Bear Lake- Backpacking

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A picturesque 5 -mile hike from the Crabtree trailhead. Perfect for beginner backpackers bringing along their dogs.

Written by

Emily Staples


5.0 miles

From the Crabtree Trailhead, you can also take Chewing Gum Trail to get to an elevated view of Bear Lake.

Destination Distance From Downtown

135.2 miles


3 of 5 diamonds

The terrain is sometimes rocky and difficult to maneuver with a big pack. A few steep inclines add to the difficulty of the hike.

Time To Complete

3 hours

With a heavy weekend pack, you'll likely walk slow, dodging tree roots and big rocks.



Summer, early fall and late spring are the only times to visit Bear Lake. The winter means cold, snow and ice. It's hot, but beautiful in the summertime.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits


You need to obtain a permit before your trek, but the permit is free. You can pick it up at the Stanilaus Ranger Station at Miwok Village.

Topographical Map

Bear Lake - Backpackingmap



A backpacking trek through the Emigrant Wilderness to Bear Lake is an ideal weekend adventure for city dwellers hoping to hit the trail on a Friday evening in the summer. It's only a 3.5 hour drive from San Francisco, and borders Yosemite. This glaciated landscape is perfect for the young, old or beginning backpacker seeking serenity for a few days.

What Makes It Great

The hike to Bear Lake is a gentle 3.5 mile trail with sweeping views of pine valleys, granite bowls, mystic bogs, and often times blue skies. This is a great spot for beginners to test their backpacking skills and  popular among adventurous families. At an elevation of 7,200 feet, the first uphill mile is challenging, but eventually flattens out to an easy trail the rest of the way. After 2.5 miles, you'll reach Camp Lake, a great spot to rest your pack or set up camp for a night. This is a beautiful resting place-- white birch trees reflect in the calm waters and sun-bathing rocks sit all around the lake's shore. It's not as big as Bear Lake, but is fun to throw a line and catch a fish.

Hike one mile through meadows bursting with yellow Alpine Daisies and Purple High Sierra Flowers, and you'll soon reach the final destination, Bear Lake. The area offers primo campsites and even more epic views of giant rock landscapes decorated with pine trees and chaparral. The lake is refreshing for an afternoon swim and fun fishing spot, too.  

Who is Going to Love It

The recreational backpacker will love this hike. It's not intimating and offers the same magnificent views of wilderness and provides solitude for those seeking it. It's a popular destination in the summer, especially on weekends, there are thousands of acres of wilderness to get lost in.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Before you journey to the trailhead, start off getting a free permit at the Ranger Station at Miwuk Village.  From there, head southeast on Highway 108 for 14 miles, looking for Dodge Ridge Road. Turn right, and follow signs for Crabtree Camp/trailhead. It's an unpaved, 25-minute ride on a narrow road. You'll know when you get to the trailhead, there will be a big parking lot (you don't need a parking permit to leave your car overnight). Contained fires are allowed in Stanislaus, and you can only stay in the same place for one night.


Emigrant Wilderness

421 Pinecrest Lake Rd
Pinecrest, CA, 95364
38.191581, -119.993589

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