Kennedy Lake Backpack

Emigrant Wilderness

Kennedy Lake Backpack Trail

Beautiful Scenery and Excellent Fishing

The 7-mile hike from Kennedy Meadows to Kennedy Lake is one of the classic overnight backpacking outings in the Emigrant Wilderness. The trail follows the river out of Kennedy Meadows, climbing along the old construction road used to build Relief Dam in the early 19th Century.

Before the dam, the trail turns up Kennedy Creek and into the long, U-shaped Kennedy Valley where campsites and great fishing abound along the stream. Ahead, towering Kennedy Peak beckons hikers toward the upper end of the valley to Kennedy Lake. Overall, the hike takes about 4 hours and climbs 1,500 feet.

map of hike to Kennedy Lake

Hiking Guide to Kennedy Lake

Getting Organized

Wilderness Permits for the hike to Kennedy Lake can be picked up at the Summit Ranger Station near Pinecrest or the Bridgeport Ranger Station in Bridgeport. Park at the trailhead parking lot a quarter mile before you reach Kennedy Meadows. Pick up last minute supplies at the Kennedy Meadows Resort store.

Thomas Winnett's Sierra North has a section on other hikes which begin at the the Kennedy Meadows trailhead, but not the Kennedy Lake trip. This 9th edition of Sierra North, written with Kathy Morey and others, covers hikes throughout the Northern Sierra Nevada. It makes a good reference when planning trips into the Emigrant Wilderness.

Starting the Hike to Kennedy Lake

Follow the dirt road beyond the pack station over a slight rise and across Kennedy Meadow. The trail enters the Emigrant Wilderness at the far end of the meadow. Soon the trail crosses a bridge and begins a stiff climb up the old dam construction road carved out of the granite mountain side. A second bridge offers an overview of some good fishing spots along the river, but high water and slippery rocks can make it dangerous.

The Heart of the Hike

Kennedy Peak

Steep switchbacks lead up to the site of the PG&E maintenance cabin, which was dismantled in July 2011. Just before the cabin site, turn left at the Kennedy Lake sign and head up the Kennedy Lake trail, confronting more switchbacks. After a bridge, the trail begins to level out as it extends up the valley. Watch for good campsites and good fishing all along the trailside. After a mile or two you catch sight of Kennedy Peak ahead.

Camping near Kennedy Lake

Good campsites are plentiful along Kennedy Creek. While fishing is good at Kennedy Lake, the shortage of trees around the shoreline make it less than desirable for camping. If you have difficulty finding a campsite to suit your needs, try crossing the creek to less-often-used camp sites.

Kennedy Lake

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