Explore Cali Backpacking List - view hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

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100% agree with Asdfasdf. I will add that during that narrow section of the Watchtower, which lasts about 100 ft, I hugged the wall & crouched low. I have vertigo & that section spooked me. Because of the peripheral vision issues & the way the cliff went, I’m not sure I could have done it in reverse, therefore I chose Hump Trail back. (Going in you can focus on the wall to your right & avoid the peripheral differences. Going back, I don’t think you can). I would NEVER take Hump Trail in if I had the choice. It is absolutely brutal in elevation gain/loss.

Amazing hike. Beautiful scenery. Pear lake is definitely the icing on the cake!!!

Great loop hike. Recommend to anyone wanting just a few days in the woods. Bring a map. More turnoffs than I expected.

I love this trail for a quick jaunt into the wilderness or to follow it all the way up past hiding camp to the camp with no name near the top of a huge waterfall that's on the way to round rock camp. We refer to that camp as cobra camp. #cobrahikingclub

Wonderful hike! Moderate uphill climb to the lakes, about 5.5 miles (11-12 total). Heavily shaded in most areas. We were plenty prepared with food and water, although, we did drink from the stream at vigorous areas and were fine. Ton of fish in the lakes. The first two lakes were gorgeous and barely anyone around! We did this hike Labor Day weekend and expected it to be heavily trafficked. We want to go back and get an overnight pass—absolutely breathtaking.

6 days ago

Loved this hike as well. My husband and I hiked with two kids in backpacks (ages 1.5 + 3.5) - 2nd lake was our lunch and turn-around spot. Everyone loved it and had a great time. We clocked 12 miles in our RT and it was 4 up for our crew and a pretty quick 2 down. Definitely take a filter for more water if you take littles. For perspective - we are in good shape and live at 6000k, pack weights were probably 30 and 50 lbs respectively. It was a big day - but so worth it.

One of my favorite hikes I’ve ever done! The beginning is a little rough because of how exposed you are, so I’d start early! I hiked it alone and felt totally comfortable! I cannot wait to go back and do the loop again! I would say it’s 14 miles.

Just beautiful! I think the mileage for this loop may be seriously off. We only went to the 2nd Lake and turned back around to return to Glacier Lodge but recorded over 12 miles in doing just that. I recommend lots of sunscreen and taking a water filter. If you run out of water, there’s tons of water along the way. I would love to return and backpack the lakes.

A very worthwhile sequence of beautiful lakes within granodiorite-rimmed cirques provide a fulfilling day of out-and-back hiking.

Awesome! The first 3 lakes are the most beautiful with the blue green color. The black lake was also really nice and peaceful. If you have the time and energy, I think it’s worth it to do the whole loop, because at the end you get a really nice view of the first and second lakes. We made it an all day adventure, and spent 10 hours on the trail taking nice breaks and napping. Next time I’d get an overnight permit and camp up there!

9/8/2018 - First, Yes. Watchtower is on a cliff, but the path is wide. If you are afraid of heights, I recommend still doing it. If you are deathly afraid of heights, Hump Trail is in the woods/does not have a cliff. (See below for details)

I day hiked from Wolverton Lot --> up via Watchtower Overpass --> Heather Lake > Emerald > Pear --> backdown via Hump Trail --> Wolverton Lot

Description of hike: The trail head begins at Wolverton Lot where you can park your car right next to the trailhead which is nice. Has a restroom for use. Wolverton to Heather Lake is 4.1 mi basically going up. The route forks at around 2 miles to Watchtower or Hump. They rejoin and you're on the way to Heather Lake. The trees provide shade for majority of the hike. After Watchtower, you are in the sun. If you keep going beyond Heather Lake, it's another 2.1 miles where you descend and ascend another 100 - 200 feet climb up to Pear Lake.

What should you bring?
1) Small day pack
2) Food + Water: I ate a light breakfast, 4 cliff bars, some chocolate, and drank 2 liters of water. If you don't want the weight of water, bring a filter plus one liter of water to get you to the first lake.
3) Sunblock
4) Hat or Sunglasses
5) Swim trunks if you plan to take a dip in the water
6) Fishing rod if you like fishing!

Should you stop at Heather Lake or keep going to Pear?
I say finish the hike and go to Pear Lake. It's a sense of accomplishment. However if you're tired/short on supplies, be aware the hike stays equally difficult all the way to pear lake. Overall, I thought Heather Lake was the best. The water is vibrant and the mountains are a nice backdrop.

Watchtower or Hump?
Do Watchtower at least one way. Yes Watchtower is on a cliff but the views are 200% worth it and a great spot to take a break and take in the view. The path is about 3 people wide. There is one portion where it's about 1.5 people wide, but it's very very short, and nothing scary. Hump trail has nothing special that you won't see just doing the normal hike. I reiterate do Watchtower at least one way.

Time: I am a slow hiker (26 yo with bad knees... ) I entered the path at 8am and returned at 4pm. I spent about 1 hr 30 minutes relaxing/taking pictures at the lakes.

Overall: This hike is beautiful. If you can commit a day to this hike, it is 100% worth it.

Planned for one night at Jennie and one at Weaver lake. Jennie lake was so beautiful, ended up staying both nights there. A little crowded due to labor day weekend but still enjoyed it. Plenty of campsites even when crowded.

Hammocked both nights under the stars. No mosquitos! Beautiful weather. Highs of 70s and lows in 40s.

Hike was moderate. Under 6 miles from fox meadow trailhead to Jennie. The forest road to trailhead is in bad shape. Go slow and stay away from the sides as the bushes are thorny and will scratch up your car.

Sawyer mini was enough for filtering water from the lake. There are fish. Saw them but didn't see any getting caught by at least 5 people trying to fish over the two days we were there.

13 days ago

Absolutely gorgeous hike. We hiked this yesterday and didn’t start until noon. We only got to the second lake and turned back because rain was expected and we wanted to make it down before it got dark and started raining. The incline was steady and moderate. There is lots of water along the trail so you can refill your bottle. Can’t wait to go back.

nice easy hike. we just hiked to the first 2 lakes. it was well worth it.

Wow! What a trail. We split this up over three days and two nights, going counterclockwise around the loop and hitting Jennie Lake on the first day. Happy to report that when we hiked, we did not meet a SINGLE mosquito on the entire trail! Unprecedented. I’m a mosquito magnet, and I didn’t need any spray. The ranger said it was because the nights were finally getting cold enough. Anyway!

Jennie Lake was amazing, though a little busy thanks to the holiday weekend. If you’re continuing on to Weaver Lake after, make sure to stock up on water before you go. Water sources are few and far between, and we really only passed one on the 9 or so like trek to the next lake.

Weaver Lake was also stunningly beautiful, though also busy thanks to being only a few miles from the trailhead. It’s also very picked over, firewood-wise, so maybe start gathering on your way in!

14 days ago

If you want to be a human weed wacker, then this is the trail for you! I did not have the best attitude after climbing several thousand feet to battle extra thick brush and flies. I would suggest doing this hike late in the year. It does have expansive views and gives you some bragging rights. However, there are much more enjoyable hikes in Big Sur, in my opinion, with better views.

I was looking forward to making Telescope peak... It's not reachable by a sedan car - very washed out right now, we couldn't make it to Charcoal kilns, there was 1.4 miles left when we turned around. Haven't passed even half a mile on the unpaved road...

My husband and I did this amazing trail last Sunday, Aug 25, and only went to the first lake. We started at 9 and reached Heather lake at 12 as we stopped to take so many photos on the way. We took the Watchtower route up and back as the views were spectacular. Heather Lake is beautiful.
It was our first hike and it was incredible. We saw a deer and her two kids crossing the route on the way back.
In my opinion, the Watchtower route is easy, safe and not scary. The hike before Watchtower was moderate. I recommend using sunscreen as the route goes above the tree line. If you're new to hiking like us, I'd recommend a full day rest after the hike. Overall, definitely recommended!

Fantastic hike. Great balance of beautiful trees, stunning views and amazing lakes to swim in. Highly recommended to make it to Emerald Lake via Watchtower. Just make sure to bring enough water or a filter!

Did a 3 night 4 day trip with my 12 year old and his friend and dad. We went from Jennie lake around to Weaver lake. The lakes are beautiful and pretty warm. On the weekend it was really busy but by Sunday the crowds had cleared out. Saw a good amount of trout in the lakes. Only 1 stream down by boulder creek was flowing. Plan your water accordingly.

22 days ago

23 days ago

I definitely recommend this hike to anyone who wants to get out and get some miles under them. Did this as an older trip for our local Boy Scout troop. I took the suggestion of going counter clock wise on the loop, hitting Jennie Lake first. I highly recommend that, not only did we get a lot of the elevation out of the way but the first 6 miles is a great accomplishment on the first day. I was surprised about how many people were on the trail and at the lakes, but that didn't detour from the enjoyment of being there. Beautiful back country that is slipped in between to great parks. We spent a full day at Jennie Lake, before continuing. I highly recommend making the scramble up to the 9600 peak that over looks Jennie Lake. The third day was a quick 9 miles to Weaver Lake. Enjoyable dips in both were a great reward. Overall it was a great trip. Nine In, Nine Out!!!

Myself (26M) and my girlfriend (23F) did this beautiful loop in 2.5 days going counter clockwise stopping the first night at Jennie Lake and the second at weaver lake. I was a wilderness guide for 3 years and this was my girlfriends first backpacking trip ever so here are my two cents.

We decided to stay at the Big Meadow campground the night before to acclimate to the higher elevation and one thing I highly recommend if you decide to do this in the late summer is to bring water jugs in your car for that first night as the creek isn't running and the water is still and extremely dirty. I filtered the water and added iodine tablets for safety measures but as a 3 year guide that was some of the dirtiest water i've had to filter, luckily no gastrointestinal problems for either of us.

The weight of your packs are going to dictate a lot of how tough the inclines are. A net elevation gain of 3,000 feet with a 25lb pack on is pretty intense so if youre doing this with 25+lb bags like we did I would rate this more as moderate/hard. We are both active people, in shape outside of backpacking and we were both pretty sore after this hike (bring plenty of moleskin too to protect your feet from any hot spots/blisters from happening!). Keep in mind the distances listed are from the fox meadow trailhead NOT the Big Meadow trailhead, if you leave from big meadow it's another 3.2 miles total so roughly a 19mile loop instead of 16 mile. The drive in to the fox meadow trailhead is pretty bumpy so make sure you have a car that can handle bumpy non paved dirt roads.

The days were sunny and around 72 degrees, in the sun it was hot but there are plenty of shady spots to stop and relax. Make sure to have a shirt that can wick sweat, bring a hat, and baby powder to reduce chaffing (especially for the guys out there). The nighttime dropped to around 50 degrees. If you're a person who gets cold easily then bring a good jacket and some good night sweats/pants. My girlfriend gets cold really easily and has a 20 degree bag (more of a 40 degree bag) and had to wear her pants, long sleeve, down jacket, and beanie to bed even in a tent with a rain cover on for insulation. The camping spots at the lakes are pretty scarce with firewood but we managed to have one the first night at Jennie, so I would be prepared with a lantern or similiar in case you're too tired to hike out for wood. There are mosquitos (surprise surprise you're camping by water where they breed like rabbits) but long sleeve clothes with a 40% max deet will do the trick to keep them away at night.

The water sources were plentiful enough just make sure to fill up every time you cross one, the lakes were absolutely beautiful with hardly any campers during the monday-wednesday we went and the water was pristine. No sight of bears or snakes the whole trip and no problems with animals getting into our food (we used a bear canister), but you can also do bear hangs if you'd like. I highly recommend doing the loop to jennie then weaver, as the first two days are tough and the last day is a nice leisurely hike out. The first day to jennie was about 5-6 miles, the hike to weaver was about 9 miles and the hike out was about 2 miles.

Overall a great backpacking trip and would recommend to those who are decently in shape and would caution against bringing heavy packs as the inclines will make you pay for it.

26 days ago

One of the best backpacking trips I've done in CA. Was only 5.5 miles to lake 2 but the elevation made it tougher than i expected.

The majority of the hike is uphill with some shaded switchbacks to start and then it is pretty exposed for the next 2 miles which includes more switchbacks.

Weather was perfect and there were no mosquitos!

Camped at lake 2 but also day hiked to lake 3. I thought lake 2 was prettier.

28 days ago

This hike is very pretty. I only made it to First Lake because it started to rain pretty heavily at that point and I was only wearing shorts and a tank top. Definitely be sure to bring a sweater (even if the weather is hot when you start the hike). Also, I was told the hike was only 3.8 miles to first lake... which definitely made me wonder if it was the altitude alone that made the hike seem so long. I gave this trail a 4 star rating because horses are allowed on the trail and you can pay $100 to ride a horse to third Lake. The path is narrow at some points which makes it difficult to avoid horse droppings in some locations (and the mess/smell the droppings made after being reconstituted by the rain was not entirely pleasant).
I’d definitely recommend bringing extra sunscreen (and wearing a hat and/or long sleeves). I’m very fair skinned and the first 2.5 miles or so don’t have much shade.

28 days ago

Great trail, very interesting the whole way. We parked at the backpackers lot and had to walk a bit down the road since we were told by the ranger not to use the pack trail. A lot of people disregarded that rule, but this is the route we did. This trail is scenic pretty much the whole way. Its pretty steep and hot in the first few miles but once you're past the first series of switchbacks beside second falls, it starts to flatten out. It stays pretty flat until a little bit after Lon Chaneys cabin (~1/2 way to 2nd lake). The second set of switchbacks wasn't as bad as the first and you'll start to see the turquoise water of 1st lake through the trees. We went to second lake and camped there for a couple nights, spent the days exploring the other lakes. We had thunderstorms every day between 2-6 like clockwork. This is what we called our afternoon thunderstorm nap time. On the last day after the thunderstorm we were greeted with a double rainbow!!! It was insanely beautiful! When it was time to go, it only took about an hour to get back down...I would do this trail again, even as a day hike although it is so beautiful you don't want to leave. Ever.

One of the most beautiful hikes/places Iv seen. It’s a must do, I recommend starting the hike no later than 6am. You’ll see sunrise and avoid any heat!

1 month ago


1 month ago

The first couple of miles on this trail are fully exposed with little or no shade. Therefore, I suggest starting as early as possible to avoid the heat of the day. The lakes themselves are amazing - definitely worth the effort.

Started at 730am and finished the whole loop and were back to the car by 2:30pm. We took our time and had lunch at Black Lake. We went counter clockwise around the loop and saved the best for last but it was all so beautiful! Not an easy hike, especially in one day but totally worth it! Much warmer temps in the beginning and is cooler around the lakes. Lots of water and stunning views! Cant wait to go back and hike in and camp!

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