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Kennedy Lake Trail is a 15.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Pinecrest, 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. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 15.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1,991 feet Route Type: Out & Back

dog friendly

backpacking

fishing

hiking

horseback riding

nature trips

lake

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

muddy

snow

no shade

recorded Kennedy Lake Trail

hiking
4 days ago

Absolutely breathtaking! Right before the lake, the trail disappeared for a bit so you’ll have to use your best judgement! It is also muddy during this part, so wear waterproof shoes! Other than that, highly recommended!!

backpacking
12 days ago

Went backpacking for 4 days with 13 friends here. Camped on the backside of the lake in a nice grassy flatland. A creek runs through into the lake perfect for water and fishing while a long waterfall runs down the cliff behind leaving you with constant relaxing white noise. Went on a day hike up to the granite dome. the view was spectacular as you cross a lush creek filled with wildflowers. There was a nice snow patch above to cool off in atop the dome and some adventuring led to some ominous bear dens. Would be possible to camp atop with a small group. Overall it was an amazing experience as we got a crazy lighting and thunder storm on the first night and the next day was beautiful, sunny and calm. It’s a little bit swampy past the cabin in the meadow but take the high line and you’ll save yourself and your shoes some trouble.

backpacking
18 days ago

We did this hike as an overnight on June 21. Good views and nice camping by Kennedy Lake. We got lucky with a nice breeze all day to keep the bugs away. Wish I had brought a fishing rod as there were tons of fish in the lake. As others have said, crossing the meadow just before you get to Kenndy Lake sucked. The trail disappears quickly and you're stuck with a choose your own adventure mucking through a boggy mess. Be sure to save your appetite for some food at Kennedy Meadows Resort when you finish!

hiking
rocky
8 months ago

backpacking
10 months ago

Great trail for a 2 day moderate backpacking trip. The first 3 miles or so are steep and then it gets flat. Stay to the left after the hut near the lake to avoid the muddy area

hiking
muddy
10 months ago

We hiked this trail as part of a day hike. We left relief reservoir around 11am and got back around 7pm (we took it slow). We hiked in from Kennedy meadows, set up camp at Relief Reservoir, and the next day, we hiked to Kennedy Lake. Amazing and different scenery the whole way. The trail is dusty and has horse poop, um, everywhere, but it was still beautiful. The meadows near the last half of the trail were insanely beautiful, with amazing 360 views. It was a bit marshy, and so I would recommend trying to stick to the upper trail (a bit hard to find until you get really muddy and think, maybe this isn't the trail). The bugs weren't so bad, which was a surprise after reading a ton of reviews saying they would be killer in this area. It was too windy to swim at the lake, but a gorgeous lunch spot. An absolutely beautiful area and a perfect balance of strenuous and rewarding.

hiking
muddy
10 months ago

We hiked this trail as part of a day hike. We left relief reservoir around 11am and got back around 7pm (we took it slow). We hiked in from Kennedy meadows, set up camp at Relief Reservoir, and the next day, we hiked to Kennedy Lake. Amazing and different scenery the whole way. The trail is dusty and has horse poop, um, everywhere, but it was still beautiful. The meadows near the last half of the trail were insanely beautiful, with amazing 360 views. It was a bit marshy, and so I would recommend trying to stick to the upper trail (a bit hard to find until you get really muddy and think, maybe this isn't the trail). The bugs weren't so bad, which was a surprise after reading a ton of reviews saying they would be killer in this area. It was too windy to swim at the lake, but a gorgeous lunch spot. An absolutely beautiful area and a perfect balance of strenuous and rewarding.

hiking
bugs
muddy
11 months ago

The scenery is majestic and worth every step. I finished this hike as an overnight starting at 9am on Aug 3 and finishing at 11:30am on Aug 4th. While this hike is a moderate challenge and a spectacular experience, there are some things to know that’ll make it a little easier. The parking lot near the sign marked “trailhead” is actually about 1.5 miles from the actual trailhead. If you park there, you’ll have to walk down the paved/dirt road until you’re actually on a trail. All the elevation is in the first 3 miles and the trail is exposed and sandy (lots of horse manure too). You’ll come to the only sign on the trail that will point you either to Relief Reservoir or Kennedy Lake. The meadow leading up to Kennedy Lake is extremely muddy and it’s easy to lose the trail. Try to stay NE of the river to avoid the worst of the mud/marsh. The only camping that’s not complete wetland is at the back of Kennedy Lake. It’s beautiful, but mosquitoes get bad near dusk. Lastly, it got COLD overnight. ~35 degrees I’d guess due to the frost on our packs and the icicles that formed on some of the condensation. That sounds like a lot of complaints, but in reality it all added to a great adventure. Saw two rattle snakes, hundreds of butterflies, two garter snakes, cows, deer, and a bunch of lizards. Awesome hike!

backpacking
bugs
muddy
no shade
over grown
11 months ago

Very strenuous but all worth the views!!! If possible, try to do a 2 night trip. Me and a friend hiked to Relief Reservoir first and camped the first night. Next day we went to Kennedy Lake. Many people we came across wished they had done a 2 night trip instead of 1 to ease it a bit. Steady and steep hike 1/3 of the way towards Kennedy lake. Plenty of campsites all around Relief Reservoir. Plenty at Kennedy Lake if you cross the creek and find a site nestled among the pine trees on the right. Mosquitos were brutal. Even bit through my clothes. The meadow before reaching Kennedy lake is muddy and overgrown so try to stay on the trail to the left to stay dry for the most part. Fishing is FANTASTIC at both lakes and along the creek at Kennedy lake . Beautiful views . I was able to catch the milky way at night as well.

hiking
muddy
11 months ago

hiking
muddy
11 months ago

hiking
11 months ago

Went backpacking for one night 7/16-7/17. Got a tip from another hiker to look up the hill and find some higher paths to avoid the wet marshy grass leading to the lake. It took us some effort to find a dry path, and we still got our feet damp in the process, but I think it was totally worth it to stay at the lake. It felt like we had the entire lake to ourselves. Just a few steps down from our campsite was a perfect fishing spot. Caught one with a spinner. We passed a LOT of cows on the trail which was a unique experience.

hiking
bugs
11 months ago

backpacking
11 months ago

Kennedy lake was a beautiful place: the grassy meadow juxtaposed against the barren peaks was stunning. That said, the trail was pretty crowded for a backcountry trail. My only complaint is that there are a million horses on the trail ants the horse camp folks get to stay past the resort by the trailhead while the backpackers camp 1.5 miles away. So backpackers and hikers have to walk to the trailhead, most of which is along a road (mostly dirt) through a very crowded camp. Granted, most of the folks at the camp were not camping at Kennedy lake. many went to relief reservoir or other places, so we felt relatively isolated while camping. Overall though, the trail followed a beautiful river with gorgeous waterfalls, then next to a rushing creek. Next you proceed through some shady trees and finally out into the muddy meadow (backpacked 7/13/19-7/14/19). I think we hiked it somewhat quickly. With the extra 1.5 miles from the car, it took us 4 hrs 21 minutes to get to the lake, and 3 hrs to get back. While I do wish it was more secluded, the trip was overall wonderful.

backpacking
no shade
11 months ago

Hit this trail from 7/15/19-7/17/19 and it was a challenging yet beautiful hike. We parked a bit before the kennedy meadows resort so as not to pay the $15/night for parking so that added another 1/2 mile. If you're not down to do the whole elevation hike to Kennedy, stopping at Relief reservoir for the first night is a good way to go. The hike up to Kennedy was pretty steep for 2-3 miles and then its a slow gradual climb, but the views once you hit the meadows is beautiful. As for Kennedy Lake IT IS NOT WORTH HIKING THROUGH THE MUDDY MARSH. Once you reach the log cabin I would look to cross the stream and stay at one of the impacted sites you'll be able to see while hiking. We decided to hike to the lake for the extra mile just to see and are socks and boots were soaked and it was no easy trek. Upon arriving to the lake there were no good tent spots as everything up to the water level was high grass and weeds. The lake wasn't anything spectacular, the views from the meadow are the breathtaking part which you have already experienced by the time you've reached the marsh. We ended up hiking back to cross the stream as I recommended earlier. Mosquitos are out and about but not terribly bad. Not too much shade on the trail but just bring sunblock.

hiking
muddy
11 months ago

backpacking
muddy
over grown
rocky
Tue Jun 25 2019

Incredible backpacking experience from 6/14-16. Tough but very worth it. You will get your feet wet if you try and make it to the lake. The meadows are very wet from all the snow melt. Little snow left on the trails now. When we went there was very few people with us. Plenty of horses and wranglers which was cool. Once you reach the meadows the trail disappears for a while from all the growth but just stay left of the river and keep heading straight until you reach the lake. Can’t miss it. Campsites are rocky and not very flat but doable. Located around all the larger trees by the lake.

backpacking
muddy
Mon Jun 24 2019

We went to Kennedy Lake today, 6/23/2019. People were everywhere considering this is a backcountry spot, but we were stoked to find a camping spot right next to the flowing stream. The stream was extremely cold. The meadow was muddy with snowmelt, but there was no snow on the trail. We had to cross the stream to find a campsite that was up to our standards. Weather was perfect during the day, but we saw cow pies. There was also frost on the ground in the morning. Lots of people were enjoying fishing on the stream. When you find the cabin you’ll definitely want to take the driest route possible. Note - we took the liberty of writing this review together by each contributing one word in order.

hiking
rocky
Mon Jun 24 2019

Beautiful trail. Rock formations, high streams, waterfalls, alpine forest. Dry trail for the most part. Strenuous. A lot of the vertical is on the front 1/3 of the trail plus very rocky then a gradual uphill.

backpacking
Sun Jun 23 2019

Completed this hike on 6/19. Parked at the trailhead for free which is about .5 mile up the road from Kennedy Meadows Resort. You can also park at the resort if you wish for $15 per night. The first 2 miles is a pretty good climb but the rest of the way only climbs another 500ft. Once you reach the meadow/valley the views are amazing. Approaching the cabin I could see campsites across the river but due to the high water level, crossing the river wasn’t possible. The meadow was very soggy and my socks and shoes were wet by the time I reached the lake. There were only a few tents already set up on the north side of the lake but there are not that many flat sites to choose from. I left Kennedy Meadows at 1400 and arrived at my campsite around 1900. Saw quite a few deer while at camp and heard them at night while I was in my tent. The next morning I headed back and the return trip is much easier due to the downhill grade. The bugs were not bad.

backpacking
muddy
Sat Jun 22 2019

Completed 06/23, 1 night. Trail was free of now, but extremely busy. Picked up permit at Ranger station, no quota. Overnight parking was $15, quite expensive. There weren't many clear flat spots to camp at the lake (unless you are willing to pitch tent on the meadow). I back-tracked 2 miles away from the lake and camped along the creek.

backpacking
muddy
Fri Jun 14 2019

Sat Jan 12 2019

Completed my hike of this trail in July 2018. This was my first overnight hike and the reviews are right - the distance isn’t what you think it is. You have to park in the overflow camping parking lot which is like a mile away from the general store. There’s a gate you walk through that is to the back and far right from the store. From the gate, the trail head is about another mile or so... so the trail is significantly longer than you’d expect. The first couple miles are uphill and it’s fairly steep. Quite exhausting for a novice biker but very doable at your own pace. You share the trail with mule and horse teams. If you go in summer, bring sunscreen and reapply liberally. Also bring electrolyte tabs because you’ll sweat a lot. The views are unbelievable... worth every bit of your sweat if you hike to the lake. Keep in mind, however, that once you get to the little pg&e cabin, the trail becomes INCREDIBLY muddy and kind of disappears. We sank our boots because it was so boggy and ended up having to dry them out. Had to hike up the side of the mountain and use game trails to get back on the regular trail without sinking our boots again. If you do this, wear pants, not shorts. Lots of pokey nettle bushes. There was nobody at the lake when we camped there and it was so nice. Waterfall sounds everywhere. Swam in the lake, too. Totally worth it.

hiking
Sun Jul 01 2018

This hike is gorgeous, but the reviews and distance on here are a tad misleading. We started at the trailhead parking lot which is 1/4 mile from the general store. From the general store it is around 1.5 miles to the actual trailhead past the campground. From the trailhead it is around 7.5 miles to Kennedy Lake. Round trip to the lake from the trailhead parking lot was a little over 18 miles. As far as terrain, around mile 2 there is some steep hiking (not too bad) but after that it levels out. It is mostly sand you’re walking on past that point due to the horses breaking down the trail. The last few miles are through meadows so there is some wetland you’re walking through. As you approach the old log cabin the trail forks; I recommend going left if you’re going to the lake and not the camp area. The trail is a little dryer and easier to follow to the lake. If you’re setting up camp then go right and you’ll see all the tents (you must cross the creek to get to camp, but you do not have to if you’re going to the lake). Also, there isn’t much shade next to the lake unless you walk around the the far side. All in all a gorgeous hike, but it’s quite a long hike for just a day. Recommend bringing a filter for the water, it’s nice and cold and refreshing! Would be a beautiful place to camp and spend the weekend, can’t beat the views!

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