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Good trail for families. Nothing too steep but lots of rocks for kids, and adults, to climb on at the end. Gorgeous falls in Spring and Summer.

Nice little trail from Lodgepole. Just a trickle coming down the falls this time of year but still beautiful.

backpacking
2 days ago

One of the greatest Sierra hikes I have ever done. We took 7 days to complete the CW loop so we could take our time while on the JMT portion. It was well worth it and highly encourage anyone with the time to do the same. We saw 2 Bears at middle paradise but they never messed with us, however the squirrels at middle Rae Lake did. They attempted to eat into our snack bags within minutes of us taking a break! The trail was in good shape with the exception of the bridge being out at upper paradise (feet wet crossing) and another one just before Bubbs ands Woods creek meet up (easy bolder hop).

hiking
2 days ago

As far as reward to effort ratio goes, you can't get much better than this. The walk from the parking lot to the viewpoints is short, paved, mostly flat and, understandably, pretty crowded. Actually, just finding parking space can be quite tricky. The views of the valley and especially the Half Dome are absolutely stunning though and I really can't recommend this highly enough.

5 stars for the beautiful scenery along the trial, minus 1 star for the disappointing falls itself in summer. Easy trial along the flowing river, enjoyable with kids and pets.

Scott’s review was very useful as it allowed us to prepare ourselves for the height (I have a profound respect for heights, not fear, respect!)

We only hiked to the first lake, taking the watchtower route. We were fine until we hit the cliffs... (everyone else was fine there too, I was the one who clung to the walls and was focused on making it through.). The tough part is about 400m long with some seriously scary spots..

The way back was through the hump route.

Our children joined 20, 16 and 13. Trail was beautiful and demanding. We swam at the lake then hiked down.
Recommended for sure.

The trail itself is quite beautiful and easy with a steady uphill out and steady downhill on the back. There is one area that has a rocky outcropping that can be difficult. We started early on a Saturday. Unfortunately, there was a group that had 70 or so people in it, so it was way too crowded with trash left all over the place. I’d do this trail again, but during off season.

Absolutely spectacular! Probably the best day hike I’ve ever been on! This trail has it all! We hit the trailhead at 0715 and had it all to ourselves! We went out to Heather Lake via Watchtower and back using the Hump Trail. The views on Watchtower are breathtaking! If you’re scared of heights this is NOT the trail for you! The edge of the trail drops off precipitously to say the least! I jumped out of planes in the Army and still found myself hugging the wall! Watchtower is the easiest way to get out to the lakes (side-hilling). Heather Lake is amazing. Crystal clear water and the trout breaching for insects is a spectacle in itself. We opted to return to the trailhead via The Hump Trail. The elevation gain on the Hump Trail is no joke. The views from the top are amazing. Going back we must have seen 30 or more hikers. Some more prepared than others. Go early and enjoy nature!!

backpacking
9 days ago

Made this Clockwise hike with Dan M (previous review). I’d like to emphasize our selection of camp sights as I felt ours was a great way to enjoy the best part of this loop. If you’re hiking the Rae Lakes Loop why not spend some time at Rae Lakes?

Day 1 - Ranger Station to Upper Paradise

Day 2 - Upper to Dollar Lake. Sure, with an early start, you can make it Rae Lakes, but this would be a tough ~14 mile day with ~3,600’ of elevation gain putting you at Rae late afternoon when most of the better Camp sites are taken. And then since you can only stay 1 night at Rae you’re out the next morning having only spent the evening and night at the best part of this trail.

Day 3 - Dollar to Rae Lakes. This is a short 4 mile hike. The crown jewel of this hike is Rae Lakes. The Dollar Lake stop puts you at Rae before noon, with your choice of any Campsite. We selected the little peninsula in the NW corner of Upper Rae just to the east of the little strait or stream connecting Upper and Middle. We were able to relax here all day, swimming in both Upper and Middle, fishing, talking with the exhausted clockwise hikers coming from Upper and the counterclockwise hikers coming thru the pass. Also enjoyed talking with all the JMT’ers and PCT’ers. This was an awesome, relaxing, well-needed restful day for some Hikers from Louisiana (elevation 12 feet).

Day 4 - Rae to Sphinx - up early to enjoy the views from Glen pass at dawn. It’s all down hill (stairs) from here. This is about 14 miles. You can make it all the way but for us it would’ve been late and we didn’t want to drive the 2 hours back to Fresno on that winding mountain road at dusk.

Day 5 - Sphinx back to the Ranger Station.

If you have 4 nights I recommend this itinerary. If we had to do it over again we perhaps make Day 4 shorter and Day 5 longer.

All in all a great hike! Enjoy.

hiking
10 days ago

We were a group consisting of two 50 year old boys and three 20ish year old men. We did the loop clockwise camping 4 nights. Camping spots were Upper Paradise, Dollar Lake, Upper Rae Lake, and Spynx.
River crossing at Upper was fine as we utilized a log jam roughly 200 yards downstream from the bridge location. The only issues we had was with water filtration due to our filter choices but it did slow us down to enjoy the views and catch our breath. We carried each one liter and I would recommend 2 liters for the pass as its a long haul over to the next fill up area. I would also recommend an early start for the pass as it does get warm fast. We started at 6 A.M. to cross over Glen. Saw bears at upper and spynx.

Hiked this with my parents and kids. An easy day hike that gives you great valley views and meanders along a beautiful stream. Trail ends at a waterfall- there is a great rock to jump from into a deep pool. The river has many places to wade in and cool off, where he water makes natural slides over the granite bed

This was by far the most wonderful hike ive ever done. Challenging though,but will give you the best legs workout. Although i didnt get to see the emerald and pear, heather was just so beautiful. The water is perfect for a quick dip, and surprisingly is not that cold!

Perfect day hike! All the best of the sierras. My hubby and daughter stopped at heather to fish for trout and hang out, while my 11 year old son and I went ahead to pear. Lakes are all beautiful and varied but pear takes the cake. Granite surrounds above the tree line and crystal blue green water for a refreshing dip. We started hiking at 7:30 and we’re back in the car by 3:30. Steep climb most of the way, and amazing and slightly scary views from watchtower...

backpacking
10 days ago

I've read somewhere that this is the most often done hike in the High Sierra and it is easy to see why. You really get the taste of just about everything here - from lush meadows, pleasant forests and swift rivers with waterfalls to snowy mountain passes and crystal lakes, and all that beauty in a loop that can be done in a couple of days! You really can't go any better than this.
We did our hike in the clockwise direction in 3 and a 1/2 days and it wouldn't be that difficult to do it in 3 if needed.
On the first day, we started from the permit station at around 10am and reached the Upper Paradise by mid-afternoon. The bridge over the river is still out and we met several groups of people who turned back at the sight of the river that needs to be forded. That said, with hiking poles for extra support and sandals or water-shoes to give you some grip, we didn't really feel that it would be quite that bad. Mid-June, the water reached to just around the upper part of my thighs (I'm 6'1") and I'm sure that later in summer, it will be lower than that (if you're not unlucky with rain).
On the second day, first thing in the morning, we forded the river and hiked up to where the trail meets the PCT/JMT (in the upper right "corner" on the map) and followed those to the Upper Rae Lake where we set up camp at around 5 or 6pm. This was by far the most strenuous day of the hike with 3600+ feet of elevation gain and quite a few up-and-down bits, especially in the first part, which added some extra feet to boot. Nevertheless, the views along this section are just spectacular as you slowly ascend above the treeline, and the lakes themselves are simply breath-taking.
On the third day, we started with the first light in order to reach Glen pass before the sun would soften the snow, making it more difficult and dangerous to walk on. Especially since we didn't have any micro-spikes or snow-axes, we were a bit worried but, as it turns out, with hiking poles and sturdy boots, the pass was nowhere near as bad as we had feared. Later in summer, things are bound to get even easier, but I would definitely think twice about doing this when there is a lot of snow. After you reach the pass, it's all downhill from there and there was no snow at all on the southern side, making the descent a walk in the park. We reached Charlotte Meadows by around 3:30pm and for a moment we debated whether to stick to the plan and set up camp there or hike all the way back to the car. In the end, we decided to take it easy and spent the rest of the afternoon bird-watching, but it's easy to see how one could make it from the Lakes back to the permit station in a day, albeit a fairly hard one.
On the fourth day, it only took a couple of hours to get to the end.
So, in summary, this hike is definitely right there in the top best hikes that I've ever done and I can happily recommend it to anyone who likes the outdoors and is not afraid of backpacking.
As other have said, the clockwise direction seemed easier with the ascent being more gradual, and I also felt that it worked better in terms of dividing the trail into manageable sections in a way that you get to camp by the lakes, which I can't recommend enough.
Finally, while on the trail, particularly in the lower sections, keep an eye out for rattlesnakes - we encountered two, and one of them let us get within striking distance before it started rattling, all coiled up and scary as hell. We froze and it slithered backwards off the trail while still coiled (I didn't even know that they can do that!) never once taking it's eyes off us, so no harm done, but it did scare me a lot. We haven't seen any bears but plenty of deer, a variety of lizards, birds, some marmots and a pika at the top of Glen Pass.

hiking
11 days ago

Did this hike with my two kids 8 and 3 and they loved it! Beautiful lake!

This trail has amazing views! We hiked all the way up to Nevada falls, it was a hard hike with A LOT of stairs. Once you get to venal falls, the crowd starts to disperse. Bring lots of water for this hike and sunscreen. This hike is on the hard side but the views from the top make it worth it!! Take the John Muir trail back, it adds a mile but you get to see another side of the waterfall by taking the John Muir trail back.

Highly recommend clockwise. Took me 4-1/2 days— hiked out the morning of the fifth day. There was a flash flood at the washed-out (former) Paradise Bridge- I heard some people got stranded for hours on an island in the middle of the river. A couple guys went out to rescue them— was touch-and-go. It was a little scary and also inconvenient, with rushing brown water you could not filter because it would clog/ jam up your water filter.

No-one told any of us there is a log jam- not even 1/8 of a mile downstream- which features a huge tree you can waltz across the river on. This info would have come in handy for a lot of people that day.

This is one of the most stunning hikes you will ever experience... but you’ll have to work for it.

My best friend and I found this trail when we visited Yosemite a few summers ago. This was a bit difficult as it was ALL uphill so go prepared with water and light snacks! Once you hike about 30 min, you will come up to a break area with water fountains for drinks/bathrooms, etc.
Then after, there are some stone steps which are very steep and possibly slippery due to the mist waterfall. Those will take you all the way up to the top of the waterfall, as well as a cold swimming hole to swim in after the hike! There is an area where you can slide down the smooth rock into the water. We just jumped in and swam to the other side of the hole. We went in late June so it was amazing to jump into and then lay on the hot rock on the other end. No towel needed since we dried off pretty quick! I know the hike continued on but we stopped there, turned around and made our way back down to the bottom. That was the easy part since it was all downhill,especially after the cool down in the swimming hole.

I’d do this hike again but I’d be more prepared next time physically! If you aren’t in shape physically, this will be a tough hike for you! You probably won’t make it to the top if you bring young children due to the steepness towards the top. Can be a bit dangerous. If they are older and mature enough to handle the hike, it would be worth it as they would enjoy the swimming hole! Makes for a great reward! The trail was pretty populated, but it will thin out towards the top due to the length & difficulty of the hike. Very beautiful scenery during the entire hike! Bring a camera! Afterwards, we couldn’t believe we’d only hiked 1.5 miles up to the top! Felt much longer!

A real California Adventure! Personally would recommend staying two nights at Emerald and day hiking the hour to Pear Lake. Although Pear Lake does feel more isolated. Watchtower Trail is awesome as long as you're sure footed and not afraid of heights.

I feel like I would have enjoyed this more if I weren’t shoulder to shoulder with other hikers. Especially with the narrowing of the trail along the steps close to the falls. The trail was PACKED.

I completed this hike on August 4th and it was AMAZING!!! The forest in the beginning was nice and shaded and got some good views. The Watchtower is spectacular!! You walk on the ridge line and catch some epic views of the peaks across the way. Heather and Emerald Lake were beautiful but Pear Lake takes the cake. We jumped in and swam a little bit and enjoyed the sunny weather.
Side note: The trailhead said it was 6.2 to Pear Lake so in and back would be 12.4 miles.

Awesome views, and the Lakes are wonderful. Very tough hike. Recommend going via watchtower and return via hump trail.

backpacking
13 days ago

Amazing and beautiful place to backpack! So glad I was able to do this one! I did a four night loop with my son’s scout troop. Other reviews have covered most of the info, but I would emphasize that you watch out for bears and rattlesnakes (we encountered a Mom and cub on trial and two rattlers during our hike.). I’d also emphasize that it seems like people are not exaggerating when they say counter clockwise is tougher: we did clockwise and as we went along I was grateful every step toward the end that I was descending that section and not ascending. There’s plenty of water everywhere and a lot of space to camp and the main sites and those have bear boxes for stuff that may not fit in your bear can. Also, be prepared for the oft encountered Sierra thunderstorms and rain.

backpacking
15 days ago

Great loop gets a little busy at the suspension bridge but you get a great mix of loop hikers and through hikers that can chat around a campfire

Take the mist trail up to Nevada Falls, and then come back down the John Muir Trail. The views of Liberty Cap are amazing from the ridge line as you are leaving Nevada Falls. The trail is crammed with people, so be prepared and leave early. Hike is much harder than you would think based on the number of people there.

oh my goodness. I did this hike with a 25 pound child on my back which made the hike 10x harder. very steep climb to the top and very slippery. the view was stunning on the bright side.

18 days ago

Loved this loop. We did it in 3 days and saw a few black bears. Bring bug spray.

Seen a reviewer post previous to mine asking about dogs (Lauren Woods)...i believe i did see a dog on this trail when we went BUT i wouldnt recommend taking a dog to the top of the falls. The trail starts off paved before tuning to dirt mixed with stone staircase...the stones arent an even 8" or 10" step, they vary alot and some of the steepest parts its easily 18"-2ft in a step up height, plus a narrow railing at the end to get to the top of first falls. PLUS this is a very crowded hike, so if you arent on your way down and almost finished with the hike by 10AM u will be dodging the "ant trail" of people on their way up that started at like 9:30 or 10am. The hike down was not fun with all the people but overall avery fun trail moderate trail. Not sure how much water is left but we hike 1st week of June and it was perfect. I have some photos posted of the trip, specifically a couple of the falls if anyone want to see for perspective. My IG is @m_packmore

Just did this trail a few days ago. We hit the trailhead around noon on a Wednesday and boy was it hot! I was coming off a tough few days of work and starting out in 85 degree heat was not the ideal way to do this continuously uphill climb. It was very strenuous BUT... it was worth it. The lakes themselves are spectacular. Next time, we'll spend the night somewhere close by and start up early morning - way better to actually enjoy the hike.

We camped at Emerald Lake the first night and Pear lake the 2nd night. Emerald lake actually has the better campsites, and next time we'll spend two nights at Emerald lake and just day hike up to Pear Lake.

Also, the best lake to swim in was definitely Heather Lake, the first of the lakes. It's a little smaller, and thus was warmer than both Pear and Emerald Lake. We didn't try Astor Lake (next time!)

Beware the marmots at Pear Lake! We tried to set up at one of the campsites, but there was a marmot who was clearly not happy with us being in his home. We switched campsites and later found that that same marmot had been snatching clothes left out at a neighboring campsite!

Sun exposure first 1/3 of trail, then easy shaded walk until last .2 miles with narrow path through rocks. Can rock scramble at end, though waterfall is minimal in late July. Went with 10mo on back and 6+8 year olds - we all did fine though was nearing our limit. Kids played in river afterwards, should have brought swimsuits. Moderate traffic on a Sunday afternoon when Yosemite was closed due to fire.

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