• Activities:

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

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    35 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    9623 Feet

Easy Parking

Vast mountain vistas spanning high above Rae Lakes and across the mountain ridge to Gardiner Lakes towards western King's Canyon area.

This trip is roughly a 32-35 miles out and back trek with extreme drops and gains in elevation. The trek starts at Onion Valley on the Kearsarge trailhead. The trail immediately starts climbing. The Pass is about 4.5 miles and it is all steady to steep uphill hiking. You pass four beautiful mountain lakes along the way to the pass. A gem at this point is to climb the rocks at the top of the pass and pose for a great photo and simply enjoy the view as a rest is necessary.

Next, you drop quickly for half a mile and then it levels out to a very steady almost flat hike for a few miles. Once you pass by Bullfrog Lake you hit the junction for the PCT/JMT. Heading north here brings you by Charlotte Lake and great views. (note: during my trek with friends, water was scarce during this stretch so fill up when possible) This trek is a steady uphill climb toward Glen Pass. We were lucky to come across a mountain lake as many prior to this were dry due to the lack of precipitation. Glen Pass was a steep climb up to 11,978 feet. Atop the pass was amazing views of the Rae Lakes and mountains ridges and valleys in all directions. Descending Glen Pass is pretty steep all the way down to the lakes that are at roughly 10,300 feet or so. At this point you can set up camp and relax. This is a full day of tough hiking and it will be needed.

The next day is when you can go for Mount Cotter. The length and trail is dependent on your camping location. Regardless, you start your way up the Sixty Lakes Basin Trail. This trail takes you upwards past Fin Dome (prominent peak in the area due to its uniqueness) and a number of beautiful lakes. The lakes are unnamed but once you reach the end of the trail you sit at the base of Mount Cotter. At this point the ascension is up to each person. The experienced rock climber can pick a more vertical route, but I am not that and took a different path.

The best path is to head south along the lake below the peak to the deep saddle. The ridgeline from the peak slopes down to this saddle. You begin ascending the southeast face of this area and begin bouldering and hiking back towards the peak gradually working your way up to the ridgeline. From the final lake this ascent and path will take a very fit and experienced hiker about 4-5 hours plus the hour hike to and from your campsite. The gem of this part of the trip is the vast views that Mt Cotter provides in all directions. The dramatic peaks and valleys span in all directions and you feel amazing sitting atop this peak.

The Rae Lakes are extremely beautiful and early risers will experience wonderful photo opportunities at sunrise upon the lakes.

Upon completion the hike back is some up and down and the relaxation that night is needed. The trip itself can be done in 2 to 4 days/nights depending on experience time available. The total elevation gain is roughly 9,623 feet over the course of the whole trip.

Pack List

  • Permit
  • Tent
  • Water purification
  • Sleeping bag
  • Food for 3-4 days
  • Hiking boots
  • GPS or map and compass (for scramble to Mt Cotter)
  • Book (if desired)
  • Fishing gear (if desired)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

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

Community Photos

+ Add Photos


Overall rating:  Rate this Adventure

Leave a Review

Have you done this adventure? Leave a review!

Jacques Lamoureux

I am a Contracting Officer in the USAF. I have always loved the outdoors but only until recently have been ventured out to truly explore any place I am able to get to. Nature brings a calming sense to our being and striving for synchronicity with it is my goal. Most times I travel alone and find ways to capture the beautiful places I am able to visit. The military has afforded me the opportunity to see many parts of the world and exploring these different places has become my passion!

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

8 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves