High Sierra Trail to Hamilton Lakes

HARD 12 reviews
#19 of 84 trails in

High Sierra Trail to Hamilton Lakes is a 28.8 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Three Rivers, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, birding, and backpacking and is best used from May until November.

28.8 miles
6938 feet
Out & Back










wild flowers



no dogs

A long hike to Hamilton Lakes on the High Sierra Trail. Prepare for scenic views from start to finish. The first 11 miles are relatively easy as elevation gain is slow. You descend downhill from 1.5 miles and climb up to the lake the last 1.5 miles. The trip to Hamilton Lakes is part of the High Sierra Trail. You will get a taste of the "high sierra" on your way to a beautiful pristine lake. The full trail is the 3rd most popularly hiked trail and for good reason. A pit toilet is located at Hamilton Lake to keep human wasted concentrated to one area. Camping is available too just below the lake. Prepare for a gorgeous hike with breath taking views.

5 months ago

There Hamilton Lakes Basin along the High Sierra Trail is super beautiful! I did a section of this trail as part of a 40 mile backpacking loop. Here is the trip report: https://backpackersreview.wordpress.com/trip-reports/sequoia-mineral-king/

6 months ago

June 25th - June 27th 2017

Amazing trail. Never been on anything like it. The trail is straightforward and clear the whole way to Hamilton Lakes. Tree cover is on and off. There is no snow up to Hamilton lakes. You can try go further but there is a lot of snow starting 0.5 mile before precipice lakes. Probably having an ice axe is a good idea. The Kaweah Gap will take a good 5 hours from Hamilton lakes.

A couple of things are very important to do on this trail.

1. Shoes to cross the creeks. The creek crossings are pretty dangerous and super cold - there are 5 main crossings on this trail. First one is Mehrten creek. Probably the hardest of them all. There are two options to cross this creek a) go straight across (very exposed) b) go upstream 50 feet and cross a log. I choose the log because I thought it was safer. Second one is 8 mile creek (there are logs to cross). Third is 9 mile creek - use the log available and perhaps a stick / hiking poles. Fourth is bucks creek - bridge. Fifth is hamilton falls - there is a massive log upstream, get on it and walk to the end and then jump onto the trail. Also, if you leave early the creeks are significantly calmer. I brought trail runners and just took off my socks and soles before going into the water. They dried in less than an hour.

2. Don't bring too much water. I brought 1L and filled up along the way. There is so much water due to the big rain season. Plus it is ice cold!

3. Don't bring too much food. Most people I met along the way including myself packed in heaps of food. In reality, dense food like oats and nuts goes a long way.

4. Enjoy the trail! The wildflowers, butterflies and spectacular views :)

7 months ago

This hike is full of breath taking views the entire way through. After a very wet year for California in late May the trail was still partially covered in snow on and off starting at about 10 miles in. I would have gone to precipice lake if I had brought crampons with me but the trail became unwalkable right at Hamilton Lake. At this time of year there were a few rivers that were tough to get across but are doable if you are in good physical condition (be okay with getting wet and jumping). There were 2 bears on this trail on the way up so make sure you take the necessary precautions. Overall it was definitely worth the hike. I have never seen a more beautiful part of the world and will be absolutely be coming back when I can.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

There is not a moment where the views aren't amazing on this trail. Couple of things to note - the distance is actually 15.3 miles each way, at least according to the signs on the trail. The turnoff road to go to the Crescent Meadow parking lot had a ‘road closed to traffic’ sign, but the park staff let you drive through when you show them your Wilderness Permit (this way you don’t have to take the shuttle to the trail). The first mile or two was pretty bad in terms of bugs (gnats / mosquitoes?), but got much better later on. A head net came in very handy.
The trail after Bearpaw Meadow descends about 1.5 miles and then has a 2.4 mile climb up to Hamilton Lakes. This part is exposed a good amount, and if you have a fear of heights (like I do), things stay pretty spicy.
I have to say, the pit toilet at Hamilton Lakes has the best views in the world a toilet can offer. You’ll see. The creeks along the way still had a decent amount of water, so finding a source of water was not much of a problem. Overall, the trip took 7 hrs 10 mins going to the lakes, and about 7 hrs 30 coming back. Highly recommend this trail.

Friday, July 29, 2016

One of the best backpacking trails on the planet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Great scenery

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Great trail. Right off the ledge. Cool bridge you pass after high Sierra camp. Valhalla is amazing. Def worth staying out at Hamilton overnight if you can. The stars are insane. Would recommend precipice lake for a quick day hike too! Enjoy

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