Rae Lakes Loop August 2016 – Introduction and Planning

The Rae Lakes Loop is a popular loop hike in King’s Canyon National Park.  Many John Muir Trail hikers consider the Rae Lakes the most beautiful part of the trail.  The loop traverses (depending upon which signs you believe) 40 to 45 miles of incredible Sierra high country, starting and finishing at the Road’s End trailhead.  It’s a hike that takes you up to nearly 12,000 feet above sea level through forests, meandering near riverbeds, passing waterfalls, and up over the tree line.


After realizing that the JMT wasn’t going to happen for me in 2016, I was very disappointed.  I was angry with myself for not being able to get my butt in gear and get into good enough shape to spend three weeks in the wilderness, partly on my own.  I knew I wanted to do something big, so after a good bit of research, I decided on the Rae Lakes Loop.  Permits are required for all backcountry travel in King’s Canyon, and the loop is quite popular.  By the time we decided to go, we had to settle for a counterclockwise permit instead of the traditional, easier clockwise route, but we were excited to get out into the wilderness!

I flew into LA to meet up with my hiking partners, my friend from high school, Mindy, and her roommate, Evyn, on Thursday, August 26.  There are several different options for flights for the Rae Lakes Loop, and LA probably isn’t the most convenient.  I’d suggest flying into Fresno, which is just a few hours away.  I chose to fly into LA because that’s where Mindy and Evyn live, so keeping things simple there was the number one priority!

King’s Canyon National Park is jointly administrated with Sequoia National Park, so most maps you’ll find will be joint maps.  There are a few lodges in the park but plenty of campgrounds within the park.  From the entrance, it takes about 2 hours to get to the permit station.  We chose to camp on Friday night in the Cedar Grove area, which has first come first serve campsites for $18 a night.

When I planned this trip, I found Kevin Gong’s trip report incredibly useful.  Although most people tackle the loop in 3 or 4 days, we wanted to take things a bit slower and chose a 6 day trip.  Our original plan was to hike from Road’s End to Charlotte Creek on the first day (7 miles), to Charlotte Lake on the second day (9 miles), up and over Glen Pass to the Rae Lakes on day 3 (5 miles), down to Wood’s Creek on day 4 (6.5 miles), to Middle Paradise Valley on day 5 (7.5 miles) and out back to Road’s End on our final day (7 miles).  Altitude sickness definitely got the best of me and we didn’t make that itinerary work!  However, we still had a great trip – the first few days for me, though, were really difficult.  But more on that in a later post.

Our actual path wound up being:

  • Day 1 – Road’s End to Charlotte Creek (7 miles)
  • Day 2 – Charlotte Creek to Lower Vidette Meadow (5 miles, 12 total)
  • Day 3 – Lower Vidette Meadow to Charlotte Lake (4 miles,  18 total)
  • Day 4 – Charlotte Lake to Baxter Creek (10 miles, 28 total)
  • Day 5 – Baxter Creek to Middle Paradise Valley (10 miles, 38 total)
  • Day 6 – Middle Paradise Valley to Road’s End (7 miles, 45 total)

The gear I carried or shared gear I used) on this trip included:

Name  Gear Personal or Shared?
Pack Osprey Aura 50 Personal
Sleeping Bag Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15 Personal
Sleeping Pad Big Agnes Insulated Double Z Personal
Tent REI Quarter Dome 3 + footprint Shared (Dawn's)
Stove  Pocket Rocket Knockoff Shared (Mindy's)
Fuel 2 x 270 g container isobutane Shared (Mindy's)
Cookset Stripped down GSI Bugaboo Backpacker + nForm Kitchen Shared (Dawn's)
Cookgear Titanium spork and the large pot from an older version of this SnowPeak cookset  Personal
Water Filter  Platypus GravityWorks 2L  Shared (Dawn's)
Water Storage Platypus 2L Hoser+ 1 L Nalgene Personal
Map (shared) Tom Harrison Shared
Camera GoPro Hero 4 Silver Personal
Camera Accessories 2 extra batteries + tripod + clip mount Personal
Communication Delorme InReach Shared (Dawn's)
Headlamp Black Diamond Personal
Down Coat Adidas Personal
Camp Shoes Teva Personal
First Aid Kit Homemade Shared (Everyone's contributions!)
Head Net Sea to Summit Personal
Rain Gear Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket Personal
Trekking Poles REI Carbon Power Lock Personal
Bear Can BearVault BV500 Shared (Dawn's)
Second Bear Can  BearVault BV450 Shared (Rented)
Bug Spray 100% Deet Shared
Toiletries Toothbrush deoderant etc Shared
Sunglasses Prescription Personal
Bathroom TP & Trowel Shared (Evyn's)
Entertainment Kindle Keyboard + deck of cards + notebook Personal

Here’s a preview of some of the pictures from our trip!





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