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Lakes Trail, Sequoia National Park

Part of the Lakes Trail traverses a cliff.

Photo © NPS/Rick Cain

Distance: 6 miles (10 km) one way
Elevation: 7,300 - 9,600 ft.
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 5-7 hours round trip (not including stops for rest or picture taking)

Easy access, spectacular alpine scenery, enchanting glacial lakes, endless backcountry hiking—these are among the treats awaiting hikers of the Lakes Trail in Sequoia National Park. The trail starts at Wolverton and ascends a lateral moraine to high alpine country in a mere four miles. Along the way are magnificent views from the Watchtower—a soaring pinnacle of granite towering nearly 2000 feet above the Tokopah Valley floor—along with a breathtaking hike along a trail blasted out of the cliff. Many backpackers rate this one of the best weekend hikes in the Sierra Nevada, so overnight permits are at a premium.

The trail starts in the Wolverton Parking Lot. Turn right at the first trail junction and climb nearly 1,000 feet along to the Panther Gap Trail junction at 1.8 miles. Turn left and continue climbing to a meadow lush with knee-high summer grasses fed by a boisterous cascade flowing down the mountainside. On the meadow’s far side, the trail switchbacks upward toward the Watchtower.

Beyond the Watchtower, the trail traverses a narrow but solid path blasted out of the cliff, then ascends to Heather Lake. No camping here. The trail then climbs a ridge and descends to Emerald and Aster lakes. The first designated campsites are at Emerald Lake. Continuing along the mountainside, the path reaches a junction with the side trail Pear Lake Ranger Station. Take the right fork to reach Pear Lake, tucked into a classic granite cirque. Bear boxes and pit toilets are provided at both Emerald Lake and Pear Lake. Adventurous hikers can climb beyond Pear Lake into the Tablelands—a vast expanse of pleasant granite country above treeline.

For more information, contact the Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP Wilderness Office: Phone (559) 565-3766, Fax (559) 565-4239, E-mail

Help us keep this place beautiful. Take only pictures. Leave only footprints. Please pack out your trash.

Know the Bear Facts! Whether staying in the picnic area or going for a longer hike, always store food away from bears. Use large, brown bear-proof boxes to store food and scented items. Never leave food or scented items unattended.

Be Safe! Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks/lunch. Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction, as well as long pants (due to ticks and poison oak). Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring insect repellent.

Vertical Gain or Loss: 2,300 feet.

Trail Distance: 6 miles (10 km) to Pear Lake

 ADA Accessibility Notes

This is a dirt trail, which is narrow and winding. It may be steep, slippery, wet, and rocky in some areas and will not accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, or bicycles.

 Eco-Friendly Notes

This trail traverses land managed as wilderness where natural processes are allowed to unfold. Please use Leave No Trace principles when hiking this trail.

 Pet Friendly Notes

Pets are not permitted on any trails within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but are allowed 100 feet from roads in developed areas (picnic areas, campgrounds, and roads). Where allowed, pets must be on leashes no longer than 6 feet in length. Never leave pets in cars when it is warm, or they overheat quickly. Pets must not be left unattended in the parking area or in vehicles.

For More Information, Contact:

National Park Service
47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271

Stacy wrote on March 10, 2014: Hiked this in October 2013. Lots of snow after we passed Watchtower. Scary to look down at some points. Awesome hike for anyone who wants to do it that can handle the elevation gain.

Silvie wrote on September 16, 2013: I am going this weekend! After reading everything I cannot wait to hike this beautiful park.

Susan wrote on April 04, 2013: This is the most beautiful trail I have been on. I do this hike every year I go to Sequoia. I make it a day hike, though. Just start very early in the morning.

Dean wrote on September 16, 2012: OK, you fail to mention that the cliff trail is super exposed and might scare most people to death.

We encourage healthy dialogue and interaction. Please include your first and last name. Comments must be accurate, family-friendly, based on personal experience and relevant to all travelers. Comments with profanity, threats, personal insults, or commercialized content will be deleted. Thank you.

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Boundaries and names shown do not necessarily reflect the map policy of National Geographic.

Longitude: -118.734741000
Latitude: 36.577490000
Elevation: 7832 FT (2387 M)
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