ElevationAscent: 2,792' 851 m
Descent: -2,792' -851 m
High: 9,555' 2,912 m
Low: 7,294' 2,223 m
GradeAvg Grade: 9% (5°)
Max Grade: 32% (18°)
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“A spectacular day run/backpack that provides an excellent sampling of Sierra Nevada sub-alpine lakes”— Charlotte Reed
After passing the junction, continue on the Lakes Trail for 0.3 miles to the Watchtower Trail/ Hump Trail junction. All of the lakes may be accessed via the Hump Trail, however, the Watchtower route provides less strenuous travel, and spectacular views. Continue ascending along the shady trail crossing a few seasonal creeks. The trail then steepens and switchbacks a couple of times before reaching the Watchtower, a massive granite rock formation with sheer cliffs that overlooks the Tokopah Valley below. This is a rewarding spot to stop for a snack and enjoy the view.
Continue up the trail as it becomes increasingly rocky where it has been blasted out of the granite cliffs. The trail then descends, passing the other end of the Hump trail junction, before arriving at Heather Lake at about 4 miles. The trail skirts the northern shore of the lake before again ascending a few switchbacks to the top of a small ridge. Look for marmots and pikas as the trail again becomes increasingly rocky before descending towards Emerald and Aster lakes. Pass a spur trail to Emerald Lake on the right where it sits beneath sheer granite walls. Camping is permitted but limited, and a permit is required.
The trail continues past Emerald Lake looking down to deep blue Aster Lake on the left before beginning its final ascent to Pear Lake. Look for Alpine Columbine and Indian paintbrush along the rocky trail in mid-summer, and enjoy the view back down the Tokopah Valley into which the water from all four lakes drains to form the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. At 5.6 miles the trail begins to curve to the east and passes a junction to the Pear Lake Ranger Station. Continue along the main trail for another 0.5 miles to reach Pear Lake at 6.1 miles. Camping is permitted at the lake but is limited to 10 sites and requires a permit. Enjoy a swim in this alpine lake or take in the views to the south of Alta Peak and the expansive surrounding smooth granite slabs and twisted pines before heading back along the same route that you came in on.
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Need to Know, Runner Notes, History & Background
Land Manager: NPS - Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park