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

To Do Map
VIEW FULL MAP

The trail is back open as of August 15. Check with the Mill Creek Ranger station to confirm that it has not been closed again, but the fire has been contained more and it has been considered safe to use this trail. We hiked it on August 17 and had to hurry down from the peak due to a thunderstorm that was coming in. Overall, this is a great hike. The trail is a little rocky and eroded in spots, but definitely worth doing.

hiking
20 hours ago

Went during sunset, real awesome, unfrotunately lots of smoke from the fires that fill up the central valley. Hike is easy.

hiking
23 hours ago

Great trail worth going up to the ridge for the view from above.

AMAZING. Did this with some storm clouds in the distance which is terrifying and definitely not recommended, but absolutely breath taking.

backpacking
1 day ago

This is an absolutely spectacular backpacking trip in the Sierras. Old growth forests, massive granite walls, alpine lakes, mountain pass, rivers....everything. We just completed the counter clockwise loop in 4 days. We spend the first night at Vidette meadow.
We started around 9am, got to Junction meadow at 4ish, decided it was worth it to push up to Vidette (after a bit of rain in Junction). So glad we did that, made day 2 a lot shorter and more time at Rae lake, which we arrived on the second day at noonish. Glen pass is tough either way you go. Rae Lakes is stunning and I found out why so many people told me this is one of their favorite places on the JMT.
The hike out of Rae descends into the canyon, and you will be exposed to the hot sun, nearly the entire way to upper paradise. We didn't leave Rae until 9am because we were drying out our gear in the sun from the heavy morning dew. I wish we left earlier and just packed a wet tent.
Upper paradise is shaded, heavily treed and beautiful. We had a small bear waltz through camp that evening. We got up early on day 4 and made it to the car by 1030.

I prefer to CCW direction, however many said they prefer the CW route. I like to get the elevation out of the way and then rest at Rae and head down hill, instead of climbing out of Rae lakes, just my take.
Few things:
-The bugs are swarming along the first 5 or so miles in each direction. GET A BUG NET...Seriously.....
-Start hiking early each day to avoid afternoon monsoons or HOT sunny weather.
-no issues with any crossings (the water is shin deep where the bridge is out)

I have been on dozens of backpacking trips throughout the sierras and this is one of my favorites.

i was skeptical at the beginning that I could make it to the top since it was my first time hiking long distance. but I made it. I was so happy. the view was awesome and the weather up there is always cool in the summer.

Trillium use to be something of beauty.
Although the view will always be there..
The lake sticks&full of endless dead fish.
There's plenty of trash laying all about.
Disrespectful.
Besides being so heavy in traffic-any of the multiple lakes with less crowds will suit better!

Wish I could take my pups

excellent backpacking hike!

hiking
4 days ago

Great two day trip. I hiked from Horseshoe meadows to the cottonwood lakes. Lake #3 in my opinion is the best place for camp. Beautiful view, high ground to stay dry and shade. Friday morning I started at 7am reaching the summit at 10:30am. I then hiked back to horseshoe meadows arriving at 3pm. Great hike! Old Army pass is the way to go for this summit. Cheers

We just finished the trip. It's about 6 miles of uphill hiking and .8 mi of downhill. The end view was worth the effort. Twin lakes was fantastic. It has the best outhouse views that I know of. There were 2 bear lockers so I'm not sure why the Rangers told us we needed bear cannisters. Definitely day hike up to the ridge on the way to ranger lake. The views from a top are awesome!

backpacking
5 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
6 days ago

Came here on a weekday when we could park at the trailhead. It's a short but steep hike up to the top. The views were still amazing despite some of the haziness from the nearby fires. Definitely plan to come back when the sky clears and to go to stargazing.

Veda and Mirror are preferable to Trillium Lake. Crowds are awful. Trail is in utter disrepair. Signage sucks. It was overcast, therefore views of Mount Hood were non-existent.

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!

To call this a hike would be a bit of an exaggeration. Went on a Sunday in August and it was so packed it took us about 10 minutes to find a parking spot. Entire lake was full of people on floaties and kayaks and paddle boards, all of the beaches were loaded with people... Just not the place to be if you're looking for a peaceful hike. That being said, if being at a busy beach is your scene, it was a beautiful beach with an incredible view of Mt. Hood, but it wasn't my thing.

hiking
9 days ago

The views are spectacular and second to none. The parking is limited. The crowds are dangerously overwhelming. Be extra careful when going up there.

The reason this hike only gets 4 stars is the lack supervision from park rangers. I saw a lot of people careless on trail that doesn't give second chances.

Great hike for training. Doing Mt. Whitney in a couple of weeks and the consistent above 8K ft. helps.

backpacking
12 days ago

Edit/correction from previous entry: We traveled the route "clockwise" (not counter....). Be advised that this trail is difficult for the beginner or person who is not familiar with such high altitudes and elevation gains. Though a lot of the trail was easy, both Black Rock Pass and Sawtooth Pass will kick your butt. Allow lots of extra time to get up them so you don't get caught in the dark trying to get back down the other side like we did. This place is no joke.

backpacking
13 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
13 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.

backpacking
14 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.

backpacking
15 days ago

Last two miles before Twin Lakes is difficult but well worth it.

Beautiful. Be ready to feel out of breathe lol

Beautiful views and a fun day hike. I used this hike to train and test gear for an upcoming trip to Mt Langley. It was a good moderate hike. Nothing crazy. I will go back but next time I’ll approach from Idyllwild and skip the tram. Once was enough for me. Cheers

backpacking
17 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
18 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

A challenging and rewarding trail.

22 days ago

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

Load More