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Rae Lakes Loop

Rae Lakes Loop

Overview from the National Park Service

The Rae Lakes Loop is one of the most popular hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, if not in the entire Sierra. If you are planning to do this hike during the summer, it is wise to make reservations, as trailhead quotas often fill up. Wilderness permits for the Rae Lakes Loop are issued at the Roads End station, 5.5 miles beyond Cedar Grove. Even if you have a reservation, you must still check in and pick up your permit prior to starting your trip.

The loop is 41.4 miles long, and climbs from 5035′ (1535m) at the trailhead to 11,978′ (3651m) at Glen Pass. High water at stream crossings can be a problem in May and early June. Glen Pass may be impassable to hikers until mid-late July and even later for stock. Because this is such a popular hike, there are certain restrictions along this trail:

  • Camping in Lower Paradise Valley is permitted only in designated campsites.
  • Camping in Paradise Valley is limited to two nights.
  • Camping at Rae Lakes is limited to one night per lake.
  • Camping at Charlotte Lake is limited to two nights.
  • Bullfrog Lake, east of the trail between Vidette Meadow and Glen Pass, is closed to all camping, grazing and stock travel.
  • There is a two night camping limit at Kearsarge Lakes (east of Bullfrog).
  • Campfires are prohibited above 10,000′ (3048m).
  • Bears have been very active along this trail, and were successful at getting food that was hung in trees. Hikers are required to carry portable bear-resistant canisters which are available for sale or rent at several locations in the parks, or from US Forest Service offices located in Lone Pine and Bishop. This has proved very successful at preventing bears from accessing food. (The permanent metal food-storage boxes are only for use by thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail.)

Pets and wheeled vehicles are not allowed on any park trails.

See Also

Distances Along the Rae Lakes Loop from the NPS

Point Miles from Road’s End via Paradise Miles from Road’s End via Bubbs
Road’s End 0 41.4
Paradise/Bubbs Jct. 1.9 39.5
Mist Falls (no camping) 3.9 37.5
Lower Paradise (first campsite ) 5.7 35.7
Middle Paradise 6.8 34.6
Upper Paradise 10 31.3
Woods Creek Crossing 15.7 25.7
Dollar Lake 19.7 21.7
Rae Lakes 22.7 18.7
Glen Pass 24.6 16.8
Charlotte Lake Junction 26.7 14.7
Vidette Meadow 28.2 13.2
Junction Meadow 31.1 10.3
Charlotte Creek 33.9 7.5
Sphinx Junction (last campsite ) 37.5 4.1
Paradise/Bubbs Jct. 39.4 1.9
Road’s End 41.4 0.0

Description from The Hiking Project

The counter-clockwise route is considered less strenuous and typically the way the route is completed. Starting from the trailhead, the route starts out in the valley floor. Once you reach the junction with Bubbs Creek Trail, bear north following the South Fork (Paradise) Trail. This will start a gradual ascent of the drainage that is laced with eye-popping views.The South Fork (Paradise) trail terminates into the Upper Paradise – Woods Creek Crossing, where you’ll bear east and continue a gradual ascent. Grandiose views of the Castle Domes will greet you as you near the junction with the famed John Muir Trail (JMT: Segment 6 – Bishop Pass at LeConte Canyon to Kearsage Pass Trail). Once arriving to the trail, head south to the ultimate reward of the hike, the string of stunning alpine lakes that each outdo the next in beauty. This is a good spot to establish camp for one of your nights.Make the climb to Glenn Pass, a true gem of the West. Soak in the commanding views and start your descent to the Bubbs Creek Trail, bearing west. This trail tracks a picturesque stream that, depending on the time of year, roars down the canyon. You’ll eventually meet back up with the South Fork (Paradise) Trail, continuing the descent back to the trailhead where, after 40 of some of the best miles California has to offer, the car will be waiting.

Bridge washed out along the Rae Lakes Loop

The South Fork Kings River Bridge above Paradise Valley washed out during the winter of 2016-2017. Construction of a replacement bridge will not begin before 2019. Depending on conditions, crossing the South Fork of the Kings River can be extremely hazardous. Observe conditions carefully and then evaluate the risk of crossing. Be prepared to turn back. If you hike the Rae Lakes Loop beginning from Bubbs Creek, plan for the possibility that you may have to backtrack to safely reach Cedar Grove.

Source Credit

Photo Credit

Public Domain
79-AAH-3 “Rae Lake.” Kings Canyon circa 1930s
This photo donated by Ansel Adams to the national archives in 1936
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