Kings Canyon Rae Lakes Loop
Rae Lakes loop is one of the most popular routes in the Sierra. As such, I won’t go into too much detail about it, as there are plenty of resources to guide you along the way. Worth noting is the fact that during the summer season, the National Parks service allows 25 people per day to enter into the wilderness from Road’s end (the most common and logical place to start this loop).
The loop is popular because it combines many desirable traits: 3-4 days with no need to repeat terrain, It ventures up to some beautiful lakes, it is within the National park (which often brings extra attention). You can order your permit ahead of time during high season, but you need to pick it up at Road’s end during the hours of 7am to 3:30pm (you should double check, though) between ~May 22 and ~September 26 (double check these dates!) After September 26th, you’re in what I consider to be the ultimate time to visit: perfect beautiful weather, no crowds, and no requirement for pre-planning your permit. Bear canisters are required year round in this region – probably due to the number of people that come through. Please, please do adhere to the permit requirements. The reason for permits is largely due to quotas. You want the wilderness to be a natural place, and 25+ humans a day all summer long has a big impact on the terrain. Bear lockers are there, but they are intended for PCT through hikers. This is a spectacular loop – one of my favorites in the Sierra – so try and get a permit, and wait for a day that works for you. Note that while the NPS page says this is a 41.5 mile loop, our GPS units measured a distance closer to 50 miles.