Rae Lakes Trail is a 39.1 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Cedar Grove, California that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and backpacking and is best used from June until October.

Length39.1 miElevation gain7,670 ftRoute typeLoop
BackpackingCampingHikingForestLakeRiverViewsWaterfallWildflowersWildlifeRockyScrambleNo dogs
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Kings Canyon National Park charges a fee to enter. Fees are $35 per vehicle or $30 per motorcycle. If you are entering on foot or bike the fee is $20 per person. You can also purchase a park specific annual pass for $70. The Rae Lakes Loop is one of the most popular backpacking trips in the Sierra, and for good reason. The trip has something for everyone: lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountain passes, and wildlife. Although challenging, the loop is generally approachable for most backpackers, with campsites and water access the whole way. Most backpackers do this hike over the course of 3-4 days. The route starts at the Roads End Trailhead, after a scenic drive through Kings Canyon. Bear canisters are required. You’ll also need a wilderness permit, which can be found here: https://www.recreation.gov/permits/445857 Although most hikers choose a clockwise approach, this loop can be done in either direction. Clockwise spreads out the elevation gain over a longer distance, which might make it easier for you. If you’re attempting this loop in early summer, there are two things you should be aware of. High water at stream crossings can be a problem. Also, Glen Pass might not be passable until the snow has cleared. The snow may take until mid-June to be passable, depending on the year. Call and ask rangers if you think these might be an issue for you. Assuming you’re hiking clockwise, you’ll start northboard on the Paradise Valley Trail. This trail offers striking granite canyon views, as it snakes along the South Fork of the Kings River. You’ll also find Mist Falls here. You’ll eventually turn right onto the Woods Creek Trail. This trail also offers beautiful views, as you hike eastward flanked on either side by tall granite walls. This trail passes through Castle Domes Meadow as well. You’ll then come to the junction with the John Muir Trail/Pacific Crest Trail. Turn right and continue southward. This section is where you’ll start to see lakes. You’ll first come across Dollar Lake, then Arrowhead Lake, and eventually the loop’s namesake, Rae Lakes. The views here are striking, with ample camping along the lakes shorelines. After the lakes, the next challenge is Glen Pass. Although at this point you’ve slowly been gaining elevation, the switchbacks leading up to the pass can be incredibly challenging. The views from the top are striking, and then from there it’s all downhill. Continuing southward you’ll reach Vidette Meadow, and then take a right onto the Bubbs Creek Trail, which will take you back to the trailhead.

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Eduardo Madrigal
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarMay 9, 2021
BackpackingBridge outIcy

I completed Rae Lakes loop in two days, May 7-8, 2021. It was a great hike but would recommend it be completed later in the year. Started on the 7th around 0930. I saw a good amount of people on the first few miles. The bridge at upper paradise valley, around the 8th mile, is gone so I had to cross over the river on logs a little down stream. The river current was heavy so it wasn’t the smartest thing to do but I was committed. I made camp at the lake right before lower Rae lake at 1930. The lakes were all still iced over. Started the second day around 0700. The trail after upper Rae lakes was mostly covered in snow. The hardest part was the last stretch before reaching the summit. The switch backs before Glenn pass were completely covered in snow, it was a vertical ascent trying to follow some footprints a PCT hiker left on his way down that I ran into. Once you get over Glenn pass it’s almost all downhill and easy going. Made it back to the trailhead by 1700. Ran into a couple rattle snakes but luckily no bears.

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Varun Vk
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 31, 2020
Hiking
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Mason Jafari
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 22, 2020
HikingGreat!Rocky

I hiked the Rae Lakes Loop in 2 days, 10/23 – 10/24. I arrived at Azalea Campground after a 6 hour drive from San Diego Day I: - I began hiking at 6:00 am from Roads End Permit Station. Crossed paths with a young bear on Cedar Grove Sand Flats. I first noticed him. He turned his head and stirred at me with his glowing eyes. I’d experienced such encounters before in the Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah, and Big Bend NPS. This one was different. It was like, for the bear, so what?! He moved on after a few seconds without me making any noise or anything! - I was at Upper Paradise Valley by noon. After struggling for 5 minutes or so to find the Woods Creek Trail, I finally found the place where the washout bridge ends and crossed the river like a ranger ;- ) I arrived at the PCT – John Muir Trail / Woods Creek Crossing at mile 15.7 by 4:15 pm. I pushed through on the PCT for another three and a half hours until I arrived in Dollar Lake at mile 19.7. - I left Dollar Lake after dinner for Arrowhead Lake. When I arrived at 8:50 pm, I set up my bivy. Day II: - I left Arrowhead Lake at 7:00 am. At Lower Rae Lake, I stopped briefly to fill my water reservoir and start the purification process with tablets. Met a team of 6 hikers of diverse age categories. I tagged along with them on the ascending Glen Pass at an elevation of 11,926 feet. We arrived there at 10:30 am. - By 11:30 am I was on my way to Charlotte Lake. My right knee T-band started to hurt so bad that I had to wear a knee sleeve. I’d brought one for just such a time as this. On a side note, I used to have very weak knees. I could hardly run a 1 K. Then I started running and cycling. I set my PR for cycling on September 5 this year in 105 F weather; I rode from Rancho Bernardo, San Diego to San Clemente Pier, Orange Country and back, for a total of 110 miles. Anyway, the knee sleeve really helped me to finish the hike. 2 days later, the pain from the hike was gone. - I arrived at Junction Meadow at 3:40 pm with 10 more miles ahead of me. The clock was ticking. I was so stressed out that I cut my left thumb two times in like 5 minutes with my Leatherman Skeletool CX Multi-Tool knife while trying to chop an APPLE. Eventually I pulled myself together and resumed hiking. Halfway between Junction Meadow and Charlotte Creek, I realized my trench coat had fallen. I considered it lost forever at that point; if I returned to find it, I would need to hike two more miles, something that I couldn’t afford to do. About a mile after Charlotte Creek, I met a couple who were heading to Sphinx Junction. There, they would reunite with team members who had set up camp there for the night. Miraculously, they’d retrieved my coat and were carrying it, hoping to find the owner. My yellow copy of the wilderness permit was in the front bag of the coat with my phone number and all. You can find beautiful people everywhere!! - I arrived in Sphinx Junction and stopped to replenish my energy and hydrate to attack the last 4.1 miles of the trail. As I was taking out a banana and a granola bar, two fellow hikers approached me. They offered to let me to join their team if I wanted to spend the night there rather than set up my tent alone. I informed them of my plan. Hearing this, they were kind enough to sit with me so I do not have to eat alone in the dark. They gave me some idea about what was waiting for me on the trail between Sphinx Junction and Paradise/Bubbs Jct. Again, there are some beautiful people out there, who made my solo hike even more memorable. - As I was warned, there were numerous switch-backs on that 2.1-mile section of the loop. I counted exactly 16 switch-backs and 5 bridges on the way to Paradise/Bubbs Jct. There might have been a sixth bridge, but it was washed out. As I was hiking down to the junction and going over the bridge #5, I noticed two other fellow hikers hiking to the Road’s End on the CCW. I tried to signal them, hoping we could finish the last 2 miles together. Unfortunately, they either didn’t see my signals, or simply ignored me!? When I got to the junction it was 10:20 pm. Fear was at a peak as I recalled my encounter with a bear exactly 40 hours ago on the same section of the trail. I took out my Midland Weather Alert Crank Radio that has a powerful light. I also use it as charge reservoir and a source of noise to warn those beautiful beasts out there that I won’t be an easy target! While I was not pleased to keep it on while hiking, as I was sure I was disturbing the wild life along the trail, the fear of being attacked by a bear or mountain lion convinced me to operate this man-made device in the wildlife for the next hour. - I finished my hike eventually, in one piece, at 11:20 pm on the second day. I left the parking lot at the Road’s End at 11:55 pm. After another encounter with a bear, this time an adult, on Route 180, I returned to the Azalea Campground at 1:10 am on Sunday 10/25. The thing I remember the most: seeing how stars pop out...

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Kyle Flippo
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 16, 2020
BackpackingGreat!

I had never hiked in the Sierra. The sun can be very intense in October and shade sparse. I'm sure this is partly seasonal.

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Alicia Lundgren
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 15, 2020
BackpackingGreat!

Beautiful trail. We completed it in 49 hrs and it went well. We went clockwise because we thought we wouldn’t be able to do as many miles the first day if we went the other way with more elevation. We completed 22 miles day 1 in order to stay at Rae Lakes, and it’s a relatively constant uphill. It wasn’t too bad overall, as the views change frequently. Day two we did 15 miles. We could’ve finished it but would’ve had to drive the 5 hrs home at night so we decided to stay at the last camping area and hike the last 4 miles the following morning before we headed out. Our watches clocked us at hiking 21 hrs including stops. We debated whether we’d go the opposite way next time, and I don’t think there’s a right answer. Nice to get the elevation done with sooner but also more strenuous for those 16 miles. We saw people occasionally but felt like we mostly had the trail to ourselves. Plenty of bear box space at our two stops. Highly recommend!

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Gabrielle Otis
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 8, 2020
Hiking

The hike was amazing! Hard for sure, but doable. AllTrails app pro absolutely is worthless. The mileage was wrong, the altitude was wrong, people with the link to track me, couldn’t, I can understand the messages using cell service, however they should have been able to see my progress via GPS..... a complete waste of money.

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Charles Collins
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 4, 2020
BackpackingBridge outBugsFeeGreat!MuddyNo shadeOver grownRockyScramble

— INTRO: Rae Lakes Loop is the most quintessential CA scenic vista trail, & additionally brings you close & personal to flora & fauna unique to the area. The length has a margin of error of about (+\-) .5 mile each 10 miles, as cellular service ends completely before Road’s End, in King’s Canyon Ntnl Park. Our backpacking trip was broken into 5 days & was completed October 4th 2020 thru October 8th 2020. We had 4 people & 2 water filters between us (Water is extremely abundant on this trail, only about 5 miles total are away from a quick 3 min walk to the river MAX). The water is very chilly & I opted no to bathing. — DAY 1 — Road’s End — Upper Paradise Valley — 10.25 miles completed — 10.25 miles total: The first 2.0 miles is an easy flat intro. Once the trail splits we headed uphill TOWARDS Mist Falls. (WARNING: attempting the loop counterclockwise, heading towards Sphinx Junction first, means a lot more uphill switchbacks for almost 20 miles!) This initial part of hike consists of belts of forests & clearings that had golden grass & interspersed conifers with amber & ruby colored aspen trees. It was a truly remarkable autumn sight! We even had the granite castle towers in the background cupping the valley vista to the east. We hiked a total of 10.25 miles to reach upper paradise camping area which was next to a washed out bridge. Bear boxes are limited at sites, so take sharing into consideration. — DAY 2 — Upper Paradise Valley — Woods Creek — 6.25 miles completed — 16.5 miles total: Our second day began at Upper Paradise Valley, here you would cross the river where the bridge used to stand, & follow the trail up a rolling hills, gently ascending elevation. The trail features a lot of wooded areas & then higher altitude meadow clearings with similar golden/ruby aspens & conifers; however as you ascend, more granite stairs & out-croppings become a pattern. Towards the John Muir Trail junction there’s a prominent meadow & clearing around 5 miles. After another mile or so, you’ll reach the marked trail junction where we camped past Woods Creek. The suspension bridge is a blast & loads of fun to cross! Also the campsite has one bear box to share. There are tons of logs & flat space to camp & spread your stuff out on. — DAY 3 — Woods Creek — Upper Rae Lakes — 7.5 miles completed — 24 miles total: Being a San Diego native, just witnessing the amount of natural abundant & flowing water was astonishing. The initial part of the hike leads you out of the sparse high elevation forest & into the narrows of the high valley. As you begin to emerge through granite clearings, the trees become sparse, thick trunked, gnarled & twisted. Deer become abundant & tributaries all join into reflective pools, marshes & lakes connected by golden reeds. You have to climb a few granite staircases to reach this above 10,000ft oasis but it is so worth it. A picturesque granite spire leads you to the lakes. Dollar Lake is the first around 4.25 miles into the hike & from this point on you basically snake your way along little granite walkways that weave their way through a complex reflective water carved out high mountain valley. We ended up camping at Upper Rae Lake where the bear boxes & views are plentiful. We found a spot that was along the lake & offered views of the Painted Lady & Glen’s Pass. — DAY 4 — Upper Rae Lakes — Sphinx Junction — 17.25 miles completed — 41.25 miles total: Beginning our ascent of Glen’s Pass, we attempted to beat the heat. Soon enough we realized the trail snaked in between the lakes & begin to rise abruptly above Rae lakes through sections of switchbacks & exposed granite shelfs. You head straight towards the Painted Lady Mtn & headed to her west. There are dozens of switchbacks with mini granite mesa reprieves. As you get closer towards 11,000 ft you begin to see a pocket of 7-8 hidden alpine lakes. I even witnessed a marmot on the trail!! Glen’s Pass can best be characterized by 3.5 miles of steep loose granite switchbacks. Stay motivated & the views really help distract from the trail’s blatant disregard for human knees & ankles! The trail can be difficult to follow at times but if you’re headed uphill always look to the left. You crest the mountain range & get SUPERB views of Mt Whitney, Rae Lakes, & craggy peaks. Once you get to the climax at this point you NO LONGER have ANY significant uphills from THIS POINT ONWARDS!! You begin to descend somewhere around 12,950ft & rapidly head down switchbacks inside the mountain caldera. There are scattered mini alpine lakes on the backside of the ‘’Painted Lady Mtn Range.’’ As you make quick work of the descent, Lake Charlotte comes into view below & you quickly switch back & follow the mountain line into a giant clearing to the east of Lake Charlotte. Instead of heading towards the lake, we continued to Vidette’s Meadow via the John Muir Trail (PCT.) Continuing the same kind of rolling hills & switchbacks thru thicker conifer canopies & thicker fern...

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shiming yang
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarOctober 3, 2020
Hiking

This is 43 miles on my watch. The map at the trailhead has different mileage from the road signs in the trail many times. lol. The first and last day are buggy.

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Kevin Volkov
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 2, 2020
HikingGreat!

Great hike! We had been planning this trip for a long time. There were 12 of us guys that went on the hike. Of course the park closed a few days before we were scheduled to leave. I was hopeful it would re-open. We prayed about it and God answered our prayers in an amazing way. The gate opened only hours before we left on our hike. "Thank you God!" Day 1 We left on Wed the 23rd of Sept. We didn't leave eary (the gate didn't open till 6:00am) and hit the trail about 11:00. We hiked about 10-11 miles to Upper Paridise Valley where we camped right along the river. That is where the bridge is out but water is low. A couple of the guys got stung by yellow jacket so be careful. Views were quite smokey as we hiked out of the canyon but air quality didn't bother us. Day 2 Day 2 was a hard day we all agreed. We hike from Upper Paridise (7000ft) up to Upper Rae Lake (10500ft). Weather was perfect and the smoke got less the higher we got. Lotsa water along the way. The views are incredible! The first lake is Dollar lake and than Arrowhead and finally the Rae Lakes. Surrounded by towering granite it truely a real masterpiece of our Creator God! Fishing was great although they aren't huge. It was cold at night. Below freezing as we had stuff frozen the next morning. The stars were amazing! Day 3 On the third day we took our time leaving and did some fishing ect before hitting Glenn Pass. We left mid morning and went over the pass. That seemed like a climax to our hike. The smoke was gone and the sky a dark blue. That view was so good to see clear blue skies. It's hard and intense but pretty short. (2 miles from Upper Rae Lake). It was a bit windy but beautiful up there. Good views to the east and to the west. We left there and headed downhill and hiked about 3 hours to Junction Meadow which is along Bubbs Creek. Very nice place to camp. Day 4 We only had about 10 miles back to road's end and we covered that in a matter of about 5 hours. Downhill but not all easy hiking. Lots of switchbacks. On day 4 we saw our first hikers! Yes we had the whole woods to ourselves thanks to the park being closed. Other than a person (I think they were bringing in a Ranger) that came by helicopter to Rae Lakes we didn't see anybody till Day 4 In summary...if you haven't done this hike, DO IT. It's a great hike! And as you see all the beauty may your mind be moved to worship the Creator of this all, God.

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Jeremy Hilliard
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarOctober 1, 2020
BackpackingBridge outBugsGreat!

Out & Back to Dollar Lake 9/28-10/1. Heavy smoke in Kings Canyon, Paradise Valley had partial smoke on Wednesday, no smoke either day at lakes or Wood Creek. Perfect weather and water everywhere. As of Thursday, smoke seemed to be held back at park entrance, then clear to east.

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Christina Russell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 29, 2020
BackpackingGreat!

Just finished this hike with my husband (sep28th) Amazing! We had been planning on doing this hike for months and then with all the fires we had to change plans and went to Zion. While we were up in Zion we got an email saying it was open again. We left and drove all the way to Fresno where we got a hotel and prepared to do this hike. We only had 3 nights left so we knew we would have to push harder then planned. We started hiking clockwise Friday morning around 8:00 and did 16 miles. (Long day) we camped just past the suspension bridge. It was beautiful next to the river and there was bear boxes. No other campers out. Only saw 1 person the entire day and 1 bear around mile 5. Pretty buggy out and used head nets for a few miles. Second day we hiked about 8-9 miles where we camped at upper raes lake. Was wanting to go further but knew we wouldn’t make it over glens pass in time. wasn’t a fan of the camp sites at upper raes lake, I think alot of people might stay at middle raes lake, but it was totally fine, i just like rivers and the sound of water at night) we only saw 2 men early in the morning and no one else. we filtered water from the lake and it was good. It was a colder night here! And we left our dinner out for like 30 mins to go fish and a marmot eat through one of our bags. We also saw a momma bear and her 2 cubs around mile 18! 3rd day we hiked 14 miles. Glens pass was rough but not horrible. We carried way more water than we needed) but it was not hot out. Bubbs creek had an amazing camp site we wanted to stay at but knew we needed to push further so we had less miles the next morning. (Not really sure where we camped but there is plenty nice flat places along the creek which we found about 6 miles from the end of the trail. 4th day we got up early and did 6 miles back to the car! Saw another momma bear and cub, all the bears were chill and we were about 10 feet away from some of them! It was so cool! There was still smoke from the fires but not bad and didn’t effect us. Some parts of the hike you can smell the smoke stronger but we didn’t have any problems and pics turned out pretty clear in most parts, Looks like it’s clearing up a lot. Such an incredible trip!

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Jeremy Russell
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 28, 2020
Hiking
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OutD00r 3xplor3r
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 26, 2020
Hiking
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Lisa Rhyner
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 17, 2020
Backpacking

Hey fellow backpackers. I’m wondering the same thing as the previous poster. Has anyone completed this loop in the last week or two? What are the first-hand conditions in respect to the fires and smoke?

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Kevin Volkov
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 16, 2020
Hiking

Hey just a quick question for anyone that's been on this hike recently. With all the fires is it still really smokey up there? We are planning to hike it next week. Also the snow mentioned is it fresh or from last winter? Thanks

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Ingrid Garcia
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 12, 2020
HikingRocky

Great hike!! Has everything. A medium incline right from the start but then levels out The lake is beautiful plus there is a glacier and a small waterfall. My dogs, my dad and my 3.5 year old loved it she hike all of the way. ( there was a bit of snow in some spots) September 10th 2020)

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Steve Austin
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 10, 2020
Backpacking

Probably one of the best trails in the Sierra's, in my opinion. We got Glenn Pass after a snow storm and couldn't have been more beautiful.

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Patrick Roeschel
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarSeptember 9, 2020
Hiking

Amazing trail but do not do right now due to fires in the area

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