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Lakes Trail

Widely regarded as one of the most incredible day hikes in the USA!

Hiking Difficult

19 km
981 m
981 m
5-6 hrs
Low Point
2.2 km
High Point
2.9 km
Lakes Trail Map

The "Lakes Trail" moniker belies the grandeur of this 12-mile hike in Sequoia National Park! It routinely tops lists of not only the best hiking trails in California, but even the absolute best hikes in the entire nation!


This "popular route leads to a quartet of subalpine lakes situated in the upper reaches of Tokopah Valley," according to ModernHiker.com. "The four lakes in question – Heather, Aster, Emerald, and Pear – provide excellent frontcountry backpacking options with the kind of scenery that usually requires a lot more effort to reach on the western side of the range," they continue.

While there are indeed a number of campsites located close to the lakes, high up in the valley, these few sites are in very high demand. You must have a permit to camp at them, and due to the competition, obtaining a permit is very difficult. Consequently, your best bet for visiting these four incredible lakes is planning a long day hike.

While the 12-mile hike with over 3,200 feet of elevation gain may be a bit long for some, everyone that's viewed the scenery from the Lakes Trail positively raves about it! Hiking & Walking says that you can expect "amazing views of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah Canyon and four beautiful lakes set amid glacier-carved basins framed by sheer granite cliffs and rugged ridges."

Sources: https://modernhiker.com/hike/the-lakes-trail/ https://sierranevadageotourism.org/entries/lakes-trail-sequoia-national-park/b9819ac5-5b1b-4c30-8038-df3897e54069 http://www.hikingwalking.com/index.php/destinations/ca/casws/lodgepole/pearlake



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between July and September


  • Alpine
  • Picturesque
  • Water features

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area