2. Granite Chief Wilderness: Five Lakes Trail to Whiskey Creek
The short trip length and minimally strenuous route makes this an ideal backpacking trip if you want to go camping in Lake Tahoe with kids.
Historic Basque sheepherder's cabins still stand at Whiskey Creek, photo by Inga Askamit
The must-know: This four-mile trip can be extended two ways: head north and exit at Squaw Valley or south and exit at Barker Pass in Blackwood Canyon, where you can camp at Kaspian Campground.
The route: Start with a steep ascent to the popular Five Lakes area, where you'll find a good stopping point for lunch. Continue on toward Whiskey Creek, which offers an easy stroll through a dramatic wildflower-filled canyon.
As you descend into the forest, the trail continues to be less strenuous. After crossing the shallow Whiskey Creek, historic Basque sheepherder cabins can be found in a large clearing, making it a good camping destination. Several trails intersect at Whiskey Creek, offering plenty of opportunities for exploration after shedding heavy packs.
3. Tahoe National Forest: Donner Summit to Paradise Lake
The route from Donner Summit on Highway 80 to Paradise Lake follows a section of the Pacific Crest Trail and offers a glimpse of classic high alpine Sierra terrain. The lake is ringed with huge granite cliffs and filled with tiny islands. Each night is capped off with sunsets that cast a rosy alpenglow across the peaks.
The path that circles the lake can take a couple hours to complete, with time taken out for a little bouldering and gaping down at adjacent Warren Lake far below.
The must-know: At the height of summer, Paradise Lake is warm enough to swim to the islands or across to the other side.
The route: Spend your first night at the rustic Peter Grubb Hut in serene Round Valley, cupped by a massive semicircular ridge. Proceed to Paradise Lake on the second day for a total of nine miles.
The Peter Grubb Hut provides rustic shelter on the way to Paradise Lake, photo by Inga Askamit