campsites with views of the lakes. This easy hike makes a great backpacking outing on which to bring children and introduce them to the wilderness.

If you choose to make this a backpack adventure there also other great day hike and adventures from her as well, including: Secret Lake, Fremont lake, both great for fishing as well and a Waterfall hike behind Lane Lake.

Wolf Creek Trail – Carson Iceberg Wilderness

The Wolf Creek Trail in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness is a spectacular day hike destination that allows for scenic relatively flat hiking along Wolf Creek. The trail is a mix of heavy forest cover to open meadows and allows hikers to go as far as they like before turning around and heading back to the car. The trail starts at the Wolf Creek Horse Camp and is located 12.5 miles outside of Markleville Ca heading towards Ebbett’s pass on HWY 4, Turning off HWY 4 at Centerville Flat Disperse Camping Area 7.3 miles outside of Markleville. The road over into Wolf Creek is partly paved and then climbs on a well maintained dirt road over the pass and into the meadow. Follow road to the end to find trail and camp.

As with our other spots on this so far, this also can be a good backpacking destination with many Creek locations in the Forest available. There are many horseback riders in the area and wildlife in this area is abundant including bears, so going prepared if staying the night is required.

Round Lake

Round Lake – TRT Section

Round Lake – South Lake Tahoe – Experience one of our favorite sections of the Tahoe Rim trail in south Lake Tahoe. This hike includes a Great Big Meadow, Hiking through Old growth Timber and Aspens, plus a great lake to fish, swim, explore and if you have time two additional lakes that can be visited on the same trip. This trip will have a elevation change of over 1200 ft during your hike, but it is relatively easy/gradual climb. Also note this trail is multiuse so Mountain Bikes are present and dogs and kids should be kept close.

This hike is a little more moderate in elevation gain for the family. Starting off HWY 89 just below Luther Pass on the South Lake Tahoe side. Hikers will climb up into Big Meadow on the Tahoe Rim trail. This section is a trail section I send visitors to the area to all the time as it is really a beautiful section of the TRT. After Big Meadow you will hike a rolling hill side section up and over into the Round Lake region which features old growth forest, Lava Cliffs and multiple lakes. (Round, Dardanelles, & Meiss Lake) this is a7.1 mile out and back day hike that is probably one of the most popular day hike locations in South Lake Tahoe that is not in Desolation Wilderness. This region is known as Meiss Country and is a popular alternative to Backpacking desolation when permits run out for visitors.

Chickadee Ridge – North Lake Tahoe

Lake tahoe from chickadee Ridge
Lake Tahoe from chickadee Ridge

Ok this is kind of a local legend type location, where you will not be alone. Located just West of Mt Rose. hikers park near Tahoe Meadow roadside and can follow section of the Tahoe Rim trail or venture off trail with a little navigational skill towards the South rim of this ridge (towards incline Village). This hike has a great ending view of Lake Tahoe and Diamond Peak ski resort, but lets be honest the entire reason most come ifs the chance to find the Chickadee birds and feed them from your hand. This hike also has the largest potential for disappointment on our list, as the Chickadee live in a variety of unmarked trees and don’t always come feed. We also don’t have trail mileage for this hike, this is more a of an explorers type journey for families that can navigate and remember where the car is, but have a great day tromping through he woods looking for adventure, sights and chickadee on the way. (Don’t forget your bird Seed) . This area is extremely popular as a snow show destination hike.

Parker Lake – June Lake Loop – Ansel Adams Wilderness

Parker Lake Trail is a 3.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near June Lake, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Short, easy hike to a beautiful secluded lake. Great views of Mono Lake & Mount Dana as well

Echo Lake to Tamarack and Ralston Lake – Desolation Wilderness

Tamarack Lake Desolation wilderness
Tamarack Lake Desolation wilderness

Now most people know Echo Lake as a beautiful location for the family already, most even have heard of Lake Aloha for backpackers, but many miss the fact that day hiking desolation is free and 3.8 miles from Echo Lake is a great set of lakes to explore and spend and afternoon swimming in cold water, climbing rocks and enjoying wilderness. Tamarack Lake and Ralston Lakes are an often missed gem in the Desolation Wilderness. You can see them from the trail and many just walk on by as they head into Lake of the Wood or Lake Aloha. For Families we believe this is another of those destinations that are perfect for kid backpacking trips, but just as great from a day hike. This trail is a bit technical and does require climbing some granite stair cases, walking o trails that are not flat. For those that lack the stamina there is also Upper Echo Lake only 2.5 miles out and it has a boat dock and also provides a great location for an afternoon picnic.

This is one of the busiest Desolation wilderness trails, so you will almost certainly never be alone on this hike and parking can be something of a challenge later in the morning. there is over flow parking a mile from the lake that is often the best place to park if you show up any latter that 10 am.

So there you are …

So, what do you think. Seven of our favorite Family Friendly Hikes, Backpack trips and Adventures for Families in the Sierra this summer. Did you notice i completely avoided Yosemite? If you love Yosemite and Tioga pass check out my 10 favorite Tioga Pass hikes all of which could make this list hands down as some of my favorite family adventures.

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