Hike of the Week: Rae Lakes Loop

Hike of the Week: Rae Lakes Loop

This is a weekly series that highlights an outstanding day hike or backpacking trip. The goal is to inspire you to want to get out and see these places for yourself. I know for us, just seeing amazing photos and reading about a great hike is enough to get us motivated.

This week's hike is the Rae Lakes Loop in California's Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks.

Why this Hike?

The John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada is one of the top trails in the country, featuring high alpine lakes, glacier-carved valleys and gorgeous waterfalls. However, it requires at least 2 weeks to traverse. For those that can't commit such a long time to the trail, the Rae Lakes Loop allows you to see some of the highlights of the John Muir Trail in less than a week.

How long is the hike?

The loop starts and ends at the Roads End Permit Station and runs approximately 42 miles. We recommend 5-6 days to really enjoy the trail. For adventurous types, plan to visit the Sixty Lakes Basin area west of Rae Lakes and spend a night there.

How do I get there?

The trail is most accessible by flying into Fresno, although the major airports near Los Angeles and San Francisco provide more route options.

From Fresno, take Highway 180 east toward Kings Canyon and continue for a tad over 90 miles to the Roads End Permit Station. A $20 per vehicle entrance fee will be required at the Kings Canyon National Park entrance. On your way out, make sure to stop and check out the giant Sequoia trees.

There are no shuttle providers servicing the trail head, so you will need a vehicle.

What will I need?

The trail is well maintained and the conditions are excellent. Weather is generally very good from July through September, however be prepared for afternoon storms.

The National Park Service requires all hikers to carry portable bear-resistant canisters. These are available for sale at many places, including REI and Amazon.com. The nearby US Forest Service offices located in Lone Pine and Bishop also stock some.

Since this is a multi-day trip, you will need a full backpacking set up. Check out our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List for a complete list of things that we recommend and a handy printable checklist.

    What do I need to consider?

    Although the trail conditions are great, this is a difficult hike with more than 7,500 feet of elevation gain. Be well prepared for some long days on the trail.

    There are bears in the area, so practice bear safety at all times.

    Permits are required and it is highly recommended that you make reservations ahead of time during peak summer months. Reservations can be made on the National Park Service website starting on March 1st each year.


    Here are a few great resources to check out for more detail:

    National Park Service
    Modern Hiker
    Backpackers Review

    Have you hiked along the John Muir Trail, including the Rae Lakes area? Do you have other outstanding hikes that you'd like us to write about? Please share your feedback in the comments.

    Hike of the Week USA West

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