Explore spring trip - 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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backpacking
1 day 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).

on Echo Lakes Trail

hiking
4 days ago

This is an amazing hike. I went out and back from echo lake trailhead to tamarack lake in 4 hours. It’s a hell of a hike without much shade. There aren’t any steep climbs but don’t expect a nice dirt trail as it’s mostly rocks. Nice views along echo lake.

hiking
4 days ago

The first 4.5 mile was between easy and normal. However, the last 0.5 mile was hard. It took us 30-45 min to compete last 0.5 mile. The Lions Lakes is a reward ! we swam and took a nap before return. 6 hour to compete + 1.5 for photo, swimming and napping.

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!!

hiking
6 days ago

Beautiful hike. Lower and upper lake taxi tour is a fun extra. Hiked the PCT to Tamarak lack last year. There was still a lot of snow so we trekked back earlier than expected. Will do this one again for sure!

backpacking
8 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
9 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
9 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.

Nice trail. Beautiful views.

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.

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
12 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
14 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

The hike is mis-rated as "hard". It's an easy hike for experienced hikers/backpackers. For the less experienced day hike crowd it's a moderate hike. I absolutely loved the scenery. The show stopper though is when you reach the top of the trail there's a sharp turn that unveils the lake. Simply breathtaking. Stopped me in my tracks.

With that said, if you're not partial to rocky trails and lots of loose rock and gravel, this is not the trail for you.

hiking
15 days ago

Go early and wear sunscreen, and you will love this trail. I don’t usually like out and back trails but this is a highlight of our week. I’m not sure you can find an empty trail in late July so we were thrilled that it was such light traffic. Also, the adventurous can go beyond the lake for a longer trip. Those who are tired can do the water taxi return for $14. Highly recommend.

17 days ago

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

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!

Just got back from doing this trip this weekend. It was incredible! My first backpacking trip, and I loved every minute of it. The scenery and views are abundant stunning. The wildlife is beautiful - I was yelled at by a bear! The water in Pear and Emerald Lakes was so refreshing. Emerald’s water was a bit warmer, and I jumped off my first rock! =) Would totally recommend this trail. I can’t wait to go back and bring some friends next time.

Must have permit to camp - walk up only at Lodgepole. We slept in the parking lot Thursday night, and were standing in line behind 3 others before the Visitor’s Center opened. We got the last 2/3 permits.

Must have a bear canister. Pack out everything. Leave it better than you found it.

hiking
18 days ago

This is a very scenic short trail system suitable for anyone who is reasonably fit. The trail requires scrambling over and under logs in a few places and crosses a steam multiple times with makeshift log and stone crossing points. We went at end of July and water was low enough that you could cross without getting feet wet. The trail is through second growth redwood forest and is shaded and very cool the entire time. Great for a break on a hot day. The waterfall is worth seeing, though not spectacular. The abandoned lime kiln is cool. Our three children 12, 14, and 22 enjoyed it and our eldest did a ton of off trail scrambling on the rocks and fallen logs. Trailhead is at the far end of camping area, walk past everyone, there are a small number of day use parking spaces for $10 fee. If it’s full there is parking on side of road above. At the opposite end of camping area there is a small sand beach and rocky area where the creek empties into the ocean. Cross a wooden bridge and walk under the bridge. That is also super cool and worth a visit. The water is freezing but nice to splash around. Bring trunks and water shoes.

backpacking
20 days ago

We are the “Intrepids” - a group of women aged 40-74 that love the outdoors and we embrace physical challenges. This hike is not for the timid nor those who are not in shape. We saw some frightening human behavior this past week.

We started out our counterclockwise hike up Bubb’s Creek last Thursday only to be turned around about 3 miles in by torrential rainfall and a lighting storm about noon. Since we planned for weather and wanted a layover day, the 24 hour layover in the Car Campground w a beer was an ok way to spend the night. Lesson: Do NOT let the early morning blue skies lull you into late starts. Get on the trail by 9am after you get your permit. On the bright side, the rain is a blessing. It’s predictable from about 1pm to 5pm and lasts about 3 hours. Our skies were very clear from any smoke from fires about 40 miles away in Yosemite. There was little to no dust to contend with. And be prepared for more visitors than normal. Yosemite is on fire and vacationers turned south to Kings Canyon it appears.

And let me add that I cannot imagine hiking this adventure clockwise. We loved our expanding approaches each day and the way down was painless and gradual compared to other places we’ve ended on a descent.

So we began again on Friday, July 20th. Early. 7:30am. We were greeted by a young black bear we saw the day before. She is about 75-100lbs and as cute as a button. She will do her bear thing and get out of your way; we watched her about 10-15 min each day. Once over the bridge the trail heads up and up to Sphinx Creek. This trek was much easier than anticipated as it’s short and the switchbacks are kind. We reached Sphinx campsite about 10am for a 45 min water and snack break. Not a cloud in the sky.... the way from here starts out flat and gradually ascends. As we would learn the whole trip, clouds would begin to build about 1130am. By about noon the group was tired and hot and the clouds were a blessing. There is a rattlesnake in this story I just don’t recall if it was Friday or Saturday that it slinked across the trail rattling at the forward group as they stepped by. Anyway the goal was Charlotte Creek and we arrived just in time to put up a 10x10ft tarp to stand under (there were 10 of us) while lightening struck all around us as we huddled beneath some shorter trees. The rains came like a monsoon about 1:30pm. We spent the next three hours singing and snacking while creating systems to keep our packs dry. We sat on bear vaults and took turns clearing the puddles of rain from the tarp. A small river formed under our feet it rained so hard. We watched drenched hikers all afternoon move up the trail non-plussed and others run down stating they were DONE w this weather. We felt a bit smug under the tiny tarp which we usually bring to create shade in the high country. About 430pm the rains subsided and the thunder grew more distant. Time to set up camp! We surveyed the area and noted that the rushing water had created flood patterns so we could pick good drier tent sites by reading the ground and debris deposits. Dinner was a special gyro recipe I’ve put together after years of hunting and gathering and drying veggies. Basically plain freeze-dried ground beef seasoned w oregano and mint and a dash of Lawrey’s over rice. Lots of rice. And topped w reconstituted sheep feta, tomatoes, olives, and red onions further enhanced w tzatziki sauce (yogurt, cucumbers and dill). We inhaled every bit and we were in bed by 830pm. Early start Saturday to Vidette Meadow. We agreed to wake up at 530am.

A beautiful hike without question. You start by hiking through a pleasant forest until you reach the Watchtower where you finally get above the tree line and get some views. The trail can perhaps be a bit a bit scary if you're afraid of heights but I didn't think there were any tricky bits at all. That said, if you want to avoid hiking on trails that have sheer drops, use the "Hump Trail" to bypass the Watchtower section completely. Or you can use the Hump Trail on the way back so as not to retrace your steps completely. Mosquitoes can get pretty annoying, especially around the lakes, so make sure you carry a bug spray.
Overall, this is a lovely hike that will take a better part of a day but I probably wouldn't really consider it as hard. Definitely recommended.
As for wildlife, we saw plenty of yellow-bellied marmots and heard some grouse but never saw them.

Great hike. The redwoods are breathtaking! It’s very shaded, perfect in the summer heat. Go to the 100 foot waterfall, you have to cross the creek a few times but that’s the fun part. Then go check out the Kilns, they’re really interesting and make for beautiful photos.
Be careful, there is poison oak everywhere.
Also, There’s NO (zero) cell service anywhere in Big Sur.

Great trail with great views of Lower and Upper Echo Lake. Just wish there wasn’t so many cabins along the shoreline.

hiking
28 days ago

I did this hike last summer it had a nice view when you get the the top but it was right next to houses and cabins and lots of people. Took away from why I hike. Beautiful yes and fun to swim because you need too considering this is VERY exposed. No shade. It was okay but I wouldn’t do it again . The boat taxi back though was fun. So that’s also an option if you don’t want to hike all the way back

lots of climbing over branches and stream crossings. Absolutely gorgeous. my favorite things: redwoods, running water and fog

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