Rae Lakes Trail

#3 of 32 trails in Kings Canyon National Park
Rae Lakes Trail is a 72.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Dunlap, CA that features a lake and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and fishing and is accessible from August until September.

72.3 miles 15528 feet Loop
camping fishing hiking forest lake river views waterfall wild flowers wildlife no dogs
Hide Map

ML Dodge
4 months ago

6 Completed2 Reviews

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.

Mike Row
1 year ago

34 Completed29 Reviews

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.

Robert Hardcastle
1 year ago

1 Completed1 Reviews

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.

Jared Champion
1 year ago

7 Completed6 Reviews

Amazing trip. Do it and don't delay.

Gus Svendsen
1 year ago

5 Completed1 Reviews

Amazing hike. It was scenic at every turn, plenty of water, very strenuous, and worth every step. You get a two for one being on the John Muir Trail and the PCT for part of it. Can't wait to go back!

Jr Malensek
2 years ago

2 Completed2 Reviews

just did this trail in july with 2 buddies, the whole journey is full or breath taking views. the hike is hard at times but not too bad, its hard to hike when everywhere you look you want to take pictures, lots of wild life bear keg is mandatory we saw 4 on our trip . once you get to rae lakes its unbelievable and the pass is just as amazing ! we made the trip in the summer and slept in hammocks witch I recommend to anyone! just make sure you bring a tarp we got a pretty heavy rain our last night.

Kevin Labianco
2 years ago

11 Completed2 Reviews

Pics and videos here: http://trrrip.com/t/34

This is the quintessential backpacking trip through the sierras. This trail seriously has it all. From canyons, valleys, creeks, meadows, alpine lakes, stairs, cliffsides, and a nice 12,000ft pass - in 7,000ft of elevation gain. If there's one backpacking trip you do in your life - this is it.


William Booker
3 years ago

8 Completed1 Reviews

Absolutely stunning trail. We did it two summers ago in June and had a blast. Challenging but not too tough, we did it over three nights and had plenty of time to take in God's country as well as bumble our way around some early season obstacles (lots of trees down that year).

One of the highlights was being told by a couple loop hikers (we did it mid-week, almost zero traffic) that the pass was impossible at this time without ice gear. Once on the PCT section, we met some thru-hikers who encouraged us that it was "intense, but totally doable". We camped at Rae Lakes, got up early and hit the trail up just as the sun was on it; the sweet spot of not ice, but not yet mush. By the time we were at the top and coming down the other side it started to get a little sketch, but the worst was behind us and we safely made it. Unforgettable experience. To top it all off, I did most (-snow) in my Vibram 5 Finger Sprints.

Nadia Taalbi
3 years ago

4 Completed1 Reviews

Beautiful and amazing!! I'd do it again and again! There is so much water, make sure you pack light!