While best known for its massive trees, Sequoia National Park is also home to spectacular alpine lakes. The Lakes Trail is a 12.8-mile round-trip hike that passes three gorgeous alpine lakes and offers stunning views of the surrounding High Sierras.
The hike starts at the Wolverton parking lot. Except midday during the peak summer months, there is usually parking available here. Start early or late to guarantee a parking spot. The parking lot does have potable water and bathrooms. There are bear boxes available for safe food storage while away from your vehicle. Additionally, the national park bus service stops at this location.
The hike ascends through an old-growth forest for approximately 2.1 miles. At this point the trail splits, offering a choice between the Watchtower Trail and the Hump Trail. The Hump Trail travels through a more wooded route, and it is a safer choice when snow persists or for hikers with a fear of heights. The Watchtower Trail hugs a cliff edge and offers unimpeded views of the surrounding mountains. This route is not a safe choice in icy conditions. With either route, at 4.1 miles hikers reach Heather Lake at 9,280 feet. While no camping is allowed at this lake, it does offer a pristine location for a rest and a snack.
Continuing an additional 1.2 miles along rocky alpine terrain, hikers reach Emerald Lake. At 9,230 feet, 10 campsites at this location offer fishing and views of Alta Peak and the Marble Fork Valley. There is even a solar toilet to help keep the heavily used camping area clean.
Finally, after an additional 1.1 miles and another 230 feet in elevation gain, hikers and backpackers reach the highest of the alpine lakes, Pear Lake, at 9,550 feet. There are 10 campsites nestled among the trees surrounding the lake. The lake is a cirque with jagged rock faces plunging into the crystal-clear blue waters. A pit toilet and ranger station are at this location, and the ranger station is available as a hut during winter adventures.
The Lakes Trail is a great day hike or overnight under the stars. It's a challenging uphill climb to lakes and views that make the effort more than worthwhile.