Lakes Trail, Sequoia National Park

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.

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Latitude: 36.57749 Longitude: -118.734741 Elevation: 7832 ft

Vertical Gain or Loss

2,300 feet.

Trail Distance

6 miles (10 km) to Pear Lake

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.


OK, you fail to mention that the cliff trail is super exposed and might scare most people to death.

Dean, 9/16/2012

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.

Susan, 4/4/2013

I am going this weekend! After reading everything I cannot wait to hike this beautiful park.

Silvie, 9/16/2013

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.

Stacy, 3/10/2014

Hiked the Watchtower trail to Heather Lake in late June 2016. Spectacular formations and views. Highly recommended. Round-trip for me (age 63) from Wolverton was ~ 5 hours, including a 20 minute lunch stop. Heather Lake was so-so - the water seemed uninviting and little scummy.

Gene, 7/13/2016, 7/13/2016

Correction: Watchtower via Wolverton Trail leads to Heather lake pass along cliffs which are solid passes but the altitude is extremely high and it is exposed. Anyone that has a problem with heights may not be okay with this. Hiked it today 7/18/2018. Dean is correct it could scare people like it scared me today.

Tony 7/18/2018, 7/18/2018

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