Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park

Distance: 46 miles (74 km)
Elevation: 5,000 - 12,000 ft.
Difficulty: Strenuous
Time: 4-6 days round trip (not including stops for rest or picture taking)

Rushing waterfalls, deep canyons, quiet forests, soaring alpine views, and lush meadows full of seasonal wildflowers and—hikers of the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park can have it all in one long loop trail. This hike deserves its reputation as one of the premier hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, if not in the entire Sierra. The loop is 46 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. But most major stream crossings are now bridged. In heavy snow years, Glen Pass may be impassable to hikers until late July and for horse use even later. Added attractions are the side trails to the beautiful Sixty Lakes Basin, East Lake, and Lake Reflection. Day hikers often hike the first four and a half miles of the trail to Mist Falls.

The Rae Lakes Loop begins at Roads End in Kings Canyon. After a two-mile level hike along the South Fork of the Kings River, the trail ascends 1,600 feet to beautiful Paradise Valley. At the top of the valley, hikers then cross the South Fork on a new bridge and climb steadily up Woods Creek. Impressive granite features loom high above on the canyon walls. At Woods Creek Crossing, the trail joins the PCT and follows it for the next 15 miles up on a steady climb to stunning Rae Lakes and over Glen Pass. The pass provides breathtaking views of the Sierra Crest. From the pass, the trail descends Bubbs Creek through a series of lush meadows back to the South Fork of the Kings River and the trailhead at Roads End. 

Allow four to six days for hiking the entire loop. If you are planning to do this hike during the summer, it is wise to make reservations, as trailhead quotas often fill up on busy summer weekends. 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. For more information, contact the Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP Wilderness Office: Phone (559) 565-3766, Fax (559) 565-4239, E-mail SEKI_Wilderness_Office@nps.gov.

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.

Additional Notes: 

  • Camping in Paradise Valley is permitted only in designated campsites. If no sites are available, you will have to move on to the next area.
  • Camping in Paradise Valley is limited to two nights.
  • Camping at Rae Lakes is limited to two nights 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 successful at preventing bears from accessing food. (The permanent metal food-storage boxes are for use by thru-hikers on the PCT and JMT only.)
  • Pets, weapons, and wheeled vehicles are not allowed on any park trails.
  • Stock is permitted on this trail, but grazing is restricted in certain areas. Please review the stock use regulations on the park website: http://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/stockreg.htm.
Read more


Latitude: 36.79499 Longitude: -118.580933 Elevation: 5055 ft

Vertical Gain or Loss

Over 7,000 feet of gain and loss for the whole loop.

Trail Distance

46 miles (74 km)

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.

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.

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.


Why is the coordinates so far off? On a few web sites I see approximately the coordinates on this web page but the real coordinates according to a topo map is: Latitude: 36°48'24.28" Longitude: -118°24'5.88"

Rick, 9/15/2014

Heading out this September to do this loop for the first time. Not sure why there are so many different mileages mentioned around the web when official SEKI not parks website has just over 41 miles and Harrison maps have same. Why do people claim 45-50 miles on different sites? I would assume the actual parks service would be most accurate no?

Scott, 3/8/2015

Leave a Comment