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5 Best Backpacking Trips in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon, two parks operated as one, are a quiet alternative to their popular cousin to the North, Yosemite. These parks encompass some of the most rugged and remote terrains in the Sierra Nevada and are known for their extremes. Here you will find the largest trees on Earth, the tallest mountain in the continental United States, and valleys to rival the Grand Canyon. Even though all this grandeur is in close proximity to major cities, these parks don’t see as much traffic as Yosemite! The reason is simple; less road access so to see this magic means you have to travel on foot. Get packed and lace your boots and join Lasting Adventures in exploring this jaw-dropping scenery and enchanting terrain. But don’t get started right away — check out our list of the 5 best backpacking trips in Sequoia and Kings Canyon first!

5 Best Backpacking Trips in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

  1. Rae Lakes Loop
  2. Hamilton Lakes Out and Back
  3. Big 5 Lakes Loop – Best Backpacking Trip in Sequoia for Lake Lovers
  4. Pear Lake Out and Back – Best Sequioia Backpacking Trip for Beginners
  5. High Sierra Trail Thru-Hike

1. Rae Lakes Loop

Painted lady rock formation behind upper rae lake at sunset.
Painted Lady from Upper Rae Lake

Distance: 40 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 8181 feet

Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

The Rae Lakes Loop is well-known for a reason. This trail is popular with families, fishermen, and photographers alike. In 40 miles, this loop tours you through majestic valleys, alongside trout-filled creeks, and over the 11,926-foot Glen Pass. You will camp at the scenic Rae Lakes, near meadows with deer and wildflowers, and watch sunsets on 13,000-foot peaks. Although this is one of the easier hikes on our list, it packs quite a lot in. The diverse range of landscapes you will see on this journey is equal to the rewards of a much longer trip.

2. Hamilton Lakes Out and Back

Hamilton Lake and Valhalla in Sequoia National Park
Panorama of Hamilton Lake and Valhalla in Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Distance: 30 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 7455 feet

Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

This out-and-back hike visits one of the most scenic locations in the Sierra Nevada. The 15-mile hike can be broken down into 2 or 3 days with a Bearpaw High Sierra Camp stay. Here you can buy food and drink from their camp kitchen and enjoy a fantastic view of the Great Western Divide. Lodging options are available here, as well as backcountry campsites. Take the next day to enjoy the hike up into the Hamilton Lakes Basin. Here, towering granite summits dominate your view while the cool waters of Big and Little Hamilton Lakes provide a respite from the warm hike up. Have a picnic on the shore of Big Hamilton Lake before heading back down to Crescent Meadow where you started.

3. Big 5 Lakes Loop – Best Backpacking Trip in Sequoia for Lake Lovers

Reflecting rocks and trees at Big Five Lakes in Kings Canyon.
Dawn at Big Five Lakes, Kings Canyon Wilderness

Distance: 30 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 10043 feet

Difficulty: Strenuous

The Big 5 Lakes Loop is a tour for all the lake lovers out there. The trail traverses between sapphire blue lake basins that are tucked up against mountains and hidden in conifer forests. As you make your way deeper into Sequoia, you will challenge yourself by crossing passes into new terrain each day. The reward will be sunset views of some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. Highlights include camping by the crystal clear waters of Big 5 Lakes and the view from the 11,700-foot Sawtooth pass. 

4. Pear Lake Out and Back – Best Sequioia Backpacking Trip for Beginners

Alta Peak reflected in Pear Lake along one of our top backpacking trips in Sequoia National Park
Alta Peak Reflects in Pear Lake in Sequoia National Park

Distance: 19 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 3244 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

If you are looking for beginner or introductory backpacking trips in Sequoia National Park, look no further than Pear Lake. This hike begins at the Wolverton Trailhead and climbs gradually into the mountains passing Heather, Emerald, and Aster Lakes on the way to scenic Pear Lake. On day 1, take the long way over the Watchtower to peer over this 1,000-foot backcountry wall. Afterward, a relatively flat trail rings you to your camp at Pear Lake, where you can watch the sunset on peaks all around you, and their reflection in the lake itself. It is a sight not to be missed on this trip perfect for those who have limited time to visit Sequoia National Park.

5. High Sierra Trail Thru-Hike

Alpine lake views while backpacking along one of the best routes in Sequoia National Park.
Alpine lake along the High Sierra Trail

Distance: 70 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 17,515 feet

Difficulty: Most Strenuous

Although the longest, this is the most rewarding of our list. The High Sierra Trail is a trans-Sierra thru-hike, meaning it crosses from one side of the mountains all the way to the other. Popular with those preparing for the JMT (John Muir Trail), this trail is the best way to see grand scenery and enjoy a longer trip in the wilderness. While more difficult overall, smart packing and breaking down the journey into bite-sized chunks makes it attainable for all. It is also much easier with the help of a guide service to organize transportation, food, and a 5-star guest experience along the way!

This trail starts in a giant sequoia grove on the western side of the mountains. After visiting these beauties, the ascent into the mountains begins, camping at alpine lakes and meadows along the way. Visiting a natural hot spring halfway through the adventure is a highlight and a unique way to recharge. Traveling up the Kern River Valley, a canyon deeper than Arizona’s Grand Canyon, you will be amazed by the vastness of this protected wilderness. Towards the culmination, you will climb Mt. Whitney and stand on the tallest mountain in California and the contiguous U.S. Meander down the mountain and treat yourself to the most massive pancakes ever from the Whitney Portal Store. You earned it.

Start Planning Your Sequoia-Kings Canyon Backpacking Trip

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are world-class destinations for backpacking. Incredible scenery, combined with fewer crowds than some other nearby parks adds up to the perfect location for beginner and veteran backpackers to take a summer holiday hiking trip. If any of these itineraries interest you, contact Lasting Adventures to book guided custom backpacking trips in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park. See you there!

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