Backpacking the Rae Lakes Loop – Kings Canyon National Park

August 26, 2016ck@chriskeeney.comFamily, VacationNo Comments
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This July (25-30) 2016 our family and a couple of the kids friends had the pleasure of hiking the Rae Lakes Loop in the Kings Canyon National Park. Our wilderness permit was outlined to hike the loop counterclockwise starting at the Roads End ranger station and heading up Paradise Valley. Our first night we camped at the Upper Paradise campground.

Map of the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park

Map of the Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park showing the trail.

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Simone and Nicole standing next to the Rae Lakes Loop map and sign

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Nicole and Simone making their way up Paradise Valley on the first day. It was a hot day and temperatures were in the mid 90’s. Full packs, uphill climb and hot sun makes for cranky hikers.

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The nice thing about this hike is that about 90% of this trail is next to water. This way you never have to worry about hiking with lots of water… which we all know is heavy. The Sphinx peak in the background.

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About an hour or so into our first day we came upon Mist Falls which is a spectacular sight. I just wish I had time to take a dip.

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Right above Mist Falls is Lower Paradise Valley which had a beautiful river flowing through it. So beautiful I had to take my pack off and soak in the sights for a while.

As I was soaking in the sights I hoped onto a rock (which can be seen in the previous photo). Below this rock (unknown to me) was a large rattlesnake keeping itself cool next to the river. Yes, that's right, rattlesnakes CAN swim.

As I was soaking in the sights I hopped onto a rock (which can be seen in the previous photo). Below this rock (unknown to me) was a large rattlesnake keeping itself cool next to the river. Yes, that’s right, rattlesnakes CAN swim.

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After my near rattlesnake experience, I put on my pack and eventually caught up with my son and his friend who were admiring all the awesome fishing holes along the way.

Brook Trout caught in Upper Paradise Valley with lure with barbless hook

Before leaving on the trip I made sure all the people fishing in our group had a valid California fishing licenses and were equipped with barbless hooks. All fish are to be catch and release only below 9000 feet. The brook trout were definitely biting on this trip. Park regulations can be found HERE

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My wife and son filtering water at our first camp at Upper Paradise Valley. Simone has her mosquito net on but I didn’t think the bugs were all that bad.

The kids love campfires, and since fires aren't allowed above 10,000 feet I figured, what the heck. You can see everyone was hungry and enjoying their dinner.

The kids love campfires, and since fires aren’t allowed above 10,000 feet I figured, what the heck. You can see everyone was hungry and enjoying their dinner.

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The next day we woke up early and headed down the trail which for a while paralleled Woods Creek.

Trail leading up Woods Creek

You know you're gaining elevation when you start to see aspen trees mixed in with pines.

You know you’re gaining elevation when you start to see aspen trees mixed in with pines.

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View looking up towards upper Woods Creek.

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Nicole crossing over the foot bridge at the junction at Upper Woods Creek. One person at a time please.

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View looking North down the trail toward upper Woods Creek. It’s kinda a steep climb up to Dollar and Arrowhead lake, so I was pleased that we got a little rain that day. Elevation is about 10,000 feet here.

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Reflection off the water at Dollar Lake with Fin Dome in the background

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Colin and Nick posing for a photo in a meadow just above Dollar Lake. This was probably one of the most beautiful meadows I saw along the whole trail.

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The boys trying their luck in these little ponds along the meadow. Pretty much every cast they would catch a fish. Like I said, this meadow is quite beautiful.

Swimming in Arrowhead Lake

First thing we did when we reached Arrowhead Lake was go for a swim. The water was chilly but we were dirty and dusty so we didn’t mind much. This lake has to be one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve camped at in the Sierras

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My wife and sun enjoying a cup of coffee the next morning at Arrowhead Lake

View of Arrowhead Lake from the trail heading Towards Rae Lakes

View of Arrowhead Lake from the trail heading up towards Rae Lakes

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Trail heading into Rae Lakes

Panoramic view of trail heading into Rae Lakes

Panoramic view of trail heading into Rae Lakes

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Light purple wildflowers along the side of the trail near Rae Lakes. Scientific Name: Allium Validum, Common Name: Swamp Onion, Family: Lily, Color: Pink to Lilac

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Colin and Nick posing for a photo at our campsite at Rae Lakes

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Julie and I enjoying a little red wine (French Gigondas) that we decanted into a Platypus that is specially designed to hold wine. And yes, we got rained on that afternoon/evening.

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A peek at our backpacking kitchen. Let me tell you… it has quite the view.

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A view from our campsite. Not bad right?

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Wait… The view just got better, at least for me. My daughter makes any view better for me.

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Sadly, all good things must come to an end eventually. A view of Rae Lakes on the trail towards Glen Pass.

Don't forget to stop and smell the wild flowers along the way. Scientific Name: Primula suffrutescens, Common Name: Sierra Primrose, Family: Primrose, Color: Bright Pink with a Yellow center

Don’t forget to stop and smell the wild flowers along the way. Scientific Name: Primula suffrutescens, Common Name: Sierra Primrose, Family: Primrose, Color: Bright Pink with a Yellow center

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Panoramic view of the lakes mid way up the trail to Glen Pass.

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View of Rae Lakes from the top of Glen Pass.

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Coming down the trail with a view of Kearsarge Pass in the distance. Kearsarge Pinnacles on the right hand side of photo.

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My daughter and her friend heading down the trail towards Junction Meadow

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Stopping again to smell the flowers. This time it’s Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Bigelow’s Sneezeweed (Helenium bigelovii) and Western Snakeroot (Ageratina occidentals)

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Stoping for lunch. Polishing off the remaining salami, cheese, bagels with peanut butter and jelly. Needless to say I was happy to remove those items from my backpack for “repositioning” to other backpackers in our group.

Heading down the Bubbs Creek trail with a view of Grand Sentinel on the left.

Heading down the Bubbs Creek trail with a view of Grand Sentinel on the left.

Big smiles from the girls for completed the Rae Lakes Loop. Ice cream or cold beer anyone?

Big smiles from the girls for completed the Rae Lakes Loop. Ice cream or cold beer anyone?

 

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