My son and I had a permit to hike the Loop starting up the Bubbs Creek Trail. Luckily when we checked in on Friday morning with the ranger, we were able to switch to the Paradice Valley Trail. I had heard the Bubbs Creek Trail was much steeper than the Paradise Trail. Our plan had us camping the first night at Middle Paradise Valley, the second at Wood Creek Crossing, third at Rae Lake, fourth up in Sixty Lakes Basin, fifth at Charlotte lake and the last at Sphinx Creek Camp.
Spending time with my son and fishing was the main goal of our trip and hiking through this part of the Sierra turned out to be a great place to do both.
Total Miles: 50
Elevation Gain/Loss: 4380'/4380'
Tyre of Trip: loop
Location: Sequoia-Kings Canyon national parks
Day 1: Roads End to Middle Paradise / 8 miles
The hike up to Middle Paradise was steep with a lot of stairs--my son hates stairs! There were a lot of day hikers up to Mist Falls. Mist Falls was awesome and the sound of the rushing water was constant and loud. We started hearing about a bear on the trail up ahead from passing hikers. Just before Lower Paradise, a cinnamon colored black bear jumped out of the bushes right next to me, which startled my son! We had also seen a bear in the parking lot, but this one was much closer. Middle Paradise was nice- we were able to get some fishing in. There were 3 huge piles of bear scat close to our campsite. While fishing, the bear walked through our camp. It woke up my son at 2:00 AM, trying to break into the metal bear box.
Day 2: Middle Paradise to Woods Creek Crossing / 9 miles
The meadow at Upper Paradise was amazing! It had sheer walls on both sides. There was still a lot of elevation gain, but enough tree cover to keep us shaded. We saw a lot of hikers on the trail with us. Some were struggling under the weight of their packs and the tough terrain. The bridge at Woods Creek Crossing was interesting...it swayed a little and was held up by cables. We started running into JMT hikers here. By this time we realized we had brought way to much food, so we started looking for thru-hikers in need of extra calories. Luckily we found 2 that were rationing their slices of salami with 6 days left to go on their trip! The campsite was full by nightfall. We heard of another bear sighting at Upper Paradise--this time a mother bear and some cubs. Our deer count is up to 6, with 3 bucks. A mini-bear (chipmunk) got into some of our trail mix.
Day 3: Woods Creek Crossing to Rae Lakes / 8 miles
The mosquitoes were pretty bad this morning. We had to take our breaks in the sun--the mosquitoes attacked in the shade. We hiked in long sleeves, long pants, and a head net. Not too many stairs on this section--a little flatter here. The first lake we came to was Dollar Lake, then Arrow Lake. Just before we got to Rae Lakes, we came across a solo hiker, doing the loop as a day hike! He started at 1 AM and planned on finishing in at dark. We found a spot at Rae Lakes, that was towards the windward side, which helped keep the mosquitoes away. The fish were biting anything! We caught about 100 fish, nothing over 8 inches, but they fought well. We had to de-barb our hooks, because the fish were so voracious!
Day 4: Layover / side hike to Sixty Lakes Basin / 5 miles
I couldn't convince my son that hiking into Sixty Lakes Basin, spending the night there, and hiking over Glen Pass was a good idea. So instead we took our fishing gear and hiked into the basin. The hike out of Rae Lakes and into Sixty Lakes Basin was steep and challenging. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out that the forest service had started eliminating the fish with gill nets. They were set up in one of the lakes in order to preserve the yellow-legged frog. Ugh! We had lunch and returned to Rae Lakes. The area was beautiful, so it made our side hike worthwhile.
Day 5: Rae Lakes to Roads End / 21 miles (!)
We were up early and out by 7:30 AM. The steep hike up to Glen Pass had awesome scenery. The pass itself had a lot of switch backs, both up and down, and was very tricky. Once we started the downhill portion, the miles came fast and easy. Our idea was to hike to Sphinx Creek camp. Once we got there at 1:30 PM, we realized we could finish the loop by 5:00 PM. So we forged ahead and hike the last 4 miles of the loop. Along the way we were able to perform some more "trail magic". We gave away our extra food to a family of 3 JMT hikers. They said it would allow them to stay an extra day on the trail. While getting water down by Charlotte's creek, my son jumped and screamed "Rattlesnake!" We were in the company of a 3' Western Diamondback. The sound of his rattle let us know that we were in his territory. The Bubbs Creek Trail was in bad shape--mule teams were there to resupply the trail crew. The mules were tearing up the tread.
All in all, the scenery with the sheer cliffs, the rock formations, the roaring creeks (rivers), and the clear waters made this trip a great one. I would recommend it to anyone. We brought Knorr "Food Sides" (packets) and they were really good. We ate the fettuccine noodles and added tuna packets to it. We also had an egg noodle dish with canned chicken added to it. Both worked out great. We ate Quaker Natural Granola with powdered milk added to it (and water). It was excellent as well.
I'm hoping to take our boy scout troop here next summer.