Sequoia National Park: Camp Lakeside in the Sierras

By Melissa Avery
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By Melissa Avery

Heather Lake looked like the perfect camping spot—smooth granite to tent on and jade-colored waters to entertain my eyes. I considered whether to plop down, but our permit was for Pear Lake, so we pushed on. Then, we reached aptly named Emerald Lake. Again, it was all I could do to pass it by, sure there was no way our target could possibly be prettier. But a mile later I saw Pear Lake, a sapphire pool cradled below serrated granite peaks. We settled in beside a brook, my toddler chasing marmots and my husband skipping rocks across the water as I relaxed in a wildflower-dotted meadow. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.

Trip stats
Distance: 13.8 miles
Time: 2 days

Turn-by-turn
From Lakes trailhead
(1) Head .1 mile north and pick up the Lakes Trail.
(2) Follow it 2.2 miles east and north to a junction with the Watchtower Trail.
(3) Both paths ultimately reconnect, but we recommend hanging a left and taking the big-view Watchtower Trail 2.3 miles. (The Lakes Trail shaves distance, but stays in the woods.)
(4) Link back up with the Lakes Trail at Heather Lake and continue 2.6 miles to Pear Lake.
(5) Retrace your steps to your car.

Campsite
Pear Lake
(mile 6.9)

Secure site 3 if you can: It’s secluded and offers vantages of 11,204-foot Alta Peak, the Tokopah Valley, and even the Central Valley, 50 miles west. All sites are first-come, first-serve.

Watchtower Trail
The 2.3-mile Watchtower Trail segment of this trip clings to the edge of the 2,000-foot-tall southern wall of Tokopah Valley, offering bird’s-eye views over the Kaweah River. About halfway across, scramble .1 mile to the top of 8,973-foot Watchtower.

Waterslide
Find a 20-foot-tall granite flume on the south end of Pear Lake. Snowmelt runoff feeds this slide, so be prepared for ice-cold water.

DO IT
Trailhead 36.596545, -118.734269; 27 miles northeast of Three Rivers on Wolverton Rd. Season Late May through early July brings the best flora and weather, but be prepared for mosquitoes. Permits Required (free); get one at the Lodgepole Visitor Center. Custom-centered mapbit.do/BPmapPearLake ($15) Contactnps.gov/sekiTrip databackpacker.com/PearLake

Trail Facts

  • State: CA
  • City: Fresno, CA
  • Distance: 13.8
  • Land Type: National Park