Kings Canyon National Park- Rae Lakes Loop
Well, I am quickly falling in love with the west. Just days after visiting Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time, on perhaps the most beautiful weekend of the year, I returned to San Francisco to travel down to Kings Canyon National Park and hike the Rae Lakes loop (40 miles) with my good friend Will. This was a first time visit to this park for both of us. Kings Canyon is connected to Sequoia National Park & Forest to the south. These parks are located in the Sierra high country which also are home to Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states) and portions of the John Muir Trail/ Pacific Crest Trail (comprise the same track). After a quick google image search, I was prepared for a real treat on this hike. I can honestly say that pictures can't do justice to what it is really like to hike through this area. We both expected the hike to the JMT/PCT to be plain and all of the beauty to be along just this corridor. We were pleasantly surprised to find that this was absolutely not the case. From start to finish, this trail and the fall colors gave us stunningly beautiful panoramic views at every turn of the trail.
Will did all of the planning here, so it was nice to be "along for the ride." He allotted 4 days and 3 nights for us to complete our 40 mile hike. With over 7,000 ft of total elevation gain, we elected to take the more gradual climb by hiking this loop clockwise. Same story as RMNP, hikers and wilderness campers are required to have a bear canister to store food items. There are many designated campsites with bear boxes, but you are still required to have the canister. Hikers are allowed to make a fire below 10,000 ft. For this hike, that basically amounts to no fires along the PCT/JMT.
During peak season, hikers must apply for a permit in advance to hike here. If you wait until later in the season (like us), you can skip the lottery and just sign in at the trail. The crowds are likely lower at this time too. You can also see from my photos that the views don't suck this time of year.