Heather Lake via Watchtower Trail

MODERATE 81 reviews
#15 of 83 trails in

Heather Lake via Watchtower Trail is a 8.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Three Rivers, California that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October. Horses are also able to use this trail.

DISTANCE
8.1 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,112 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

backpacking

birding

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

snowshoeing

trail running

walking

forest

lake

views

wild flowers

wildlife

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-via-hump-trail-winter-route)

hiking
8 days ago

Great hike to a beautiful lake. Would recommend starting early enough in the day to continue on to Pear Lake. Heather Lake is a great spot to relax and take a swim in refreshing water. About 4.1 miles via the Watch Tower. Would recommend this route as its much more scenic both coming and going than the Hump Trail. Took bug spray but didn't need it at all on the trail or near the lake.

hiking
12 days ago

We went out by way of Watchtower and back over The Hump. Watchtower view is just extraordinary, even for Sequoia. The Hump route is a bit of a slog. Great hike if you’ve had time to acclimate to the altitude. Otherwise it will seem longer and steeper than it is. It was wonderfully cool on a July day when lower elevations were baking.

backpacking
26 days ago

I took my 8 year old son and 64 year old father on this hike. It was a first time backpacking for both of them. They both made it and enjoyed it; though, this hike was a little harder than I expected it to be. My son carried his own pack with his sleeping bag and clothes. But he struggled a little. It was very steep going in towards the lake. Still, Heather and Emerald lakes are beautiful and we had a great time. On the hike out, my dad was already making plans for his next backpacking trip, and after In ‘N Out, my son was excited to hit the trail again, too. We all got eaten by mosquitoes pretty good on this trip, so if you have some kind of netting, I’d recommend getting taking it.

Getting the permit for overnight was easier than expected. We showed up at 6:55, doors opened at 7 and we were second in line and able to get a spot without any trouble.

hiking
1 month ago

Went here on June 23. I thought the weather was beautiful but the Northerners with me were a little too warm. Well-marked; you don't need a map to do this one. This is a trail I wouldn't hesitate to take with fit friends but depending I think the altitude and distance might be tough for some.

It's worth it though, the view is lovely at the top and on the way up. Bug spray is essential. Consumed 2L of water round trip, could have used more.

hiking
1 month ago

I did this hike on Monday 6 18, 2018. weather is nice in the mid-70s sunshine. there was a few people up there I saw Maybe 4 hikers on my loop around hump and back down Watchtower. saw only two people at Heather Lake. mosquitoes at Heather Lake will not bad though they were hungry. it seems that the trout in the lake we're hungrier they were swimming around ravenously hopping up and grabbing the bugs off the surface.

hiking
6 months ago

the uphill climb was brutal in the snow, but definitely worth every drop of sweat. the snow and view was so breath taking! and the way down is a breeze. wear shoes with a good grip, the ice was very slippery and the snow was up almost to my knees.

hiking
7 months ago

This was an amazing hike! My goal was to backpack overnight at Pear Lake, but I went last Wednesday when Sequoia got a ton of snow. I was caught in the snow throughout the hike but made it to Heather Lake. It was completely frozen over, and it was snowing so badly I couldn’t even tell where the lake was until I was almost on top of it. I don’t recommend going when it’s snowing! I was the only person out there with the exception of one group of about 3 people. If you do go in the winter, definitely have microspikes. I left mine in the car to save weight in my heavy pack, and the trail was completely clear of snow when I started. Biggest mistake! I ate it really bad many times on the thick sheet of ice that was blanketed by the fresh snow. Still a beautiful hike that I can’t wait to complete (to Pear Lake) in the spring.

hiking
8 months ago

Awesome View of Mable Fork Canyon!! I was unable to get through to Heather Lake due to snow. Please notice, this trail is also called the Watchtower trail. There is a sign along the trail notifying hikers when the Watchtower trail is closed. It suggests that you take what is called The Hump Trail to get to Heather Lake. Can’t wait to try again in better weather

hiking
8 months ago

Great day hike. The trail via WatchTower has great views and places to sit and absorb the scenery from.
The lake is beautiful and worth the steep climb...

hiking
8 months ago

Nice hike mostly in the woods gets more demanding towards the second half of the trail. Leads to a nice small lake.

hiking
8 months ago

Did this hike back in July, it's really beautiful but a steep climb

hiking
8 months ago

Amazing hike!! Lots of snow sticking around and the watchtower is technically closed but it was in the 70s and not icy, I wouldn’t do it again this year though. Worth it!!! This map is to Emerald lake which is just another mile up the trail.

backpacking
9 months ago

Be prepared to hike long trails and inclines. Crossing streams and snow the higher elevation at 4,000/over. Follow the trail to get to the Watchtower viewpoint....what an amazing site. Heather Lake over 9, 345ft+ elevation. You get snow, over overcast, cold/high winds depending on the weather condition(s): check with the rangers before.

We went in June 2017 for 3 days and 2 nights, the lake was partially frozen, soft and hard snow, and what I called slushy snow, and it was still cold. We hiked over 20mi+ round trip. Not for kids. Need really good hiking shoes, gears: hiking poles, clamps for shoes, water filter, etc. Must be prepared for camping/backpacking/hiking trip if you're planning on staying overnight, it gets colder the higher you go, over 8,000+ elevation and the ground is still frozen. Need bear canister.

Need to check in with the rangers station and get an overnight permit in person before 4 pm. Other than that, it was an amazing trip. Try it out! God Bless.

10 months ago

Thoroughly enjoyed Heather Lake Trail. A cool day on the 23rd of September 2017, about thirty-five degrees at higher altitudes. Spoke to some campers who stayed up there in 20 degree weather last night. Saw a bear!

hiking
10 months ago

Great incline and views. Light showers on the way down. If you are looking for distance and a challenge this is a good choice.

10 months ago

Good amount of climb without being unbearable, and unbelievable views!

hiking
11 months ago

This hike was on my agenda of hikes, a friend tag along, it was her first time hiking, well least to say, SHE HOOK. It was a nice day hike, light showers in the morning, not too many bugs, the water was comfortable to swim. Climbing the watchtower was a little challenging for myself, do not climb the watchtower without proper footwear. Being my friend first hike she felt it was strenuous and as for me, it a clean clear
trail, not many rock steps, an easy to moderate hike.

11 months ago

Incredible!!!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Awesome view and floral meadows. Even saw a bear on the trail!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Amazing trail. Awesome views.

hiking
Monday, July 10, 2017

This was a tough hike, but worth it for me. There are great views, nice waterfalls to cross, and a somewhat secluded lake to nap at before heading back. There was some snow up around the lake, but nothing to impede our trip.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

beautiful trail with gorgeous views.

hiking
Monday, June 26, 2017

Tried to get to heather lake via hump trail but got hung up in snow on fairly steep grade very near the end. Terrain and altitude got to this tenderfoot. One to try in a few weeks maybe ! We started early in the day so the way up was more shady, less exposed, a good thing.

backpacking
Sunday, June 25, 2017

A couple of friends and I chose this trail, initially planning to camp at Heather Lake as it is categorized as a moderate trail. When we went for a permit at Lodgepole, we were informed that Heather Lake is day-use only (seasonal?). We decided to make Emerald Lake our camp and departed the trail head just after noon. The Watchtower trail was closed, pretty sure due to snow (although we did cross paths with a number of people who had used that trail). We elected to continue on the appropriately named Hump trail. About half way up, we encountered snow that obstructed the trail, making it even more of a hump than it normally is. Being out of shape and relatively inexperienced, this trail was very difficult. But the panoramic views that can be seen on either side of Heather Lake were incredible. There was a lot of snow pack still on the ground from Heather Lake on, especially on the North faces. When we came to cross Heather Lake, there was too much steep slush as well as a waterfall on the South side of the lake to cross on that side, there was still a snow bridge over the creek on the North side and we crossed there. We could not locate Emerald Lake before night fall. We were concerned about how long the snow bridge would be viable and decided to turn back at first light the next morning.

I'm planning to go back later in the season, once the snow has melted.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tough trail, particularly when the last half was covered in snow over Memorial Day. We got lost both ways. Didn't have this app! Lake was just melting and was a gorgeous ice blue. Had to do hump route since Watchtower isn't open until much later in the season.

snowshoeing
Monday, March 13, 2017

Did this trail in early March. There was plenty of snow, so bring your snowshoes or skis. Trail is pretty easy to follow, but be warned that the grade and elevation can really get to you on this one. Plan several hours for your trip. Much of the views along the way are slightly obscured by trees, so if you are able really try to get to the pass at "the Hump" for spectacular sweeping views.

hiking
Friday, September 23, 2016

September 2016 // Highly recommend a day hike to Heather Lake. A stunning hike to a spectacular alpine lake! Not a truly difficult hike, but you should be in decent shape. Start early so you have time to take photos along the way and spend time at the lake. Trekking poles helped. Bring plenty of water, snacks for the hike, and pack lunch to enjoy at the lake.

For epic views of a giant granite precipice (the Watchtower) and mountain ranges in the horizon, take the Watchtower trail instead of the Hump trail where the Lakes trail splits.

Amazing breathtaking views along the hike and at the lake. Loved it!

hiking
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Last year on Memorial Day 2015 I tried hiking this trail but the Watch Tower was closed due to snow and ice, so I hiked to Pear Lake via the Hump instead, that was also a great all day hike. This year on Labor Day 2016 my wife and I went back and complete the Watch Tower to Heather Lake. Great views, but if you have the stomach for it I would suggest to get scramble up the tower and out towards the edge, views are so much better.

hiking
Sunday, July 31, 2016

Great hike. Took the Watchtower trail on the way out and the Hump trail coming back. This is a pretty much upward climb all the way. Hump trail started to go up and then started a decent all the way out. Saw a bear and cub at the watchtower/hump trail junction coming back.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

found this on accident today. my husband wanted to be kind, so decided to hike in our back yard. didnt realize how many peoplw would be visiting our back yard. i run, had no problem at all with elevation. i think this would be a great running trail. my husband doesnt run, but did fairly well. we enjoyed a burger and ice cream at Lodgepole before heading back.

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