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Pear Lake Trail
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mini location map2016-09-15
25 by photographer avatarastrobrewer
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Pear Lake TrailSierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Backpack avatar Sep 15 2016
Backpack15.27 Miles 3,767 AEG
Backpack15.27 Miles
3,767 ft AEG40 LBS Pack
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
I've been wanting to backpack to Pear Lake for a long time and I finally decided to just do it. My parents used to bring my up to Sequoia every Summer, and we once did a day hike to Heather Lake. Ever since then I've wanted to come back and camp at Pear Lake.

The trailhead is at the Wolverton parking lot. It's a large parking lot because this is a popular trailhead for many different trails. The parking lot has several bear boxes, heavy duty metal lockers for storing food because you can't leave food in your car or the bears will break in to get it. Wolverton is a couple of miles South of Lodgepole which has a large campground, a market and a ranger station where you can get backcountry camping permits if you plan to spend the night. The Lakes Trail to Pear Lake is a popular hiking and backpacking trail and they don't take online reservations. I was planning on camping at Pear Lake and was a little concerned about this, but going mid-week after Labor Day it turned out not to be a problem.

The trail starts going uphill immediately heading to the North towards the ridge line through pine forest. After a hundred yards it gets near the ridge. Turning left the trail goes to Lodgepole, and turning right is the Lakes Trail. The Lakes Trail follows the ridge line giving occasional views to the North through the trees. After about a mile or so the trail turns away from the ridge line towards Southeast through the forest. After another 3/4 mile of steady climbing through the forest there is a signed junction. Left is the Lakes Trail and right heads towards Alta Peak and the High Sierra Trail.

After a short rest at the trail junction I continued on the Lakes Trail. A quarter of a mile past the junction the trail crossed a stream which had just a little water. Then after another quarter mile is the split between The Watchtower and The Hump trails. The Watchtower trail runs along the top of a more than 1500 foot cliff over the Tokopah Valley and has absolutely spectacular views if you don't mind heights. For what should be obvious reasons The Watchtower Trail is closed in Winter and Spring when the trail is icy. The Hump Trail heads up and over the hill through the forest and avoids the cliff at the expense of a little more elevation gain.

I chose The Watchtower Trail which climbs in a generally Northeast direction through lush forest. Another stream crosses the trail, and this one had enough water that you had to step from stone to stone to get across. A bear hanging out at this stream until another hiker scared him away by yelling before I could get a picture of him. Oh well. A mile and a half past The Hump junction there are a couple of switchbacks and you find yourself at the top of the Watchtower. Up to this point the trail has been a nice soft dirt trail that is pleasant and comfortable to walk on. From here on out it is mostly hard granite. But forget that, look at that view! Carefully walk towards the edge of the trail facing The Watchtower and you can see the smooth granite face all the way down to the bottom of the Tokopah Valley and the end of the Tokopah Valley Trail [ description ]. The trail continues along the edge of the cliff with views of the stark granite landscape all around.

Eventually the slope to the left of the trail gets less vertical as it starts to head down to Heather Lake. Heather Lake is really pretty. Like all of the lakes on the trail it sits in a granite bowl carved by glaciers in the last ice age, but it has a lot of trees around it and reeds growing in the shallows. Everything is green and lush at the lake with a backdrop of craggy granite ridges. I found a nice smooth rock to sit on to rest and have a snack at the edge of the lake.

After a short rest I put the pack back on and continued on the trail which headed up over the ridge towards the next valley. I don't know if it was the altitude or what, but the pack seemed a lot heavier all of a sudden. The trail climbed for about a half mile and then Aster Lake came into view well below the trail. Aster Lake and Emerald Lakes are in the same valley and the trail goes between the two. Emerald Lake is higher up the valley and it has sites for camping. You don't get any clear views of Emerald Lake from the trail because it's mostly hidden by trees. Aster Lake is well below the trail and you get good views looking down on it. The valley these lakes are in is surrounded on three sides by very stark, steep and jagged granite ridges.

I found the last mile and a bit from Emerald Lake to Pear Lake to be the toughest part of the trail even though it's only about a 300 foot elevation gain. The trail is hard and rocky the whole way. Along the way there is a sign at a junction to the Pear Lake Ranger Station and Pear Lake. The Pear Lake Ranger Station is a hut that is used in winter by cross country skiers. From that junction it's still about three quarters of a mile uphill on hard granite to the lake. But finally the lake appears. Whew!

Pear Lake, as the name implies, is pear shaped. The narrow part of the pear is to the North and there are trees at that end of the lake and along the slope below that end of the lake where water runs off into the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. Most of the sides of the lake are smooth granite with no trees and limited vegetation. The lake sits in a granite bowl-shaped valley rimmed by sharp craggy peaks 1500 feet higher in elevation. Alta Peak, accessible by trail from the other side of the ridge, still had a visible patch of snow even this late in the year.

Camping at Pear Lake is allowed at numbered campsites only. I took #10 because it was the closest to the water and it also gave me a limited view of the trail leading to the lake so I could see who was coming and going. It was also conveniently close to the pit toilets. When I got to the lake there were only a couple guys fishing, and by the time my tent was set up they had left. I had the lake to myself, or I thought I did until three noisy young people came and went for a swim. But it was late afternoon and they only stayed for a short while, and then I really did have Pear Lake all to myself! The sun went below the ridge to the West putting the lake in shadow long before dusk, and it became very quiet and peaceful.

The next morning it was dead calm and the lake was like a mirror. Originally I had planned to do some cross-country hiking, but I was feeling the altitude and my age and decided that a rest day at a private lake wasn't such a bad thing. A few other hikers showed up during the day and a couple groups stayed overnight.

The hike back was much easier than the hike out, although the first couple of miles to The Watchtower weren't that easy hiking on hard granite. But after that the rest of the trail going downhill walking on soft dirt trail was a piece of cake.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Aster Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Emerald Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Heather Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Pear Lake 76-100% full 76-100% full

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Tokopah Falls Pools to trickle Pools to trickle
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