Rae Lakes Trail

HARD 35 reviews

Rae Lakes Trail is a 38 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Cedar Grove, 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 September.

38.0 miles
7824 feet






nature trips







wild flowers


no dogs

4 months ago

Hiked Sept 26-30th, stayed at Middle Paradise, Woods Crossing, Rae Lakes, and Junction Meadow. Bear boxes at parking lot and each camp site (except at Junction Meadow).

Perfect time of year to visit, since not crowded but still beautiful. Got cold enough at night at Rae Lakes to freeze the hose of our Camelbak. Some ice on trail up to glen pass at 11 am. Barely any snow on glen pass, and was easy enough to hike over the one patch at the top after noon in regular shoes/boots.

Wildlife highlights: lots of warblers including Hermit and Townsend's in Paradise Valley, Northern Saw-whet owl tooting at Middle Paradise, Lewis's woodpecker just past Paradise Bridge, lots of Clark's nutcrackers, marmots near Rae lakes ranger station, lots of pikas between Rae lakes and glen pass, large flocks of evening grosbeaks and band-tailed pigeons below junction meadow, and an inquisitive marten right above sphinx creek.

5 months ago

Walk-up permits available starting the day before at 1pm. Get them at Road's End permit station. But seems like only 5 available per day.

Allocate 3-4 days to complete the loop. Bear canisters are required, as this is an active black bear area, even though we didn't encounter any. Mosquito headnets are highly recommended as there are miles of trail thru swarms of gnats and mosquitos. Water sources abound, so no need to carry more than 2 liters at a time; bring a water filter, though.

Going clockwise along the loop is recommended, and pretty much what everyone does. First night in Upper Paradise Valley. Second night at Middle Rae Lakes. Third night at Junction Meadow.

Still some snow around Glen Pass, but there's none of the trail. Temperatures were mild. +40 degree sleeping back was enough for me.

Wildlife we encountered: Deer, marmots, chipmunks, rattlesnake.

6 months ago

This is an amazing backpacking loop. I did it in July of 2016 and loved it. Here is my trip report with a bunch of pictures and logistical info: https://backpackersreview.wordpress.com/trip-reports/rae-lakes-loop/

7 months ago

I did this loop with 3 others back in 2012. We did go counterclockwise and glad we did. It puts you into the back-country the very first day. Meaning, at the foot of high peaks. It would take almost 3 days before you got that if you go the other way. We hiked from roads end to a spot along Bubbs creek just before Junction Meadow. That was about nine miles for the first day with full packs. That was enough. Had a big bear walk right thru our camp that evening right as we were getting in our tents. He never even looked at us, just kept going. The next day we connected with the PCT and went up out of Vidette Meadow. We took a detour for one night over to the Kearsarge Lakes. Very well worth it. It is really beautiful in here. The next day we took the trail from the lakes upwards towards Kearsarge pass, and then hung a left on the high trail that reconnects to the PCT. The views from this trail are some of the best I have seen anywhere in the Sierra. Once back on the PCT, it was up and over Glen Pass and down to the Rae Lakes where we spent 2 nights. On our down day the next day, we did a day hike up towards the 60 lakes basin. We went over the pass and down a short distance but did not go all the way into the basin. Had a short lunch break with an awesome view up and down the 60 Lakes area. Then back down to our camp spot for our last night. A nice refreshing swim in Upper Rae Lake felt good after that day hike too!! That evening the mosquitoes zeroed in on us and we were forced into our tents sooner than we wanted. Heard a massive rock fall up by Dragon Lake as we sat in our tents kicking back. That was really something. Wasn’t sure what it was at first, then there was no mistaking that sound. Mother Nature unleashed. The next morning we packed up while being totally harassed by tons of mosquitoes. The worst I have seen on all my trips. Couldn’t wait to get walking. It was pretty much all downhill from there back to the truck over the next 3 days. We camped one night at Woods creek Jct. And then another at lower Paradise. Then had an easy hike out the last day. The water in the Kings that year was unusually low. Went swimming right by our camp site in lower paradise. Don’t think you’d be doing that this year (2017), or on any normal year. 2012 was a very lackluster winter for the Sierra. In fact, we did this hike in mid-June that year. It is one of the best loops in the Sierra, and it is also one that’s on everyone’s list, as it is heavily used. Lots of people on these trails.

7 months ago

I did this trail last year (2016) and I loved it so much, I was really looking forward to doing it again. However, I just got off the phone with the wilderness office about the washed out bridge. Even by my permit date (7/18) he wasn't sure if the water would be low enough to rock-hop/cross. Counter-clockwise is intense, so not sure if I want to do an in-and-out (assuming I could even get permits). Anyone recommend a good five day hike?

8 months ago

We're doing counter clockwise starting 7/2. Since the bridge is out, we were planning on doing an out and back to Rae Lakes. Has anyone been over Glen Pass lately? Is it safe?

8 months ago

Headed out from Woods Creek on 7/3, wondering if the river will be passable ?

8 months ago

061017 Trail update: Bridge is still out at Paradise Valley South Fork of Kings River. However, we did the out and back for this route (20 miles). Stunning views and great hike!!!

8 months ago

The immense snowfall and the subsequent melt from this winter has washed out the bridge crossing the South Fork above upper Paradise and the suspension bridge before the JMT. That being said, it was gorgeous and the trails were super gnarly. You can scale massive boulders or slog through waist-deep flood water. Epic. Bears (plus two cubs) and rattlesnakes abound. Check when they have those bridges fixed (who knows when) and have at it! Was told by numerous sources there were still ~15 ft of snow at Rae Lakes. The counter-clockwise route is very steep, but you may be able to get up further. I turned around after heading clockwise and went up the first two miles to Sphinx Creek Junction the other direction. Two rangers passed by with skis to suss things out. I presume you could get much higher going that way with skis or snowshoes! Views and falls were astonishing. Cannot wait to return.

9 months ago

we didn't make the whole loop but we went counter clockwise to Charlotte lake and back. extremely hard counter clockwise. everybody on the trail says clockwise is easier. but amazing and I would do it again. we did see 2 rattlesnakes when we did this hike.

11 months ago

Rae lakes is like no other place...brook trout on almost every cast...its no wonder why this is a favorite section of the JMT and PCT...wilderness permit applications start on March 1st...Wood Creek and Bubbs creek go fast...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Went August 2016. Absolutely amazing! 5 days. Counter clock wise.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

I couldn't agree more with all the reviews here. Wish I had made my trip longer, but condensed the trip into 3 days as we went clockwise from Road's End. Stunning wilderness, many breathtaking views, gorgeous lake views and pristine wildlife. We encountered a total of 5 bears, so don't be foolish and enter without a bear canister (they're required for a reason). I only wish I had taken more time to venture off trail in the gorgeous 60 lakes basin

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Amazing escape from civilization. Constantly surrounded by stunning views.
We spent five days, traveling clockwise around the loop. Saw a mamma black bear and cub five miles in. Camping two nights around the Rae Lakes allowed for a day hike around 60-lakes basin. Fish were definitely biting in the Rae Lakes, but we were releasing those little guys. There were some excellent swimming holes as we exited through junction meadows. ...body surf on your air mattress at your own risk. If you want to hear our insane list of meals and cocktails, feel free to hit me up.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Breathtaking... :)

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Unforgettable experience.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Did this loop in May 2015 and was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Sparked my interest in native California plants and can't wait to return with some of the knowledge I've obtained since then.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

I have done this loop 3 times. All starting from Onion Valley and going over Kearsarge Pass. This adds 8+ miles but is WELL worth it. Clockwise is best the experience but I have done both and each has its own rewards.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

I recently returned from a Rae Lakes Loop solo backpacking trip of 4 nights and 5 days located in Kings Canyon NP near Sequoia, CA. This stunningly beautiful NP is largely known as the step-sister of Yosemite. It is less crowded, inexpensive, less frequently visited and remains in pristine condition. The NP Permitting Station is located an hour inside the park at the extreme east end of the Park. The Permitting Station is located at 5035 feet and the 44-mile trail extends over Glen Pass at 11978 feet (mile 23 clockwise). The trail is considered "strenuous" and is, indeed, moderately difficult in several places - especially with 60L+ packs. The very thorough NP Ranger permit briefing includes warnings for rattlesnake and bear activity in the area. The trek is done in both a clockwise (most popular and slightly easier) and counter-clockwise direction. The trail includes intersection with the merged JMT and PCT on the north and east sides of the Loop. Beautiful, pristine alpine lakes are available at Dollar Lake, Rae Lakes (upper and lower), and Charlotte Lake. Adequate campgrounds are provided at Paradise Valley, Woods Creek junction, each of the lakes, and Vidette and Junction Meadows. The trip is ideal for a 2-3 person group where pack load sharing can ease the load for all. Bear canisters are required. Except for a few places, hikers are never more than 10 minutes from a filtration water source that lessens the pack load of carrying water. The trail is well marked and impossible to not clearly see at all times. On my last night in the forest I experienced my first full-on, face-to-face bear encounter. A group of five of us huddled at one campsite at 9 pm and made as much noise and distraction as possible. The bear got within 25 feet. Finally, my ear splitting bear whistle did the trick and after languishing for about 5 minutes the approx. 200 lbs. black bear wandered off seeming disinterested that devouring our collective food source would be too much effort. The textbook instructions for warding off bears was exactly accurate - but the outcome could have been different with a mother bear and cubs. I could not have had a better time, by myself, during this trek. It represented what nature is supposed to be all about. It was, for me, my cathedral of nature. Although completely exhausted when finished, in retrospect, I felt privileged by every step taken. For some reason, RLL is not as popular as many hikes. Maybe the remoteness of the NP discourages some hikers. I cannot recommend STRONGLY ENOUGH that if you want a true outdoor backpacking/camping adventure in remote country and are well prepared physically and have forest experience that you should consider RLL.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Amazing trip. Do it and don't delay.

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