Backpack the Rae Lakes Loop

Yosemite Roads End Permit Station

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:


  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    46 Miles

Swimming Hole

Rae Lakes Loop is a 46 mile hike through Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP and considered one of the most popular hikes in the Sierras. The hike starts at roads end in Kings Canyon.

Day one: 10 miles
After checking in with the park ranger and getting your required permits you will start your hike along a 1.8 mile stretch along the south fork of the Kings River. At this point, people typically go clockwise toward Paradise Valley but you can also go counterclockwise along Bubbs Creek. I recommend the clockwise loop. Your hike will start through the lush forest where you will encounter amazing giant Sequoia trees and the ever flowing South Fork Kings River. Make sure to stop at Mist Fall for an impressive waterfall view. After about 8 miles of hiking (1,600ft elevation gain) you will want to find a camp site. You have three options here: camp at lower Paradise Valley, Middle, and Upper Paradise Valley. If you have the steam, I recommend pushing for Upper Paradise - amazing camp area that puts you right next to the bridge you will need to cross to connect with Woods Creek Trail.

Day Two: 13 miles
Get a good leg stretch and hearty breakfast in because Day 2 kicks into high gear right out of the gates with some much welcomed elevation gain heading toward Rae Lakes. Start by crossing the bridge at Upper Paridise Valley and continue on Woods Creek Trail. The forest begins to disappear and the landscape begins to open up into a massive, gorgeous valley. Welcome to the backcountry! Always keep an ear alert and an eye out for bears in this area - although chances are slim of an encounter, they are there. In roughly 4 miles, connect to the John Muir Trail/PCT and watch your elevation gain past 10,000 ft. No more camp fires allowed :(. After 13 miles total, arrive at the scenic Rae Lakes area, and choose from two lakes in which you can camp. I really enjoy the first lake mostly because there are a couple of sites right next to the lake with insanely beautiful mountain views. Pack some bug spray because they love to share the view while feeding on you next to the lake.

Day three: 11 miles
Start the day by continuing that killer hike along the Rae Lakes. For a side trip, you can add a 4 mile round trip hike if you so choose to take it - The 60 Lakes Basin Hike. It’s a very beautiful hike and definitely worth doing! Either way, next up is your intro to the only pass you will come across on this adventure: Glen Pass. The pass itself is very rocky in some spots and has many switch backs until you reach the top. Have a camera at the ready, because that summit is oozing with amazing views of the Sierra Crest. Click, click click As a bonus reward today, the rest of the hike leading to the roads end will be pretty much all a down hill cruise. Once you reach Lower Vidette Meadow, connect to Bubbs Creek Trail in which you will need to decide your next camp site. You have a few options: Charlotte Lake Junction before Vidette Meadow, Vidette Meadow, or Junction Meadow. To keep your last day short and sweet, I recommend Junction Meadow - especially since you just took it easy on your stroll down from the Glen Pass Summit!

Day four: 12 miles
The final push to Roads End from Junction Meadow continues down Bubbs Creek Trail for 6.3 miles. Feel the welcome-back embrace of the lush forest as you follow Bubbs Creek. Pass the junction of Avalanche Pass Trail and keep heading on another 2.1 miles. Enjoy those many switchbacks heading back down to the valley floor. Once at the bottom, connect back to Roads End Trail and continue on for 2 miles bringing you to the end of your epic 46 mile journey on the Rae Lakes loop.

Pack List

TentBackpacking foodRain GearStove with extra fuelBear binHiking polesBug sprayHatSunglassesCamerasunblockHeadlamp*Map

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The view is gorgeous all the way through, and there's plenty of trout once you hit the lakes. Totally recommend the counter-clockwise route for a more interesting hike.

11 months ago
11 months ago

One of the best backpacking trips I've ever taken.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I cannot say enough about this loop, its easily one of the best backpacking trips I've taken. Highly recommended!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This loop is outstanding! My husband and I got married in Zumwalt Meadows then started the loop the next day. We went counter clockwise which is considered the less traveled more difficult option as it has big elevations gains over a short mileage. We enjoyed the fast steep climb up to Glen Pass, I'd rather have a steep climb than a steep descent any day. The rest of the loop is downhill from there! There is so much alpine beauty to behold and lots of wildlife...we saw 11 bears during our stay in Kings Canyon and the loop. We loved this loop and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for the solace of the Sierra wilderness.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

A friend just did this a little while ago and said it is unbelievable...gotta see for myself!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Kevin KaminskiExplorer

My goal is to build a life I don’t need a vacation from! I'm an Architecture Photographer based in Phoenix, and my current job takes me around the world to photograph hotels & resorts. My real passion, however, is outdoor recreation and adventure photography.

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