|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – January/February 2010
Get a highlights tour of the High Sierra backcountry.
Could our panelists agree on one hike in a region prized for easy access, reliably pleasant weather, and the country’s prettiest lakes, peaks, trees, and campsites? “Good luck,” said Leon Nelson. But then they did—with surprisingly little hand-wringing. The team proclaimed Sequoia National Park’s six-mile Lakes Trail the region’s finest weekend hike. “You pass picture-perfect, glacially carved lakes along a relatively gentle grade with endless sidetrip opportunities,” explains Carol Underhill.
Day one From the trailhead at the end of Wolverton Road, ascend concrete steps to the well-signed Lakes Trail, heading north. Make a right .1 mile later at the Lodgepole Trail junction to continue on the Lakes Trail. From here, you’ll climb nearly 1,000 feet along Wolverton Creek and a million-year-old moraine deposited by the Tokopah Glacier. Reach the Panther Gap Trail junction at 1.8 miles and hang a left on the Lakes Trail. Ascend to a meadow lush with knee-high summer grasses and bisected by a small creek.
On the meadow’s far side, the trail switchbacks upward through marmot territory; bigger and better views of the Watchtower, a colossal granite spire to the south, emerge with every step. At 4.1 miles (and after another 1,000-foot gain), reach aptly named Heather Lake; shoreline shrubs turns scarlet in early fall. From here, the trail climbs a ridge separating Emerald Lake (to the south) and Aster Lake (to the north). In summer, you’ll pass through gardens of blue and purple penstemon that attract dive-bombing hummingbirds. Reach the Pear Lake Ranger Station at mile 5.5 and take the right fork for a half-mile to reach Pear Lake, tucked into a classic granite cirque. Camp in a designated site (permit required). Bear box provided.
Day two Retrace your route to the trailhead for a 12-mile overnighter.
Driving From Lodgepole, go 1.6 miles south on CA 198, then take Wolverton Rd. 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
Map and Guide Trails Illustrated Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks ($12, natgeomaps.com); Hiking Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, by Laurel Scheidt ($17, falcon.com)
Contact (559) 565-3341, nps.gov/seki