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    Highland Lakes Loop

    This reflects the 10Adventures difficulty rating for each route. We aim to keep ratings consistent across regions.
    This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
    This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
    4.7 km
    This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
    207 m
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    Directions to Trailhead
    In the late fall, and early spring be sure to pack a pair of microspikes! Highland Lakes Loop

    Indulge yourself in mesmerizing views of the high country along the Highland Lakes Loop. Secluded and scenic, this route offers an unparalleled experience in the Stanislaus National Forest. Wander atop a craggy peak before meandering along the shores of the alpine lakes.

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    Route Description for Highland Lakes Loop

    As the name depicts, the Highland Lakes Hike is located in the high country! Situated amongst cloud-scrapping peaks, this route boasts incomparable vistas. Due to the area’s elevation, afternoon storms are common, and as this route travels along exposed terrain, it is important to check the forecast to mitigate getting caught in dangerous conditions. Additionally, if you are visiting from sea level, it is vital you acclimatize to the altitude before your trek! We also encourage you to dress in layers as the weather can turn on a dime! Lastly, the route up to the campground and trailhead is rough and rugged, so exercise caution. Note, though not necessary; the trail GPS may prove useful when navigating the un-signposted routes.

    The alpine terrain is just waiting to be explored, and the Highland Lakes Trail is an excellent way to do just that. Exhibiting the grandeur and diversity of the Stanislaus National Forest, this route passes a series of snow-melt streams and lakes whilst exposing the variety of the area’s flora and fauna. Those seeking a heart-pumping but not over-exhausting adventure will love this hike. Climb up above the treeline, dip back below the shade and revel in the sights of the shimmering alpine waters. Besides its obvious beauty, we love this trek as it boasts a sequestered alpine experience. Note the path is best explored in the late spring and early summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom!

    Embark on your adventure along the Highland Lakes Trail from the Highland Lakes Campground. Setting out from the trailhead next to Upper Highland Lake, track the un- signposted route southeast. This path steeply ascends the mountainside, demanding stamina and some scrambling! Don’t let the intensity discourage you; this is the most difficult section of the hike. Soon you will reach an intersection at the summit of the unofficial peak. Veer left here, hiking northeast atop the mountain. Marvel in the expansive panoramas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Highland Lakes below. From here, you will also be granted immediate sights of Hiram Peak in the south and Folger Peak in the west.

    After reveling in the vistas, continue hiking northeast, gradually descending the mountainside. Eventually, you will be guided over the North Fork Mokelumne River. After crossing the river, you will be redirected west, along the shoulder of the Highland Lakes Road. This section of the trail will guide you along the northern shore of Lower Highland Lake. You will likely notice adventurers fishing in the waters and intrepid climbers above scaling the towering summits as you meander. Continue trekking along the Highland Lakes Road past the lake, and you will ultimately be delivered back to the campground—marking the end of your adventure.

    Trail Highlights

    Highland Lakes

    The Highland Lakes are composed of two alpine lakes—Lower and Upper Highland Lakes. Situated amongst Folger Peak and Hiram Peak near Ebbetts Pass, these pools sit at an elevation of 2,621 m. The uniqueness of these lakes is that one drains into the Mokelumne watershed and the other south, into the Stanislaus River watershed. Though tempting, these lakes are not recommended for swimming—instead, these scenic pools are ideal for fishing!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Where are the Highland Lakes?

    The Highland Lakes are located off the Highland Road in the Stanislaus National Forest, California.

    When is the Highland Lakes Campground open?

    The Highland Lakes Campground is open seasonally from late May through to October.

    Insider Hints for Highland Lakes Loop

    • These lakes are not ideal for swimming, instead, head to Lake Alpine for optimal swimming
    • Stay overnight at the campsites and have coffee overlooking the stunning scene
    • The Highland Lakes are awesome for fishing, so assume you have a valid permit, try your hand at some fish
    • In the late fall, and early spring be sure to pack a pair of microspikes!

    Getting to the Highland Lakes Loop Trailhead

    The Highland Lakes Loop departs from the Highland Lakes Campground off Highland Lakes Road.

    Route Information

    • Backcountry Campground

      Highland Lakes Campground

    • When to do


    • Pets allowed


    • Family friendly


    • Route Signage


    • Crowd Levels


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    Highland Lakes Loop Elevation Graph

    Weather Forecast

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    Highland Lakes Loop Reviews

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