When people think of California, the first things that pop to mind are probably Los Angeles, Disneyland or the Golden Gate Bridge. And while these man-made wonders are impressive and offer so much to our society, California also features some of the most beautiful nature and wild scenery in the world. A few months age, a good friend and I were testing out a trail called the Lake Trail, tucked away in Sequoia National Park. After completing our three-day hike, we both agreed that it was one of the most awe-inspiring adventures we had ever been on.
The Lake Trail takes place in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, just northeast of Visalia. Pulling off the 198 highway at the Wolverton picnic area, you will find the trailhead just after the large parking lot. This area offers a toilet with running water so make sure to take advantage of this luxury while you can. The hike is 14 miles out and back and does feature several water sources for filtering.
The beginning of the hike is unforgiving, as it snakes and winds its way up the valley floor to a large ridge overlooking. The area down at the beginning of the hike was crisp and damp, giving me vibes of coastal forests. Giant Sequoia trees all around me made me feel small yet comforted at the same time.
As you ascend out of the valley, the Giant Sequoias are replaced by California Redwoods and the air becomes much more dusty and dry, as the environment in Sequoia often is. After a short stretch of flat hiking on the top of the ridge, the view opens up to another valley and below, four beautiful mountain lakes await, some teeming with fish.
As you descend into this second valley, you’ll initially pass Heather Lake and Alta Lake. While both of these lakes are stunning and clear as crystal, they paled in comparison to Emerald Lake, which lay at the bottom of a massive granite bowl, with razor-sharp peaks on the edges. Backcountry camping is also permitted on a first-come first-serve basis in designated sites around Emerald only.
However, the true gem of the hike is Pear Lake, which is almost twice as massive as Emerald Lake. It was here that my friend and I set up our camp and began fishing the endless stream of mountain trout that were jumping from this lake. Make sure to not build any fires while camping on the trail, as Sequoia National Forest is known to be extremely dry and ready to catch fire at any moment. Instead, if you are going to cook, opt for a small portable gas stove. Because the campsites do not feature bear boxes and this area is particularly active, always make sure to bring a bear canister on you when staying overnight in this area.
In my experience hiking trail featuring lakes, this one has to take the cake. Not only does it feature four pristine Sierra mountain lakes, but it is also a relatively moderate hike due to the gradual elevation gain and loss. If you plan on heading out to the Lake Trail, make sure to check the weather conditions as it can be unpredictable at times.