Explore the most popular birding trails in John Muir Wilderness with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

Great views from beginning to end. Stream crossing was a little intense.

Awesome hike. Looking forward to doing this again.

The views up to the lake are amazing. The hike up is fairly strenuous but you can take your time. The lake is beautiful and full of trout. Great day hike, have lunch at the lake and soak it in!

camped at blue lake last night it got 1-2 feet of snow overnight so be prepared. with prior accumulation there were some waist deep sections and snow shoes would help

hiking
5 days ago

Just hiked it on 5-20-18 with my dog. There is clear trail for about 1/4 mile if your lucky enough to find that section. After that it’s pretty much snowpack the whole way. Lots of postholing. Snowshoes recommended. Pretty much guessing where the trail was and made plenty wrong turns. Ended up following some ski tracks and made it to Barney. All the lakes were still frozen and made for some gorgeous views. Skelton from above was by far my favorite view. Mid thaw, valley down below, mountains to the right, beautiful! The snow made it tough but well worth the effort. Got to watch some backcountry skiers come down one of the mountains above Barney too. Awesome!

hiking
6 days ago

Went to the Third Lake only which was a pretty clear trail - some leftover snow. Heard that heading towards the Fourth Lake had more snow so we just turned around at the Third. I'm deducting one star because I had heard the Third Lake was more turquoise in color, and we were really disappointed it was not - maybe it was the time of year or the time of day?? Any tips on that would be appreciated.

We somehow took a wrong turn on the way up and the way back so we did almost 15 miles. It was a pretty strenuous hike and we both think we were battling slight altitude sickness. Overall it was an amazing experience. We were so glad we opted to stay at the Glacier Lodge the night before and the day of the hike.

Tip: bring sunscreen for the exposed areas; stay at the Glacier Lodge the night before so you get a good night's sleep and the day of the hike so you get a nice hot shower!

Wonderful trail and beautiful lake.

It honestly lives up to hype with the sights to see. It is a challenge despite what other reviews might say. It’s continuously uphill and the altitude climb can really get to you (nausea, dizziness, and headaches). It takes about 2-3 hrs to get to the first lake depending on how many times you stop to rest. Bring lots of water/snacks and come prepared for a nice challenge. You’ll be sore but if you can push through it then it’s worth it. Lakes are beautiful blue green water and the views truly are breathtaking.

Just completed it today May 18.
Amazing view throughout the trail and not just the pass itself. Beautiful lakes and some at higher elevation were still frozen. Most snow has melted and it was very easy to see the trail. Less than a mile of the trail was still under the snow.
We also met some PCT thru hikers on the way to resupply at Independence. The trail just keeps going west and I would love to camp here one day and just keep going. But we still made a beautiful day hike out of it.
Saw a marmot , my first encounter.
It is not an easy trail, but if you are cardio prepared, the reward are the views and entire experience of being out there and going thru snow in May.

Hiked today. Not for the AAA Club hiker - which I am. Trail had lots of scree, snow, and eventually defeated at the cross over, where there once was a concrete bridge, due to the high level runoff.
Definitely bring water moccasins if you want to cross over and get to the first lake.
Regardless the scenery was spectacular and worth my 8 mile out-and-back.

The highest of the five lakes is a jewel.

Gorgeous hike! Stunning vistas. When we started the gate wasn’t open, but it is now. Lucky hikers can park and start right at the trailhead!
We had hiking shoes and were fine, but micro spikes would have worked well today, -still large spots with snow, though melting quickly. Snowshoes as you get deeper would surely come in handy. We turned back 3 miles in (we started late) but I imagine our shoes would have taken us all the way. Just be careful as the snow is melting and it’s easier to fall through.

Attempt made on Tuesday, May 8, 2018, start time at approximately 11 a.m., (late start)! I'm giving it a 3 only because I completed about 1/4 of it. I lost the trail in the snow and no clear tracks to lead me anywhere. Without hiking experience or reliable GPS in the spotty vicinity, I turned around to a defeat. I would like to state that the little I was able to trek, absolutely stunning views and waterfalls. I will most certainly return to finish this, as it deserves! The only intimidating portion of this area, is the 20 minute drive back down in a sedan. My brakes felt every bit of that descent.

Beautiful!! the first and second lakes were frozen and the third was halfway melted. Not very hard but amazing views.

Went this past week...very beautiful!! A lot of snow and very deep but totally awesome!

It’s an incredible hike! Like some other recent posts, we only went to 2nd lake but the entire way had such beauty there was no boring aspect. The weather was perfect. The hike isn’t strenuous and can be taken quite leisurely. I had a knee issue recently and managed to complete this hike without much issue. And my Maltese/Pomeranian did too! According to my Suunto Traverse we did just under 10 miles round trip. Can’t wait to come back when the lakes have thawed. We hiked on 05/05/18

No, dogs are certainly NOT able to use this trail. Past Kearsarge Pass you are hiking in Kings Canyon National Park. National parks do NOT allow dogs on wilderness trails.

hiking
23 days ago

Stunning views all around on this trail. However due to the late season snow we were forced to navigate that on most of my groups' three-day backpacking trip.

We camped at Chocolate lakes, just under Chocolate Peak which turned out to be an amazing lakeside site.

The next day we carried on to our next camp site near Bishop Lake. Getting to Bishop Pass was fairly annoying with the late season snowpack on the ground. While it was mostly solid and post holing wasn't much of an issue, it was pocked with holes from melt

on Big Pine Lakes Trail

hiking
27 days ago

Wow. Just wow. Spent all yesterday morning, from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. hiking up to the second lake (group felt that going up to the third would’ve been a little more dangerous considering we didn’t anticipate so much ice) and the views were absolutely breathtaking! It started to snow as we were making our way back down (which made the hike all the more better) and ran into many anticipated fishermen. Sadly for them the lakes were frozen over leaving only a small little area for them to fish. However, all in all, this was probably the best hike I’ve done so far this year and I would LOVE to go back when the weather gets warmer!

hiking
29 days ago

I completed this trail on 27April18. Up to lake 3 is a safe hike and is where the best views are, beyond that, there is nothing moderate about it, at least in the winter time. I decided to push myself and continued (I only had crampons, no snow shoes) but there is still so much snow that is actually dangerous. Is so deep in some areas that my whole leg would get buried on it, and I am a 6’1” tall guy. There are so many creeks that you can hear them under the snow so you wanna be careful. The other lakes are smaller and not so impressive like the first three. Since the snow was so deep I didn’t go around lake four and intercepted the trail in the other end, which btw is nowhere to be seen, I just followed my GPS. The snow was so unstable that I had to crawl, slide on my rear, etc. I lost part of my hiking pole, stuck somewhere in the deep of it, even I almost lose one of my boots in a similar scenario. I had to dig it out. About the course, is continuous uphill up to lake four. Lake 1 is at 10000 ft., highest point 10800 or so. The loop which is somewhere around 5 miles long starts after 4.5 from the parking lot. The uphill is moderate in general, strenuous at times. Weather was chilli but comfortable.

backpacking
1 month ago

Not sure if I need to add to the big review pile for this trail, but why not. It lives up to the hype and the access is easy. I would say this is an excellent trail for beginning backpackers who want to experience the Sierra Nevada at its best.

It is popular for a reason, but the presence of people dwindle the further up you go, and there are options to expand beyond this trail (such as Agassiz Col which I attempted but failed, a successful failure I must say).

Why does the summary on this trail's description say it "features a lake"? As a matter of fact, it features so many lakes the namers half-assedly named them numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...!

Nice hike

Unfortunately we were there without snow shoes end of march. We had to turn around. What we saw.... 5 stars although we didn’t make it to the lakes.

Favorite trail to date! Was well cleared and easy to follow, a lot of switchbacks along a steady incline but very doable. Go on a clear day and the views are unrivaled!

backpacking
3 months ago

Camped overnight at Barney.

camping
3 months ago

Camped at Box Lake and it was the bomb.

This was the most beautiful hike I’ve been on! The lakes were like turquoise gems against the snow patched craggy mountains. The switchbacks take you up into the John Muir Wilderness where a surge of water runs along your path. You can rest by Lon Chaney’s old cabin and continue on to find more gorgeous lakes as you walk. True story: I inhaled a mountain fly and within a few minutes it came out my nose. I swear...disgusting but true. The nice thing is that you can choose to go out six miles or complete the whole trail and you will feel accomplished either way.

hiking
4 months ago

We just hiked to Second Lake (mid January ‘18) and are amazed at how gradual the trail is - probably because it’s graded for stock. It was a fast hike of only 10 miles round trip, but the views are staggering, especially in winter. If you hit this trail before the next major snow you only need micro spikes after the Ranger Station.

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