Crabtree and Bell Meadow Trail Loop is a 19.5 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Long Barn, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and backpacking and is best used from August until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length19.5 miElevation gain3,077 ftRoute typeLoop
BackpackingHikingDog friendlyForestLakeRiverViewsWildlife
Description
Waypoints (0)

Starting at the Crabtree Trailhead parking area just east of Pinecrest Lake, this incredible trail through the Sierra Nevadas starts in Stanislaus National Forest and meanders into the Emigrant Wilderness following the Crabtree and Bell Meadow Trails. The route offers lots of diversity in terrain, numerous rivers and streams, alpine lakes including Camp, Lily, Piute, Grouse and Gem Lakes, and abundant wildlife. Horseback riding is also popular along this route so keep an eye out for others on the trail. The trailhead is a short drive from Yosemite National Park. Users have reported lots of mosquitoes so bring plenty of bug spray.

Weather
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Daylight
Reviews (129)
Photos (711)
Recordings (98)
Completed (301)
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Danielle OZ
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 2, 2020
Backpacking

Overall, this is a gorgeous trail with lots of diversity (lakes, granite slabs, forests). Steady ups and downs, a perfect trail for a backpacker who is looking for a chill time. You can really make this trail any length with so many options to keep extending it if you want to! We did this trail late in the season and it was perfect. No bugs, warm during the day, though pretty cold at night. Saw like 3 other people. We did it clockwise (north out and south back) and I liked this direction. More lakes front loaded at beginning of the trip. We extended it out past Deer Lake and cut south at Buck Lake to catch the southern trail, making our trip about 25ish miles. 4 days/3 nights The view at Buck lake was incredible. For some reason the AllTrails map doesn't show the trail continuing to Buck Lake though the USDA map has it. Note - I can see how this trail is especially buggy earlier in the year as there are so many lakes and seemed to be a ton of water crossings. Easy, mostly paved road right up to trailhead. Our dogs did great!

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Austin Steelman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 25, 2020
Hiking

Gorgeous lakes with tons of aspens of different shades. Few other hikers.

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Tim W
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 14, 2020
RunningGreat!

One of my favorite places in the world. we did a counter-clockwise version of this loop, and added an extra ~4 miles to see Wood Lake, Deer Lake, and Jewelry Lake. It was a long day hike/jog for us, but well worth the extension! Total with the extension was about 23.5 miles, 3500 ft of gain. Just under 8 hours car to car, with plenty of breaks. Deer Lake was probably the highlight of the whole hike for us, and we took a snack break there and filtered some water from the lake. Zero mosquitos on Oct 10, perfect weather (clear skies, 50's most of the day), light to no smoke from the fires, and saw less than 20 people on the trail all day. Road into Crabtree TH is generally well maintained and can be easily traveled in a standard passenger car, 4wd not needed.

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Kody Loughman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 11, 2020
CampingGreat!

Very nice. Not too hard, not too easy. Went with some first timers and veterans and they all enjoyed it and were challenged. Camped at Gem lake and it was freezing! This was in the beginning of Oct. No mosquitoes. only saw a few people.

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Summer Carney
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 1, 2020
Hiking

Excellent trip, lots of climbing the first 2 days but we’ll worth it. There was no water between Wood Lake and Grouse Lake. Excellent swimming at upper Buck Lake. We heard an elk bellowing for a full 5 minutes at Grouse Lake in the middle of the night, truly amazing. Definitely made up for the many cow patties surrounding the shore. There was also quite a bit of trash at Grouse so we packed out as much as we could.

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Cody Howell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 28, 2020
Backpacking

We did a 2 night/3 day trip heading out on a Tuesday. The trail was empty and the lakes quiet. We headed out in a clockwise direction and stayed at Gem Lake the first night(10mi). Decided to tack on Deer Lake the second day and head back to Groundhog Meadow(8mi) to cut our 3rd day down a bit. A clockwise loop will give you quicker access to lakes while the southern portion has only a couple. The southern loop is dry between Wood and Grouse Lake so make sure you're good on water when you pass either of them. Camped at Groundhog Meadow the second night, but every campsite along the trail was shared by the mountain cows and their jingle bells. It was my wife's first technical backpacking trip and I think it was a great one to start out with! Plenty of Sierra beauty with minimal effort to see it.

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Erin L
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 22, 2020
Hiking

Drove up and car camped at Crabtree on Friday night (8/21), hiked out to Gem Lake Saturday, and made it back to the trailhead by early Sunday afternoon. Beautiful trail with a variety of lush green meadows and rocky terrain. Weather was perfect (other than smoke from the wildfires rolling in and out periodically as we got higher in altitude), although some stretches of the trail (particularly the hike back down from Gem) were completely naked of trees—the trail got hot so it stripped but we couldn’t. Ha. Most creeks were dry so we survived off of lake water + purification tablets. Gem was beautiful to camp at and swim in, but make sure to stop by Grouse for a dip with an a-moo-sing view . A good amount of mosquitoes, but nothing a little bug spray-down every few hours couldn’t fend off. This trail also seems to be moderately trafficked by horses and pack mules with groups on pack trips—you’ll be able to see (and smell) the abundance of “presents”, “trail markers”, or whatever you wanna call them on your path. We did pass by a handful of groups on pack trips with horses and pack-mules, making the trail a bit dusty for the time being, but might as well make the insides match the dusty, grime covered outsides! Overall wonderful trail. Easy to follow, beautiful views from high up, and an abundance of lakes, also a perfect weekend hike for a beginner backpacker (my hiking buddy did it and made it out ashy and achy but alive!) Would’ve loved an extra day or two to hike out to Buck and Huckleberry Lakes, but the five or so lakes you’ll encounter on this trail will make the grade.

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Michelle Sands
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 18, 2020
BackpackingGreat!

Did this trail Saturday-Monday this past weekend. Arrived at trailhead around 12:30pm and parking lot was pretty packed. Trailhead was a bit confusing about upper or lower loop towards Gem or Wood Lake, but ended up starting on the lower loop. Camped just before Wood Lake with a gorgeous view of sunset and sunrise. Stopped at Wood Lake next day and did a loop of Huckleberry Lake- highly recommend! Got slightly lost on the way out past Piute Meadow towards Crabtree (maybe I’m just horrible at following trails) but regained. Overall a BEAUTIFUL trail. Limited water until you hit the lakes 6-7 miles in, so pack appropriately, and recommend staying out near the lakes for at least 2 nights. August temps meant perfect swimming weather even in the early mornings and late evenings and caught some gorgeous sunrises. Recommend camping at Deer Lake. Gem is pretty small. NO bugs which was amazing. Trail can get pretty exposed, so definitely keep water on you, but the shaded areas are beautiful, and the views from elevation can’t be beat. One of the most beautiful hikes I’ve done- if not challenging (especially if you add on the full loop and make it to Huckleberry)

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Marc Mignard
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 11, 2020

Did this with 5 people and 2 dogs from Fri morning to Sun afternoon. Past by about 10 groups of horse/donkey trains. Good to share the trail I guess, but they kicked up lots of dust, especially near Crabtree Trailhead. They probably didn’t appreciate our excited dogs, but the riders were friendly. Saw three different rangers. One asked if we had permit, but all asked where we planned to camp. None complained that our dogs were off leash. We hiked counterclockwise, camped at Groundhog Meadow first night, and Piute Lake second night. Some light afternoon and evening rain on Saturday with lots of thunder. Mosquitoes were no problem. Water was a bit of a problem on the southern half of the loop, which is probably why there weren’t many mosquitoes. Piute Creek was almost completely dry where it crossed near Groundhog Meadow. Trailhead parking lot was almost full when we arrived Thursday late afternoon, but we easily found a place to camp near the trailhead. A fair amount of parking along the road before the trailhead, and didn’t see any signs forbidding it. Trash cans not available at trailhead, pit toilets are truly awful, and only water is from the nearby creek (tasted great after filtering though).

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Corbin Vuori
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 10, 2020
HikingRocky

This trail is great for a three or four day trip. Within the first few miles you’re greeted with panoramic views. I highly recommend taking the Northern route first and camping at Piute Lake along the Southern side. Upper Buck Lake is also perfect for camping. The trail was only spotty between Lower Buck and Wood Lake. Both of my trips to the Emigrant Wilderness have encountered sporadic thunder showers, so make sure to bring rain gear.

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tushar nargunde
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 10, 2020
HikingGreat!

Completed this trail on Aug 8 - 9th weekend. Quite a scenic hike with varied landscapes like lakes, meadows, forest, granite. Few key points though : 1. Out and back comes about a 2 miles more. We parked at the junction of Crabtree Trailhead and Overflow parking lot. Total distance ~ 22 miles 2. At couple of points it is easy to go off trail. You will need to navigate yourself around if this is the first time that you are here. Trail is not heavily trafficked to get any direction at critical points. 3. No mosquitos at all on the weekend. I was here at Gem Lake. { it may change later] 4. Almost all the creeks in between are out of water. So plan to use water out of lakes. Don't bank on water from the creeks. 5. Piute Lake is not the most beautiful place to camp at. Try heading to Gem lake to camp if possible.

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Juan Carlos Guzman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 9, 2020
Hiking
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Emilia Zin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarAugust 1, 2020
Backpacking

Lovely sights! Very hot and dusty though, with not a lot of shade, especially on the way back if looping clockwise. We slept at Crabtree trailhead on Friday night, then hiked up to Gem lake and slept there on Saturday night. We hiked this loop clockwise, and I found it extremely enjoyable with all the change in scenery and all the different valleys you go through. Ranger was walking around Gem lake, making sure people weren't camping too close to the lake. Recommend taking the time to hike up to Jewelry lake. Hiked back on Sunday, and the trail was extremely dusty and dry--take plenty of water from Gem lake, because there isn't much available at this time of year (August) until Grouse lake. Amazing trail, easy to follow, and beautiful sights.

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Elana Maslow
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarAugust 1, 2020
Backpacking

We did this loop in three days and two nights. Camped at Piute and Grouse lake. It was very beautiful and very well marked. The only downside was since we started on a Saturday, it was very crowded and Piute Lake campground was full of a lot of people and was very loud. Maybe we should have just made the push and camped at Gem lake. Gem lake was beautiful and great to swim in. Grouse lake was also really nice! Lots of camping around it, but less places to swim. There was one little beach that had accessible water, but people were camping right in front of it. I would really recommend this trip. Great for new backpackers as well!

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Alayna Mills
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarGray StarGray StarJuly 31, 2020
Hiking

I went the clockwise version of this loop. I would probably do counterclockwise if there were a next time. There is a bit of shade but a lot of it is exposed. The hike to Piute campground was a climb! I knew this was going to be the case but it is a steep grade. Mile 4 and 5 were probably the worst with it leveling out and then climbing more before dipping down to piute around mi 8. Piute campground was pleasant. Sites were accessible. Lake was ok but I wish I had been able to stay at Gem which was gorgeous. Second day went out to Jewelry Lake and then came back and cut over at Gem to return. This trail was a lot of decline and flat but the trail is badly torn up from horses and mules so it felt like I backpacked most of 13 miles back on a beach which wasn’t fun either, definitely feeling it in my calves. Second to last mile leg is a trek up and out which was a slow and rough end. A lot of people complaining about mosquitos. They were honestly fine this week but I know that can change. I work long sleeves mainly for sun protection but wore bug spray and have no bites. They definitely were in my face which was annoying but the bug spray worked and that was the extent of it. That said it was beautiful and lots of lakes and meadows. Would probably save this for a fall hike in the future.

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Timothy Lee
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 25, 2020
Backpacking

We had a great time backpacking out to Gem Lake. Spent Friday night at the trailhead. Plenty of nice spots and the stream nearby had water. The parking lot was definitely full, but people parked along the side of the road going pretty far back. Would recommend Gem over Piute-- seemed like a nicer swimming lake with better scenery. We camped in the granite above the west side of the lake (go right when you get to the lake if you're going in the clockwise direction). Barely any mosquitos, which was the biggest thing I was worried about. We missed the cutoff trail down to Buck Meadow Creek because we cut around off trail to the south side of the lake, but honestly it was just easy to walk down the granite to the bottom of the valley where the trail was. The hike back was easier because of less up and down, although there was a bit of a slog after Grouse Lake at the end to complete the loop. I would have liked to have had an extra day to day hike out to Woods, Bucks, Deer, etc. But all in all a great trip!

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John Feldmeier
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 24, 2020
Backpacking

Did Emigrant Wilderness Loop counter clockwise. Camped at Gem lake first night, mosquitos were not bad. Next day went to Buck lake then backtracked to Piute lake to camp. Thunderstorms both afternoons but didn't last long. Overall weather was great.

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Carmen Benavides
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 18, 2020
Hiking

We completed this hike over the weekend of July 18, 2020 - absolutely gorgeous at every turn. Very well maintained trails although we did lose the trail once and had to backtrack. We camped at Piute lake in the designated camping area. There is a lot of "site restoration" happening and it's important not to camp in those areas. The mosquitoes required multiple dousings of repellent and I still have about 10 bites.

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Karie Frasch
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 6, 2020
HikingBugsGreat!

We hiked in on a Monday morning, and extended the loop to include hiking around upper/lower Buck lakes. Crabtree TH - Lilypad Lake - Deer Lake (2 nights) - Wood Lake - Grouse Lake - Crabtree TH. The scenery was stunning and the swimming divine. We also included off-trail side trips to the Wire Lakes and to Karl's Lake. All trails were in great shape, stream crossings were fine. We were unsure about going on this trip after all of the reports of mosquitos but with Permethrin-treated clothes/tent/packs/etc and use of Deet it was quite manageable. They were mostly only out from approx 6:30am - 8:30am and 7:30pm - 9pm, except for a few very boggy places on the trail. One thing that we didn't anticipate - we planned to get water at Groundhog Meadow but the stream there (Piute Creek) was running pretty low. We were able to get some filtered water but it wasn't the best.

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Rebecca Keable
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJuly 5, 2020
BackpackingBugs

Absolutely stunning. Great swimming opportunities. Challenging but enough up and down to keep things interesting. We did the hike in 2 days with the a night at the Trailhead. I read the reviews about the mosquitoes and they're bad but not bad enough to not do the hike--wearing long sleeves, pants, a buff helped a ton. We also bought the silly mosquito hats but they weren't bad enough to warrant those but we were glad we had them. We camped at the trailhead the first night where there was a pleasant stream but the bathrooms were disgusting and out of TP. Next day we hiked 10 miles to camp at Gem Lake where we found an awesome spot on the granite away from the bugs. Would recommend clockwise route and swimming at every lake you pass (we swam at Piute, Gem, and Grouse and they were all divine)

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Laura Davis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 26, 2020
BackpackingBugs

This is a beautiful trail, but I was nearly eaten alive this trip. Bug spray didn't help at all! They were out all day. I cut my trip short and returned after one night and 200 bites.

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Suzanne Ng
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJune 22, 2020
HikingBugsMuddy

We decided to hike this loop in four days, so we could enjoy it’s full glory. Initially planning to camp at Piute meadow, Gem lake, and grouse lake. However, as beautiful as the hike was, mosquitos deranged our plans. We came across many hikers on our trip that decided to cut their trip short and turn around due to the mosquitos. We hiked this on June 19-21, so if you intend to hike it at this time, be prepared to douse yourself in deet. Even then you will be swarmed. We ended up altering our plans because of the mosquitos. We spent the first night camping at the top on a ridge near piute meadow to avoid the mosquitos. However, our efforts were minuscule. They still ate us alive. We hoped it would be better if we pushed ourselves to Deer Lake, as we heard from some hikers that there were less mosquitos there. All was well until sunset when we were swarmed again. I’ve never really be bothered by mosquitos, but unfortunately this time I was bitten more than my previous record of 23 bites. Both my hiking partner and I were bitten well near 50 times, and it was horrendous. So, instead of staying the third night, we decided to hike the 12 miles out and head home. I am not trying to deter anyone from hiking this trail, but maybe wait until a little later in the season, or be prepared to spray a lot of deet. We’ve hiked from Crabtree trailhead through various trails for the past four years, and I have never been bitten so badly before. Four stars because the trail is genuinely amazing, minus one star for this year because the mosquitos are extra ravenous this year.

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Kyle Pickering
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarJune 20, 2020
BackpackingBugs

It was great to be able to get the wilderness permit online for Emigrant. We arrived at the trailhead on Friday evening and the parking lot was full. We drove a little further down the main road to find some camping off to the side. In the morning we hit the trail. It’s very well maintained and built. It was relatively busy, but people were good a distancing when passing. It got quite hot on the climbs, and we took advantage of shade when we could. The mosquitos were out in full force and by the time we arrived at Gem Lake, they were swarming. Swimming and hiding in the tent was the only way to avoid them. The souther part of the loop back to the trailhead offer lots of downhill and more beautiful scenery.

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Mallika Ranjan
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 13, 2019
Hiking

Did it as a day hike. Beautiful in the fall. Lovely colors reflecting in the lakes. We went clockwise and saw very few people. No water between gem and grouse lakes.

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Katryna Kviatkevich
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 21, 2019
Hiking

I think this is one of the best trails for introduction to backpacking: good views, good camping spots, good workout, good trail! We did it 9/21-9/22 clockwise. Lots of lakes and still few springs. The weather was awesome: not hot during day, not cold during night. We found a good fire ring close to Gem Lake (I took a pic of it in my recording). Not many people at all on a trail. We maybe met 10 per day. Also, I found recommend arriving Friday night and sleep at the trail head - a lot of parking space, toilets, picnic tables, grill rings. Not brutal hike if you do it in 2 days, but would be awesome workout for 1 day. I plan to do it again as a day hike for sure.

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Maxime Grossman
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 21, 2019
Backpacking

Awesome trail, brought 2 dogs and had a blast. Most streams and creeks are dried now, but you'll see water sources at least every hour or hour and half at most. Super packed with people at Gem Lake. Some trail signs are hard to read/in disrepair/fallen down, so bring a map and compass.

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Megan Masters
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 7, 2019
HikingBugsRockyScramble

We did this hike in one day, taking just under 9 hours to hike and added 30 minutes to have lunch at Gem Lake. 20 miles in a day is hard work, and this trail gave a mix of terrain to entertain (the rolling mountains made the hike out easier). The trail was essentially empty; we saw a dozen people throughout the day. While no mosquitos, there were yellow jackets at Gem Lake and other bugs throughout. Bring the right shoes, lots of water and good company and the challenging day will be like a breeze! We went clockwise. I’m not sure if this is the best since heading down on the granite after Gem Lake was tough on the knees...

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