Heather Lake, Emerald Lake, and Pear Lake Trail via Watchtower and Pear Lake Trails

HARD 193 reviews
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Heather Lake, Emerald Lake, and Pear Lake Trail via Watchtower and Pear Lake Trails is a 11.8 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Three Rivers, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October.

DISTANCE
11.8 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,913 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

birding

camping

fishing

hiking

nature trips

forest

lake

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

rocky

snow

no dogs

A short section of the trail that lies past the Watchtower/Hump trail intersection is closed for the winter months annually due to icy conditions and steep cliffs. This When it is closed you will need to use the Hump Trail to access Heather, Aster, Emerald, and Pear Lakes. (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/heather-lake-and-pear-lake-via-hump-trail-winter-route) All the lakes on the trail are beautiful and have fish. Plenty of great camp spots to choose from. Amazing views. Be aware of wildlife and pack out all of your trash.

hiking
5 days ago

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.

hiking
6 days ago

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!!

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!

9 days ago

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...

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.

11 days ago

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.

hiking
12 days ago

Awesome views, and the Lakes are wonderful. Very tough hike. Recommend going via watchtower and return via hump trail.

backpacking
18 days ago

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
18 days ago

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
20 days ago

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.

backpacking
1 month ago

Epic

hiking
1 month ago

Excellent hike. It goes above the tree line so take a hat. There is wildlife so keep your eyes open. Watch out for the R.O.U.S.’s!!! (Rodents of unusual size) Lol, I’m referring to the Marmots. Large bushy tailed Beaver looking guys that live under rocks. They can become very aggressive, so be “hiker smart” and don’t leave your stuff unattended. Never had any problem with Marmots myself, but have talked with others that have.

hiking
1 month ago

A true highlight of Sequoia, and a great taste of the high Sierra within a few miles of the General Sherman tree and his tour buses!

We hiked to Pear Lake via the Watchtower Trail, camped for the night, and hiked out the next morning. Wilderness permits were readily available at Lodgepole at 1 PM the day prior. The climb up to the Watchtower from the parking lot was gradual, with beautiful forest views and alpine streams flowing down the hillside. The Watchtower Trail was a bit unnerving for a step or two with full packs! The last couple of miles from Heather Lake to Pear Lake felt more strenuous, with short climbs/descents and exposed rock. We got to Pear Lake in ~3.5 hours from the parking lot. Pear Lake was stunning, although the mosquitos and marmots were very interested in our presence; a face net came in handy. There were about three other groups with 1-3 people each camping at Pear. The hike out took ~2.5 hours. A must-do!

hiking
1 month ago

Great, tough trail! Pretty steep at some points though. You can stop at the first lake (heather) for a shorter hike or keep going to the top lake (pear). I recommend going all the way to Pear Lake though, it’s not that much further once you’ve gotten to heather lake. My dad was able to catch several (smaller) fish at heather lake while I went on to the top. We went watchtower trail for a better overlook and it didn’t disappoint.

1 month ago

Such a great trail. We hiked to Heather Lake via Watchtower. Watchtower is a must...spectacular views and Heather Lake is fantastic. We took a quick swim across the lake and found a great rock to jump off of and a small patch of snow to play in.

hiking
1 month ago

We hiked from the parking lot all the way to pear lake. It took us 4.5 hours and we damn near died lol. This is not an easy hike by any means, but well worth the effort if you can make it. Emerald and Heather lake have much more trees and shade than pear lake. There were fish at all the lakes but they were only about the length of my hand so not really worth my time. We camped at pear lake for one night and got assaulted by the these annoying marmots. These little rascals will eat any clothing or gear you have that has salt on it. They are like salt honey badgers. They don't give a crap about people being there and will hide until you walk away for a second. All in all it was a beautiful trip. Watchtower gives a great viewpoint but The Hump has much more shade for the hike. We went up Watchtower and down the hump on the way back. If you don't do hikes like this often I would recommend giving your body at least one full day of rest after climbing up. Would do this again for sure though.

backpacking
1 month ago

6/11/18
This trail is in great shape. We backpacked to Emerald lake via the watchtower. The watchtower section is unbelievable.
Permits are easy to get and they are walk up only. This can easily be done as a day hike.
Mosquitoes were unrelenting so plan accordingly.

2 months ago

Amazing trail. Only bad thing is, lots of anoying mosquitos.

backpacking
2 months ago

Great views and very relaxing lakes. We were told by the ranger that the Watchtower trail is closed so we hiked the Hump trail. If you don't have permit beforehand try to get to Lodgepole visitor center early morning to secure a spot at Pear Lake. We stayed the night at Emerald Lake and it had two bear box in case you don't want to carry a bear canister. Take mosquito repellent for sure!!

backpacking
2 months ago

Great trip this weekend. Absolutely no one up at pear lake overnight. Except I would recommend mosquito repellent. They were quite aggressive

2 months ago

Hiked to Pear a few days ago via the Watchtower route (it’s open!). Fantastic hike, although the mosquitos nearly ate me alive at the lakes, especially Pear.

hiking
2 months ago

That was great! Did it along with Alta peak, which you see from the lake. That made it very special. As of End of May, there was still snow, and the watchtower segment was closed, but I did it and had no problem whatsoever (but there is snow and ice...so.... you need to know what you are doing)

hiking
2 months ago

Fun hike with great views. The Watchtower trail is still closed as of today due to icy conditions. You can still make it up to Pear lake via the Hump trail which meets back up with the end of the Watchtower trail after the closed portion. There are only a few parches of snow to go over that aren’t too deep or difficult to cross. Stream crossings were easy as well (especially with poles). The hike is very scenic with pretty alpine lakes.

2 months ago

on June 2 my group hiked all the way to Pear lake, walked through snow at the very top. The veiws we're beautiful, and the water was refreshing (a couple of us took a dip in the lake! which still had ice in some areas!) overall it was well worth it and I would definitely do that hike again.

hiking
2 months ago

Did this hike May 16, 2018 intending to backpack via the hump trail since Watchtower trail was closed, but could only make it to Heather lake due to the snow. Lodgepole visitor center is closed, so go to Giant Forest Museum to fill out a wilderness permit if you want to camp overnight, and bring a pen!
We were able to hike to Heather Lake but it was entirely snowy and feet kept sinking into the snow up to the calf the further we went. Changed from Chacos to hiking boots. Pretty view initially but the fog rolled in quite densely and we decided to turn around as visibility was becoming scarce and we were not prepared. We were each sharing a hiking pole each which was a life-saver to prevent falls. Will return in July to make it to Pear Lake. Heard of an accident that involved helicopter rescue the day prior due to a hiker taking the Watchtower trail although it was closed. The hump trail was quite difficult, and not sure if the views were warranted. Saw a bear in the distance while hiking, kept our distance and our eyes on it. Would probably bring bear spray next time.

backpacking
2 months ago

Went up with a group. Great trail! Very clear until you hit Heather Lake. Lots of snow so prep for wet feet (our feet kept sinking in the snow). Keep an eye out for the trail markers cause you won’t see the trail that well. Camped out at Emerald Lake and views were great.

hiking
2 months ago

I was the only person camping out at Emerald Lake this past Friday, May 18th. The trail is free of snow until Heather Lake and fully covered in snow from Heather Lake to Emerald Lake. Micro-spikes are needed, especially during the early morning hours after the overnight freeze. I attempted to hike to Pearl Lake but was unable to cross the creek of rushing water from Emerald Lake down to Aster Lake. The creek was deep, about 5 to 6 feet wide with snow on both banks. May be later this summer when I can come back and hike to Pearl Lake. The Watchtower Trail is closed, until further notice, due to snow and ice. On the way back to Wolverton and spoke to the ranger who went up on horseback and mules to retrieve equipments left up there after the SAR of the San Diegan hiker who lost his life on May 13th while hiking the Watchtower Trail. Be safe out there.

3 months ago

Gorgeous lakes. The hike has it's best views from the watchtower trail. one way to consider accessing Pear Lake is the climb Alta Peak first and then scrambling down the back side down to Pear Lake. It is fun and allows you to see a wide variety of things.

hiking
3 months ago

Still quite a bit of snow around the first lake. Didn't attempt to go any further, and wouldn't recommend it for a while still. Easy enough to find the trail using the signs on the trees, but would have been lost otherwise. Couldn't see much given that the clouds formed a mist around the higher parts of the trail and down into the valley. Maybe better to do this one on a clear summer day?

backpacking
6 months ago

Heard this was the trail to do in Sequoia National Park so I went ahead and tried it! Solo, overnight. Relied heavily upon Alltrails app to guide me through. I couldn't make it to Pear lake due to the snow being extra thicc ;) so decided to spend the night at Emerald Lake which was amazing. I Went on a friday and literally saw 5 people the entire time. Even had emerald lakes campground all to myself! Pick up a self-register permit at the Giant Forest Museum! Lodgepole visitor center was closed when I was here, save yourselves some time :)

The Lakes were all frozen during the time I went, Please be careful if you decide to walk on them. Use your best judgement!

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