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We hiked this trail july 29- august 1 in the opposite direction. First day was spent at long lake where a lot of people had camped to summit mt langley. Then over new army pass the second day and into rock creek. We camped at rock creek but we should have headed to soldier lake. Oh well. Last night we spend at chicken spring lake before we hiked out the short 4 miles out the last day over cottonwood pass. Not too many mosquitoes and no ice. Great hike! The fires did spoil our views in some parts. Lakes were beautiful.

Pretty nice hike. Drove up Friday night and slept maybe a mile before the trailhead. The road getting to the trailhead was rougher than I expected. Some decent sized rocks. I saw a sedan at the trailhead so I guess any car could make it, but there was a piece of a broken off skid plate from a car up there too. We left Saturday morning and it took us about 5 hours to get there. It’s mostly shaded and the trail is well defined. Some meadows and flowers. The lakes are very pretty plenty of good campsites. The upper lake reminded me of something out of a fairy tale. It’s small with a tiny island and a single funny looking tree. We stayed the night and made it back in 4.5 hours. Overall it’s a really nice hike!

This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful hikes in the eastern Sierras where you are treated with spectacular views at every turn. The alpine lakes and mountain views are breathtaking. The trail can be difficult and hard to find at times due to the fact that you are often walking over shale rock. I would not rate this trail as moderate for the average hiker but it is so well worth it!

This was my very first hike and it was spectacular! I started at 6:30 AM and quickly learned that the trail wouldn't be as easy as I had thought. The first 1.5 miles are a strenuous uphill walk. I was completely exhausted within the first 10 minutes but the reward at the end was worth it. I started at 6:30 AM and was back at the trailhead at 10:20 AM.

Lower Cathedral Lake was absolutely gorgeous. I was the only one at the lake so it was like my own retreat. I would definitely hike this trail again and I recommend this trail for beginner hikers. Just bring plenty of water. I went through 4 bottles.

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.

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
7 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
7 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.

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
8 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.

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.

One of the best day trail hikes in eastern Sierra

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 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
11 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.

Very nice hike! This is our 2nd time and it was just as pretty as the first. There is a lot of smoke in the area due to the Lions fire but there was none on this hike, which was a real plus. The first mile is some work and the switchbacks leading to the top of the pass are challenging but doable. Go on this one, you won’t be disappointed!

One of my favorite hikes of all time! The name "twenty lakes basin" definitely does it justice as there's at least one lake in sight for most of the hike. I personally did more of a figure 8, going around both sides of saddlebag lake, which I'd recommend to make it even more interesting. If you are used to hiking and living at a high altitude, I would still classify this as easy, but maybe moderate if you're used to sea level. My coworker called it "probably the flattest longer hike in the Eastern Sierra". There was still a bit of snow on the trail as of mid July which made it a little tricky to follow but never too bad. As a bonus, it's just outside of Yosemite, so you get the beauty without the crowds or the entrance fee. Loved it!

backpacking
13 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

hiking
14 days ago

nice hike but not super scenic on the way. The lakes are beautiful, specially the upper one. Make sure you take a good mosquito spray. I have never seen so many mosquitoes in my life !

hiking
14 days ago

Simply spectacular. We used the trail on the far side of Saddlebag lake from what's shown on the map and I think it's got more interesting terrain and flora and is less exposed. Recommend walking the lake loop clockwise from the top of Saddlebag–the second half of the trail has some sections that were still covered in snow in mid July that were much easier to navigate from that direction than the reverse, as well as some climbs up scree that I would not have enjoyed going the opposite way. This trail wouldn't be particularly challenging at lower elevation, but as it's between 10 and 11,000, you may feel any climbs and be a bit worked over by the end if you're not acclimated.

An epic hike! Completed this with two great friends who were kind enough to invite me to join them for a weekend of day hiking. We hiked the Shadow and Ediza Lakes Trail the day before and I'd thought that that was the most scenic hike I'd completed to date. Then we did this hike... and it took #1 for scenery on my list. Both hikes are fantastic. Now I just keep imagining myself living in a small cottage located in any of the alpine meadows we hiked through on the Twenty Lakes Basin Trail. I could live like a Pika (which we were happy to have seen many of along the way).

We hiked this counterclockwise from the parking area for Saddlebag Lake. Confirming what others have pointed out, there are sections of the trail that can be rough on the feet and ankles due to scree (aka shattered stone). The section of trail approaching Shamrock Lake from Lake Helen is where cairns proved to be very helpful as they were the means to determine the direction of travel over the solid stone surface.

hiking
15 days ago

Went on this hike this past weekend with a few friends and my dog, and the views were just breath taking. I must say this hike was a bit challenging at the beginning and the end, but it is totally worth it. You pass by quite a few lakes and creeks, which could be great for some fishing. We even got to see some deer on our hike up there as well as some beautiful trees and flowers. In total with all the turn-offs we did to see the lakes we hiked 10.6 miles. Make sure if you do go on this hike to start as early as possible and pack lots of water and food!

It is 5.5 miles one way, 11 miles total. Took my 9 year old son and we made it to the lake in 2:40 and out in 2:20. Lots of people.

hiking
16 days ago

Great day hike. We walked to the trailhead while camping in Coldwater Creek Campground. Partially shaded for the first half of the hike. The switchbacks over the pass to get to Duck Lake is hard, but definitely worth it for the views of Pika and Duck lakes. Although those switchbacks are tough, I would highly recommend this day hike. Bring some snacks/food and be sure to have enough water.

16 days ago

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

hiking
16 days ago

During Late-July, the weather was filled with clear and smoky skies. The Ferguson fire made a big impact on the conditions. Most of the day in Tuolumne Meadows, the skies were blue until around 3pm. At the trail head, park along the road. Find yourself hiking up the transverse. The elevation is pretty high for a valley person like me. Warming upwards, the hike is nice but very popular. The climb from the trail head to lower Cathedral Lake is around 1000 feet. Climb another 200 feet to the Upper Cathedral Lake which provided another good view. Throughout the hike, find flowers and foliage that are pretty. Overall, nice hike.

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!

backpacking
17 days ago

Incredible views and well earned solitude during the middle of the loop. We went counterclockwise heading over Farewell Gap a few hours in then passed up Bullfrog Lake to make a little more headway before camping near the Broder’s Cabin site (which we didn’t actually find even though we looked). Expect that once you’re over farewell pass and into the Golden Trout Wilderness you’ll gain a real appreciation for the maintained trails of Sequoia Nat’l Park! Day two we continued through the brush only losing the trail once, until we intersected Shotgun Creek where there’s a sign pointing to Silver Lake. Here the trail basically ceased to exist and it’s uphill land-nav at its finest until you reach Silver Lake. Once you’re at the lake the trail becomes visible again and it’s a tough slog up loose sand/pebble mountainside to get to Shotgun Pass. The trail gets tough to follow again but it’s easy hiking down to the marsh area after which there are cairns marking the way down to Rattlesnake Creek where you pick up a well groomed trail again. The hike up to Franklin Pass is rewarded with some of the best views of the trip. The switchbacks down to Franklin Lakes take forever but would be even more boring if you were slogging up! We camped at Franklin lake then it was all downhill easy going back to Mineral King on day three. Awesome trip. Right at 48 hrs at a moderate pace. Definitely wear pants for the portion through Golden Trout as you’ll beat bush quite a bit. I definitely will do this trip again one day.

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