Hike to Emerald Lake, Sequoia National Park

Alta Peak Trailhead

Hike rocky alpine terrain to a stunning (and sometimes frozen) lake. This hike can be done in a day or as an overnight adventure.

Begin this hike at the Alta Peak Trailhead in the Sequoia National Park. The trail initially takes you east-southeast through a loosely forested area that is stark and arid. Around 1.5 miles in you'll cross a small creek, but this creek may dry up in the late spring/summer. Shortly after the creek you will take the left leg of a trail intersection to stay on the "Lakes Trail". The trail begins to climb in elevation and the views open up to large rocky expanses. You will weave in and out of forested patches as you ascend from the west.

Soon you will come to a fork where you can go left to the famous Watchtower or stay right to climb further to the Hump ridge line. Both options will meet up again before Emerald Lake, however the Watchtower Trail is about 1.5 miles longer before they join each other again. *NOTE: The Watchtower Trail is closed sometimes due to snow in the fall through early spring. DO NOT attempt if it is closed. It can be extremely dangerous.

Regardless of which fork you take, as you near Emerald's smaller sister, Heather Lake, you will ascend to almost 9500ft before descending into the small Emerald Lake basin at 9200ft.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Water (and water purification if you plan to stay the night at the lake)
  • Warm clothing (gets cold at night)
  • Camera
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RT Distance 10.4 Miles
Elevation Gain 2200 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Groups
Lake
River
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Great views and amazing lakes

Excellent hike as either a single day or as an overnight (first come first serve permits). Go a little further on the trail to reach Pear Lake.

Great scenic hike

This is a great moderate hike for those that want to get away for a day or two. The watchtower is a great stopping point for lunch with a view. incredible scenery.


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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