By Tim Hauserman
It is often said that it is better to focus on the journey then the destination. That seems to be especially true with the 2.5 mile hike from Alpine Meadows Road to Five Lakes. Sure, there are five lovely little lakes set amongst the granite and trees at the edge of Granite Chief Wilderness that are worth a gander, but what is truly remarkable about this hike is the journey to get there.
First, your going to get a workout, because almost all of the route is uphill. This is good, because it gives you the opportunity to take frequent breaks to ponder the view. You immediately enjoy expansive vistas of the mountains, ridgeline and deep bowl that is the Alpine Meadows Ski Area. Further up, after passing through thick groves of red fir, it gets even better as you see the varied and spectacular rock formations of the ridge between Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. It’s a mish-mash of stunningly pink granite sculptured into all sorts of intriguing formations, next to humongous splatters of black volcanic rock which appears to have been tossed onto the ground by the worlds largest monster. The rocky outcroppings are surrounded by waves of green brush and a few wind blown western white pines, all adding to the fairy tale feel.
About halfway to the top, you pass several chairlift towers. There are no cables or chairs, even though the towers have been there for years. It’s all part of a long term effort to bring skiing to this slope by local skier Troy Caldwell who owns a big chunk of the land you are walking through.
Eventually you climb out of the canyon and level out at a deep forest where you pass side trails providing access to the small lakes. The last leads to the biggest, which is surrounded by an open forest on one side, and granite on the other. Still have plenty of hiking in you? Continue straight ahead past the lakes towards the Pacific Crest Trail, where a right turn heads towards Canada and Whiskey Creek, and a left begins a journey towards Mexico, your first stop: Ward Peak at the top of Alpine Meadows.