Loch Leven Lakes, nearby Salmon Lake, and the Cherry Point Trail junction, from where one can continue on to the North Fork American River. The map shows the Lower, Middle and High Loch Leven Lakes and Salmon Lake. Many smaller lakes and lochs can be found in this area.
Starting your ascend at the trailhead next to Hampshire Rocks Road, the trail leads you out of the South Yuba River canyon to the lake basin. The trail description posted at the trailhead board explains that—along the first portion—the path of the trail can be difficult to find on the bare rock sections. Often, however, you will find piled rocks and rock lines, as the curved one in the picture above, which guides you over those granite floors.
Half-way between the trailhead and Lower Loch Leven Lake, shortly after crossing an alder-lined Yuba River tributary, the trail intersects with the twin tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad (see quote and picture below). Be careful while crossing! Since these tracks are not frequented by speed trains, you have a good chance to get across easily, even while hiking at a slow pace with your heavy overnight package and camping gear.
The trailhead board offers some historical background:
The railroad tracks are on the original 1860s route of the Central Pacific railroad, built by hand with Chinese labor. It remains a major freight and passenger route in and out of California.
From the tracks to the ridge top, you have another 800 feet to climb. Then, the trail gradually descends to the Lower Loch.
Getting to the Loch Leven Lakes Trailhead
Driving on I-80 from Sacramento, take the Big Bend exit and follow Hampshire Rocks Road (old Highway U.S. 40) to the Fire Station. You will find the trailhead parking area to your left about one-eight mile east of the Big Bend Fire Station. The trail begins at the wooden “Loch Leven Trail” sign across the road.
Driving on I-80 from Truckee, take the Rainbow Road/Big Bend exit. Following Hampshire Rocks Road for about one mile, you will arrive at the trailhead parking lot and additional shoulder parking on the right side of the road.
According to information given at the trailhead board, the trail is open for hiking from early June to November and it is not marked for winter use.