High Sierra Trail to Hamilton Lakes

hardYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow Star(39)
Sequoia National Park

High Sierra Trail to Hamilton Lakes is a 28.6 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.

Distance: 28.6 miles Elevation Gain: 6,952 feet Route Type: Out & Back

backpacking

camping

hiking

bird watching

forest

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

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.

hiking
6 months ago

Did this as a day hike. Once you pass Bear paw meadow the views really open up. Staring up at the face of Valhalla was something special. Little water remains in the creeks.

hiking
6 months ago

Wow, spectacular hike! The sun can get strong against the white granite walls, but the reward of some shade under the canopy of the trees is beautiful. From Crescent Meadow, there is a campground around 8-9 mile marker, and from there about an 8 mile round-trip up to the creek waterfall/overlook, where you can decide to summit up to Hamilton Lakes or not. Breathtaking and really a taste of what the Sequioa's have to offer, would love to return again!

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

backpacking
9 months ago

The reviews were all correct about this hike. Views were indescribable. You really have to experience it to understand just how awesome it is. Completed this hike in 2.5 days, but could easily be done in 2 full days comfortably. Loved this hike. Would do again for the views.

hiking
9 months ago

One of the most beautiful hikes I've ever done. We did this hike as a nice, leisurely 4-day out and back. We also did an afternoon hike up to Upper Precipice Lake, an absolutely stunning hike with views and one of the most beautiful alpine lakes I've ever seen. There is a lot of up-and-down hiking but plenty of places to stop and cool off in a beautiful mountain creek. We were going to camp one night at Bear Paw HS Camp but decided to keep going to Buck Creek because there was no place to "cool off" at Bear Paw. Hamilton Lake is beautiful and wildlife abundant. We stood in the shallows of the lake and had 12" rainbow trout swimming around our feet. We also had deer wander into the camp and acted like they were there to visit with us. I'm looking to return again next year and I rarely will do a hike more than once.

hiking
10 months ago

I solo hiked this years ago, and would do so again. It's just beautiful. There was a bit of a crowd at Hamilton, but if you hike beyond Hamilton through the Kaweah Gap and loop around back to Bear Paw (about 50 miles total), you'll be treated to some the best the Sierra has to offer--and you'll have plenty of solitude along the way. Hamilton by itself is definitely worth the trip, but I would highly recommend at least a day hike from Hamilton to the Kaweah Gap. The views are breathtaking.

hiking
Tue Feb 12 2019

I did this hike in early July 2017, it is by far one of the most beautiful hikes I've been on. The rock faces, wildlife and trees made this a hike to remember. I made a 3 day trip from Sequoia and Crecent Meadows up to Hamilton lakes and Elizabeth pass and back. It was an easy day hike to reach Hamilton lakes where snow was still present in July. A clearly marked trail but the rocks made my decision to wear trail runners questionable. Hiking boots would be my recommendation for the last half of this trail. I spent the night at Hamilton lakes, plenty of wildlife up there, I hung out with a young buck for the evening. I guess I pitched my tent near his hangout. Day 2 I hiked Elizabeth pass was still covered in snow and I'm glad I have crampons to get up there. I made my way back to Bear Creek for the 2nd night of camping and finished early afternoon back at Crescent Meadows. 200% hike this trail.

hiking
Thu Jun 07 2018

I did a little more than this, reaching precipice lake and the pass after. As of late May, it was still fully covered with snow to go this far, but no snow if you only reach Hamilton lake. Also, I did this back and forth in a day hike, about 36 miles. Very doable since up to Hamilton lake (and even later - up to where there was snow) the trail is extremely well marked and easy to follow, you can do 3 miles/hour easily

hiking
Tue May 22 2018

This trail is amazing. We had a few first-time backpackers with us and it wasn't too bad. It was a particularly wet rainy season, so the river crossings were very dangerous. We had to cross an ice bridge as well. I would not have done this trail any earlier in the season than I did because the conditions were barely passable. Luckily, we are all young and agile, so we were able to climb the giant blocks of ice, but it wasn't easy. We had a late start at about 6 pm and we made it to 9-mile camp just as it was getting dark We woke up, and the views were amazing. Great camp with bear bins. If you have more time, try to make it to Bearpaw camp. It was amazing. It was a great lunch stop between 9-mile and Hamilton Lake. However, once we made it to Hamilton Lake, it was all worth it. We were surrounded 360 degrees by snowcapped mountains. It was amazing. On our way back, just one day later, the trail was much easier to pass. It was mindblowing how quickly the trail conditions changed. I greatly enjoyed it. Plenty of water along the entire trail. I would definitely do this trip again.

backpacking
Wed Jul 26 2017

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/

Sun Jun 25 2017

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 :)

backpacking
Sun Jun 11 2017

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.

backpacking
Wed Sep 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.

backpacking
Fri Jul 29 2016

One of the best backpacking trails on the planet.

hiking
Sun Oct 18 2015

We actually hiked the High Sierra Trail from Crescent Meadows to Bearpaw camp. The trail was 11.5 miles one-way with the last 1.5 miles uphill. Once we arrived at Bearpaw Meadow where we had a reservation for a tent cabin, we were greeted with food food, good company, a hot shower and real beds. We could not get a reservation for a 2nd night so we hiked back the very next day. Met a bear on the trail and had a stare down until we threw rocks toward him (not at him). Making lots of noise and making ourselves big, did not move him. Once he ran, so did we down the trail. I would recommend a 2 night stay in the high altitude before starting this hike. We only stayed 1 night prior but the altitude did get to me. I highly recommend Bearpaw Meadow! The view from the camp was the great western divide! It was stunning!

Tue Aug 18 2015

Great scenery

hiking
Sat Sep 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

backpacking
7 months ago

backpacking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

hiking
8 months ago

backpacking
8 months ago

hiking
9 months ago

Showing results 1 - 30 of 39