If there’s anything that motivates us to hike, it’s turquoise blue water and beautiful forest views. For those scoping out northern California hikes with waterfalls you're in luck. This trail has epic views that will take your breath away.

While it’s an 11-mile hike each way to see all seven lakes, it’s definitely doable if you plan ahead and take the whole day. Start out early in the am and make sure to bring plenty of water.

It’s rated a moderately difficult hike and has a substantial elevation change if you plan to explore the whole trail.

May through October is the best time to go to Big Pines Lake Trail since the campgrounds are open and there’s no ice on the trail. The trails are steep and rocky with limited shade.

Make sure to plan accordingly and bring extra water, sunscreen, and snacks. We recommend leaving your furry friends at home.

If you’d rather skip the long route and take a short cut to the views, there are several options that you can take. You won’t need a permit for hiking, but you will need one if you plan to backpack overnight. If you camp, you need to bring a bear canister. There’s a small parking lot by the entrance of the trail and street parking too.

You’ll start out your hike at Big Pine Creek Campground by Mt. Alice. Then, you’ll take the famous John Muir Trail deep into the scenic Inyo National Forest. There are seven stunning turquoise blue lakes you can explore! 

The first three are the most famous, especially since they have the massive Temple Crag mountain peak forming a picture-perfect backdrop. After you hike 2.7 miles, you’ll start to see beautiful glimpses of Temple Crag between the trees. It’s worth the wait!


Throughout the trail, you can see beautiful streams and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. The alpine lakes are simply stunning. After 4.45 miles, you’ll reach the banks of Big Pine Lakes 1.

You can still see the stunning views of the turquoise alpine lake and Temple Crag here. You can even walk down to the lake shores for a close-up view and take a dip! Just make sure to make it quick - the alpine waters are very chilly.

The First Big Pine Lake is an awesome spot to take a picnic and rest. From there, you can decide whether you want to continue on to the other lakes.

If you come during spring, there’s a beautiful waterfall cascading down from the rocks above from snowmelt. You’ll find one at Second Falls too. They're a little hidden at times, so keep an eye out! 


Big Pine Lakes Trail

Location: Big Pine Lakes Trail, John Muir Wilderness, CA

Price: Free for hikers.

Why you should go: You can see seven stunning turquoise alpine lakes and waterfalls. You can take a dip in some too!

We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.


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