Backpack to Bear Lake (Emigrant Wilderness)

Crabtree Trailhead

7 miles roundtrip with a 500 foot elevation gain. Campsites spread across entire lake. Dog friendly. Enjoy a calming sunset over the lake. Go for a cold dip in the water. Alternative to the crowds of Yosemite.

Start by picking up your wilderness permit at the Summit Ranger Station near Pinecrest - (209) 965-3434. There's no quota for this area, so no need for reservations in advance.

To reach the trailhead, make your way south from the Ranger Station and turn left onto Crabtree Rd. Drive along this road for about 30 minutes, following signs that point towards Crabtree Trailhead (7,200 ft). There's an overflow parking lot there with ample spots, which I've never had an issue with. The actual trailhead can be difficult to spot depending on where you parked, but it's in the NW corner of the lot.

Once you cross a small bridge, stay right for the trail to Bear Lake. Soon after, you'll start your uphill climb for about a mile but it smoothes out nicely after that. At around 2.5 miles in, you'll reach Camp Lake - a great place to stop for lunch but camping is not allowed. Keep walking through the forest for another mile until you hit the rocks on the western side of Bear Lake (7,700 ft).

If you navigate along a narrow trail to the northern section of the lake, you'll find a variety of established campsites with soft and flat ground. You can camp out on the first rocky area you hit, but the ground is a bit tougher. Take a walk around the lake or go for a cold swim once you're all set up. Sunset is gorgeous over the lake as the sun cuts through the mountains around you.

Pack List

  • Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
  • Mountain Hardware Mtn Speed 32° Bag
  • Exped Synmat UL7 pad
  • Jetboil Sol Ti
  • Katadyn Hiker Pro
  • Osprey Exos 58 pack
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera
  • Bear Canister
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RT Distance 7 Miles
Elevation Gain 500 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Fishing, Photography, Swimming, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
Romantic
Scenic

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

First ever backpacking trip!! Crabtree TH to Bear Lake

Loved it. Exactly as described. But prettier. Tons of variety. June 20, 2018. High 80, low 47. Took 4 hours up and 3 hours down for this first-timer with a 30lb pack (including food and water). When we hit Bear Lake, we turned left and continued up to the northeast corner, keeping the lake on our right. There are several pre-established sites and rock fire rings, and someone even left us a pile of firewood! There is a little creek and a waterfall near enough to use for water supply on the northeast end, and fewer people than if you camp right where the trail intersects the lake. Arrived around 6pm. Tons of mosquitos. Lots of flowers out on this trip. Saw 2 small snakes, but no rattling. No large animals seen. Camp Lake was gorgeous at 5pm with perfect lighting for reflection of sky and trees. Challenging hike at times with very rocky and steep areas. I am 43 and in decent shape (not overweight, no injuries and work out several times per week). My calorie burn was 460 calories per hour. I would not call this an "easy" hike. But I would call it worth doing again!

The road to trail head is closed

We just tried to do it this weekend May 28 2017. The road to trail head is closed 5 miles before trail start. We did those 5 miles on foot, was pretty good, but parts of the road was completely covered with snow. We made tent at the trail head parking - there are lots of campsites with tables (most covered in snow). There is a toilet there. The trail beyond bridge was not visible under the snow, so we didn't continue. We didn't meet anyone, but we saw at least 5 cars turn around at the road block. We arrived late at the Summit Ranger station, it was closed, so we didn't get any info. Definitely need to call them to ask about road conditions.

Lovely Day hike

We were only one of two day hiking groups on the trail. There were mostly backpackers. It was a nice little hike, there were decent hills, but nothing too strenuous. I would warn about the road to get to the parking lot though. You definitely need a vehicle with standard clearance to drive comfortably, the road has some potholes and large bumps.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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