The Rae Lakes Loop is one of the most beautiful hikes in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, if not in the entire Sierra. The Loop is just under 42 miles long and climbs up to 11,978’ at Glen Pass. Wilderness permits and bear canisters are required for the loop.
This year, I, along with 4 friends decided to take on the challenge of the Rae Lakes Loop and spend over a week in the back country. Most people will do the loop in a clockwise direction, so their packs are lighter climbing over Glen Pass. However, our group went in a counterclockwise direction, taking our time to acclimate and enjoying a few camps along the way.
Going counterclockwise, there are many camps to enjoy along the way before you traverse Glen Pass. Our first day on the trail we had a quick climb out of the lower valley as we made our way to Sphinx Creek Camp. This camp was a great spot for the first night. It has flat spots for tents and fire ring to sit around while enjoying the night.
On day 2 we passed by Charlotte Creek which was a great place for lunch. We decided to stay the night at Junction Meadow. We stayed at the lower camp which was right above Bubbs Creek. This was another camp at which we were able to have a nice campfire and enjoy some Red Velvet cake that Monica baked fresh on site.
On day 3, we would be going over 10,000’ so fires would no longer be allowed. On our way to Vidette meadow, we took in the sights and observed a running bear, on the other side of Bubbs Creek. Vidette meadow was the perfect spot for a lunch break before we ascended to our camp site, overlooking Charlotte lake. That night, the sky lit up with many different colors at sunset.
Day 4 would be the day that we would go over Glen Pass. We got an early start up the pass. Once we reached Glen pass, we took a break, taking in the magnificent views. From this point, the trail was mostly downhill for the rest of the week. We slowly made our way down through the snowfields and switchbacks before reaching Rae Lakes, which we would call home for the next 2 days.
On Day 5 we enjoyed the Rae Lakes basin. We were able to finally go fishing, with everyone in camp catching many brook trout and rainbow trout. Camp was filled with good food, friends, and stories. Deer were plentiful around the lakes. One buck came near camp to check us out.
On day 6, we left the Rae Lakes area, making our way to the Woods Creek Bridge. Along the way we passed by Arrowhead Lake and Dollar Lake, which were both beautiful in their own settings. While crossing the bridge at Woods Creek, we noticed there were fish below us. After spending a couple hours fishing near the fork at the bridge, we ended up staying the night here and enjoyed another campfire.
On day 7, we would be making the water crossing at Upper Paradise Valley, which in high snow years would be uncrossable at this time of year. The trail lead down the valley, most of the time up, above woods creek. We enjoyed many waterfalls along the way, eventually having lunch at Upper Paradise Valley. We continued down to Middle Paradise to camp for the night. At this camp we were treated to the river alongside our camp. A couple deer came into camp and ignored us for s couple hours. The mosquitos were particularly aggressive, and the trees were dripping more sap than I have seen before, which made for extra cleanup work when we got home.
Our last day on the trail was day 8. We had woken up early to beat the heat in the valley and to make an early start on the long ride home. Along the way, we all took in Mist Falls, which was flowing nicely. As we came back within sight of our first bridge crossing over to the Bubbs Creek drainage, we all knew our vacation was almost over. It was an awesome, week long adventure with some great friends.
Words and photos by Jason Huckeba.