Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks 4K (2020): The Rae Lakes Loop (short form highlight cut)
This is a short-form cut of noBear’s Rae Lakes Loop trip in 2020 (Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Mountains of California).
Day 1 finds us flying into Fresno and making our way into Sequoia National Park to stay at Wuksachi Lodge for the night.
On Day 2 we drive through Sequoia National Park to Road's End Backcountry Ranger Station. From there, we begin our 4-Day Rae Lakes Loop hike.
We make our way up to Mist Falls on a really hot, bluebird day. It was extremely refreshing. We didn't really have time to acclimate to the elevation, and we had very heavy packs for us (50+ pounds), so it was nice to take a load off. We brought in bear cans (as per regulations), and packrafts with fishing gear. Typically our baseweight is in the 20 lb. range, so given the elevation gains and our packs being more than twice their normal weight it was a struggle. After spending some time at Mist Falls we began our trek to Upper Paradise Valley, and our permitted backcountry site for the night. We started to get a little concerned when we strolled into LOWER Paradise Valley just before dark. There were a few other groups who were setting up camp. They seemed a little worried when we told them we planned to still make the push to Upper Paradise, despite the fact that it was still more than 3 miles away from where we currently were... and that it was already pretty much dark. From there it was definitely a race against the clock.
We finally pull into Upper Paradise Valley, and set up camp for the night. Exhausted, and feeling the affects of the elevation change, we barely had the energy for dinner.
Our plan, upon waking up, was to head out from Upper Paradise Valley to Arrowhead Lake. We would stay at Arrowhead Lake for the Night, then hike the 1.5 miles to Middle Rae Lake for the entire day and night 3. We would then hike up and over Glen Pass, and stay at Vidette Meadows for night 4. On our final day, we would hike back out to Road's End, and then head to Yosemite for 2 days.
That was the "plan".
We began our 2nd day just as we'd hoped. We started to make our way to Arrowhead Lake. About 5 miles in, right where the Rae Lakes Loop merges with the John Muir Trail & The Pacific Crest Trail, things started to go south.
When we arrived in Kings Canyon, we had not acclimated to the elevation at all. We went from 1,500 feet elevation in Fresno less than 24 hours ago to over 10,000 feet. There's no rhyme or reason as to how/when someone will get altitude sickness. However, we are flatlanders coming from NJ (a sea level state at best). Between the four of us, it was inevitable that one (or more) of us would run into problems. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened.
Suffice it to say, when one of our group started to develop some serious symptoms we had an easy decision to make. And it's a good thing we did. Altitude sickness is no joke. It could've been a MAJOR problem, which could've put our friend's life in jeopardy. We are 23+ miles into the High Sierra backcountry, and a Search and Rescue operation is something none of us ever want to encounter. ESPECIALLY when we are involved.
Thankfully in turning back and reducing our elevation quickly in heading back to Upper Paradise Valley, we were able to mitigate the migraine headaches, lightheadedness, and violent vomiting that our friend was experiencing. A good night of rest did wonders for him, and we decided to spend another day and night at Upper Paradise, hike back out to Road's End the next day, and head straight to Yosemite.
As with almost every noBear decision, it actually ended up working out MASSIVELY in our favor.
Not only were we able to spend the day backcountry fishing for our dinner that night, but we had a close encounter with a mama Black Bear and cub. Not to mention that we got to cliff jump at an amazing secret spot on our way out the next day.
But most importantly, this allowed us to have 2 extra days at Yosemite that we weren't planning on having. This turned out to make the trip!
As much as we were disappointed that we didn't get to see Rae Lakes, or hike over Glen Pass, what we got to do/see/hike in Yosemite more than made up for it. Besides... we plan on going back to Rae Lakes with more preparation, much less pack weight, and possibly altitude medication which will allow us to complete the loop. Physical limitations and desire played no role in our failure, so we will definitely head back soon to cross this beautiful multi-day backpacking trip off of our list.
Anyway, we hope you enjoyed joining us on this shortened, highlight-heavy version of our 2020 Rae Lakes Loop trip. Be sure to check out the companion Yosemite National Park trip that can also be found in the uploaded videos on this channel.
As always, thanks for coming along on our adventures, and “like” & “subscribe” if you enjoyed the free entertainment.
Love Always & Forever,