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amazing hike...the views from the tower are just beautiful. steady climb to get there but not to bad. i would say depending on your dog whether it would be comfortable for them or not up the stairs. mine made it fine but i held her harness to help her. this has to be my favorite hike for the views alone. can't wait to do it again.

The trail is pretty steep for most of the hike. I would rate that part hard. The quality of the trail is good though.

This trail is one of the best I’ve been to. I’m a beginner hiker and went with an experienced hiker who had done the trail once before. It’s not marked in certain spots so it’s good to go with someone you know. Making it to Penner Lake, starting at Carr Lake took us about 5 hours to complete walking at normal pace and only stopping to take in the view and having lunch once we got to Penner. I’d rate the terrain as medium with mild inclines once you get closer to Penner it gets a little steep, but nothing too bad. It’s a great hike in October! Not a lot of people on Monday (Columbus Day!) but we were glad to find a hunter on the trail and about three other small groups of hikers. One thing I learned here is you can hike, backpack in and camp, camp at the campgrounds, bring a pet, come for the day or the night, it will not disappoint. Every single step provides a new scene and a new Lake to see. Breathtaking views. And it didn’t cost us anything but fuel and the food we brought for snacks and lunch. I can’t wait to come back and camp here. We did the entire 6 miles in one afternoon and we’re pretty tired by the time we reached the parking lot. Stopped in Grass-valley at Big A’s for early dinner-perfect ending for a perfect day hike trip!

Great hike. Take the big bear loop clock wise great little lakes and beautiful scenery
To many Big rocks to hike over on the path after Mt Elwell around long lake
If we did this again would hike to and from on the big bear lake trail as a up and back we wouldn’t go around long lake the trail is horrible way to rocky and no scenery except at the lake other than the mountain of rock we hiked over it was a great hike

hiking
10 days ago

Really beautiful hike. Challenging in enough places to keep it interesting. Lots of possible variations to hit additional peaks, lakes, etc. Trail shown here is def more like 6 miles.

So many lakes and vistas! Great for dogs as well.

At 4.7 miles, the Bear Lakes Loop is a perfect afternoon hike. It takes a couple of hours and offers enough of challenge to leave you satisfied. Where this trail really excels is scenery. Nearly every turn in the trail provides a postcard-beautiful view. Highly recommended.

Beautiful vistas, especially from the top of the fire tower! A steady climb the whole way up, but not horrible. We even had a very light snow shower on the way back down. One of my new favorite hikes!

This is a beautiful loop hike but I agree with others here that have noted that the listed distance of 4.5 miles is incorrect. Our route tracker had it closer to 6 miles and we didn’t stray much from the inner loop trail option. That said this is a great hike and the fall colors, patchy clouds, dramatic views, and migrating flocks of geese high above were glorious - just be ready for something more like 5.5 - 6 miles.

Beautiful hike. Wouldn’t recommend bringing big dogs, the stairs are pretty sketchy for them to get up. Uphill the whole way but it goes by quick. Great views.

Beautiful trail, rocky on the way up but the waterfall was worth it for the 1st stop. grass lake and jamison lake were amazing. definitely will be doing this again and planning on backpacking it.

Nice hike. Connects to other side trips to Round lake, Silver lake, Long lake and Bear Lakes. Wind blew away most of the smoke. Went Aug 26th 2018.

This is a great trail, but as mentioned previously, it's getting too popular and not as secluded. Hard to find camp spots at Penner as there really is only one side that is flat enough for camping. But it's still one of my favorites! Just a little harder on the climb towards the end, but nothing too too strenuous.

24 days ago

Perfect hike. Went with my wife and 9 year old daughter. Camped at Jamison lake, and hiked out. You really can not ask for a better hike to introduce kids to over night backpacking!

9/15/2018: Our group including 5 adults and 3 kids (ages about 5-11) all wearing regular shoes, made the trip up and back with time to stop for lunch and views in about 5 hours. It was a stunning day to be outside as it was nice and brisk but sunny. Bring a windbreaker though- it was downright COLD with the wind up near the top and out of the tree line.
Side note: It's been several days since our hike and my calves are still barking! As others said, it isn't overly steep, but it'll still get ya!
We'll definitely be headed back! (I heard the flowers are lovely mid-summer!)

Did the loop in mid-August and was not disappointed. Amazing views around Long Lake and atop Mt Elwell. Worth a dip in the lake at the end! You are quite exposed throughout the hike so wear your sunscreen.

Very beautiful, but hard. There are multiple starting points to reach the Sierra Buttes look out but starting from Sardine Lake area you take the Tamarack Lake Trailhead that is on the right before you reach the campground based on the directions from the app and then continue past Upper Tamarack Lake towards the lookout. My friends pedometer clocked us just under 14 miles round trip for this hike. My dog was a champ but the trail is very rocky and she was unable to do the stairs up to the lookout at the end, so hiking with a buddy is helpful so one can go up and enjoy the look out while one stays with the dog - then swap so you both get to enjoy the beauty at the end of the uphill climb. Hike is very hard, but very rewarding! Bring LOTS of water!

Great hike! The stairs to the lookout are not for the vertigo challenged folk!

Accessing the trailhead was fairly easy. the last 2.5 miles or so is dirt road, but the majority of this road is well maintained. It was really only the last quarter mile that was really bad. My Ford Fusion definitely dragged bottom a bit, so for power profile cars I would recommend stopping short and parking a little ways back from the main trailhead parking area

The trail itself was beautiful with many amazing views. The last part of the trail, maybe 1/2 a mile from Lake Penner is the steepest portion and gets a little rugged; but is likely manageable for kids 4+

Other reviewers have mentioned an accumulation of human waste and toilet paper around Lake Penner. I did not encounter too many campers around Lake Penner (there were far more campers around some of the other lower elevation lakes along the trail) and did not see the same accumulation of waste mentioned in other reviews. That being said, I did not traverse around the entirety of the lake, so cannot tell you what it is like around the entirety of the lake. However, I did not come across a single piece of trash on my way in or out and actually thought the trail was well kept given the number of people I encountered.

Unfortunately, Patrick’s review is right, this area is just too impacted. There is a fair amount of toilet paper scattered about the area, as well as other trash. It’s too bad, because it was a great hike and the views are amazing.

off road driving
1 month ago

Easy trail to frive and lots of great views. If you continue to Poker Flat and then to La Porte then you will have the oppertunity to see some Ghost towns.

Beautiful views even with the smoke in valley. Took my dog and she had a great time until she got to the steps. She did the first two sets but the third set she could see the valley below, they were steeper/ narrower than the others so we turned around at this point. Stunning views!!

One of our favorite hikes with many variations available to add on. There is an off shoot above Long Lake that will take you to the top of Mt Elwell for great distant views. Near the end you can turn right and extend the loop taking you by Silver Lake, Big Bear, Little Bear Lake and Cub Lake. It is probably the most common route explaining the difference in distance some have mentioned. Best time is late spring early summer for an abundance of wild flowers or late fall for some fall colors. We usually do this several times a year.

Amazing views! I would rate this hike as hard instead of moderate Start early it gets hot.

Great trail! The lakes are awesome to take a dip. Views are spectacular

hiking
1 month ago

Excellent family half-day hike:

Difficulty: Somewhat strenuous, steep at first, leveling off around Grass Lake. The views and varying terrain make the hike worth it.

The waterfall was full, to our surprise.

The EarthTrek poles were helpful for the large granite steps on the descent.
Come prepared with trekking poles, good shoes and sunwear.
Forested and shady in some spots, sunny in others.

This hike leads up to Rock Lake. The Lake is somewhat barren, but is excellent for diving if the level is high. The day we went it was low with much silt. If you have the time, take the extra 15-30 minute loop around the lake. Amazing views of Grass Lake and the Sierras from above.
Jamison Lake is nearby and we could view it but headed down early. 10am to 3:30pm.

I will do this hike again. I did it years ago for backpacking.

2 months ago

Beautiful hike and well worth it. can't wait to do it again.

This is my second time hiking this trail. This place is quickly becoming overcrowded and abused. Lots of toilet paper and human waste at Penner lake. Disappointing to see so many careless hikers and campers there.

I will not be coming back here. Trash, left over garbage in the shore of the lake, it’s sad.

Easy and gorgeous trail

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