Rae Lakes Trail is a 38 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Dunlap, CA that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible from March until September.
I couldn't agree more with all the reviews here. Wish I had made my trip longer, but condensed the trip into 3 days as we went clockwise from Road's End. Stunning wilderness, many breathtaking views, gorgeous lake views and pristine wildlife. We encountered a total of 5 bears, so don't be foolish an enter without a bear canister (they're required for a reason). I only wish I had taken more time to venture off trail.
Amazing escape from civilization. Constantly surrounded by stunning views.
We spent five days, traveling clockwise around the loop. Saw a mamma black bear and cub five miles in. Camping two nights around the Rae Lakes allowed for a day hike around 60-lakes basin. Fish were definitely biting in the Rae Lakes, but we were releasing those little guys. There were some excellent swimming holes as we exited through junction meadows. ...body surf on your air mattress at your own risk. If you want to hear our insane list of meals and cocktails, feel free to hit me up.
Did this loop in May 2015 and was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Sparked my interest in native California plants and can't wait to return with some of the knowledge I've obtained since then.
I have done this loop 3 times. All starting from Onion Valley and going over Kearsarge Pass. This adds 8+ miles but is WELL worth it. Clockwise is best the experience but I have done both and each has its own rewards.
I recently returned from a Rae Lakes Loop solo backpacking trip of 4 nights and 5 days located in Kings Canyon NP near Sequoia, CA. This stunningly beautiful NP is largely known as the step-sister of Yosemite. It is less crowded, inexpensive, less frequently visited and remains in pristine condition. The NP Permitting Station is located an hour inside the park at the extreme east end of the Park. The Permitting Station is located at 5035 feet and the 44-mile trail extends over Glen Pass at 11978 feet (mile 23 clockwise). The trail is considered "strenuous" and is, indeed, moderately difficult in several places - especially with 60L+ packs. The very thorough NP Ranger permit briefing includes warnings for rattlesnake and bear activity in the area. The trek is done in both a clockwise (most popular and slightly easier) and counter-clockwise direction. The trail includes intersection with the merged JMT and PCT on the north and east sides of the Loop. Beautiful, pristine alpine lakes are available at Dollar Lake, Rae Lakes (upper and lower), and Charlotte Lake. Adequate campgrounds are provided at Paradise Valley, Woods Creek junction, each of the lakes, and Vidette and Junction Meadows. The trip is ideal for a 2-3 person group where pack load sharing can ease the load for all. Bear canisters are required. Except for a few places, hikers are never more than 10 minutes from a filtration water source that lessens the pack load of carrying water. The trail is well marked and impossible to not clearly see at all times. On my last night in the forest I experienced my first full-on, face-to-face bear encounter. A group of five of us huddled at one campsite at 9 pm and made as much noise and distraction as possible. The bear got within 25 feet. Finally, my ear splitting bear whistle did the trick and after languishing for about 5 minutes the approx. 200 lbs. black bear wandered off seeming disinterested that devouring our collective food source would be too much effort. The textbook instructions for warding off bears was exactly accurate - but the outcome could have been different with a mother bear and cubs. I could not have had a better time, by myself, during this trek. It represented what nature is supposed to be all about. It was, for me, my cathedral of nature. Although completely exhausted when finished, in retrospect, I felt privileged by every step taken. For some reason, RLL is not as popular as many hikes. Maybe the remoteness of the NP discourages some hikers. I cannot recommend STRONGLY ENOUGH that if you want a true outdoor backpacking/camping adventure in remote country and are well prepared physically and have forest experience that you should consider RLL.
Amazing trip. Do it and don't delay.
Amazing hike. It was scenic at every turn, plenty of water, very strenuous, and worth every step. You get a two for one being on the John Muir Trail and the PCT for part of it. Can't wait to go back!
just did this trail in july with 2 buddies, the whole journey is full or breath taking views. the hike is hard at times but not too bad, its hard to hike when everywhere you look you want to take pictures, lots of wild life bear keg is mandatory we saw 4 on our trip . once you get to rae lakes its unbelievable and the pass is just as amazing ! we made the trip in the summer and slept in hammocks witch I recommend to anyone! just make sure you bring a tarp we got a pretty heavy rain our last night.
Wow! Amazing backpacking trip. I completed it in three days but would rather do four days next time because I ended up completing around 15 miles the last day and my knees were jelly. I did it counterclockwise along with another person and we both were very happy about this. There were times of steep climbing but it was a mostly gradual incline. Getting over glen pass is tough if you aren't used to the elevation (like me), so I forced myself to get up real early for the trek over. I usually don't like getting on the trail until 9am but I was moving by 6:30am and by the time I got to upper Rae lake around 11am I was very happy had gotten up early because the climb was very slow for me and if the sun had been any higher...geez I don't really want to know. As it was, I had sweat dripping off my face and body.
I camped at lower Vidette Meadow and Woods Creek Junction. I would have loved to camp at Rae Lakes, probably Upper was my favorite. So pretty and the trout were everywhere. Definitely plan on catching some. They're delicious. I went in late May on a dry year (2013) and the snow wasn't too bad at the summit of Glen Pass but I did need to walk through 100 yards of it, following people's foot steps. Not bad.
Standout spots: Junction Meadow, Lower Vidette Meadow, Upper Rae Lake, Paradise Valley
Absolutely stunning trail. We did it two summers ago in June and had a blast. Challenging but not too tough, we did it over three nights and had plenty of time to take in God's country as well as bumble our way around some early season obstacles (lots of trees down that year).
One of the highlights was being told by a couple loop hikers (we did it mid-week, almost zero traffic) that the pass was impossible at this time without ice gear. Once on the PCT section, we met some thru-hikers who encouraged us that it was "intense, but totally doable". We camped at Rae Lakes, got up early and hit the trail up just as the sun was on it; the sweet spot of not ice, but not yet mush. By the time we were at the top and coming down the other side it started to get a little sketch, but the worst was behind us and we safely made it. Unforgettable experience. To top it all off, I did most (-snow) in my Vibram 5 Finger Sprints.
Beautiful and amazing!! I'd do it again and again! There is so much water, make sure you pack light!
Anyone who enjoys backcountry hiking, this is a must. The jaunt thru Paradise Valley and up around Castle Domes Meadow was chock full of wildlife, Black Bears, Bobcats and Deers galore. Dollar Lake was a nice pit stop for a food break before the trek into the actual Rae Lakes area, spend an extra day here and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. The climb up and over Glen Pass at just under 12,000ft was F-U-N fun. Take another day to head off the main trail and enjoy the Videttes before concluding along the Bubbs Creek stretch before ending this awesome loop.