Little Lakes Valley Trail, Eastern Sierra, California

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir

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If you like magnificent, out of this world scenery, yet don’t have time to head to the true wilderness after a 20 mile hike,  the Little Lakes Valley trail in the Eastern Sierra/Owens Valley region of California is the place for you.

One of the most beautiful trails in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, this littlelakes2 (1 of 1) hike takes one along a string of lakes connecting to form the Rock Creek, which flows down from the high Eastern Sierra Nevada to the Owens River, forming this enchanting valley along the way.

Beginning at the Mosquito Flat trail head, the path has a minimal elevation gain, but because of the beginning elevation of 10,000+ feet, it can feel exhilarating for those not used to this height. But given the beautiful scenery, one can easily forget the huffing and puffing and admire the stunning lakes, which are made up of snow melt, giving the littlelakes9 (1 of 1)water an especially clear and fresh appearance and providing breathtaking vistas along the entire route.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the hike is the diversity of the landscape bordering the lakes. Many of the lakes have sheer cliffs or rocky outcrops near the water’s edge, while others are dominated by marshy banks green with grass and other aquatic plants.

Adding to the serenity is the trickling andlittlelakes3 (1 of 1) gushing sounds of the water as it flows from one lake and towards another in an ever flushing process, which makes conditions ideal for the numerous trout species that inhabit these waters and bring fly fisherman in hopes of landing a mess of these beautiful fish.

To get to this area, head up or down U.S. Route 395 and turn onto Rock Creek Road at a small hamlet called Tom’s Place. Along this route there are numerous campsites, many of which are available for reservation through www.recreation.gov. The trail-head itself is located about nine miles down this road, where it ends in a rather small, quickly filled parking lot.

We camped down the road at the East Fork Campground, which I would recommend for the views, quality of the tree cover and overall convenience of location to enjoy the hikes in the area.

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The Details

GETTING TO THE TRAILHEAD: Drive 5 hours from Los Angeles up highway 395 to Tom’s Place and then left Rock Creek Road.

STATISTICS: The main trail is a 3.2 out and back from the trail head to the pass. You can also mix it up with a few spurs and the Mono Pass trail as well.

DIFFICULTY: Easy to moderate.

29 thoughts on “Little Lakes Valley Trail, Eastern Sierra, California

    1. It is almost obscene how beautiful the scenery is with such ease to access! I recommend checking it out for certain! Just breathtaking really! Thank you for dropping by!

  1. Your photos are stunning. The third one is the best. I had thought the Owen’s Valley area was just too dry and sun-bleached to be of much interest, but wow! Galen Rowell loved these places, too.

    Did you use HDR treatment? A few of them look a little odd…

    1. Thank you for your comment. The Owens Valley itself is very dry, but this area, which climbs in elevation very rapidly several miles to the west is lush and green with snow runoff from the high Sierra and is certainly worth checking out.

      I did edit the photos, as I do all of my photos with a program called ‘Lightroom’. The ‘odd’ look is the over-exaggerated clarity and sharpness, which I’m partial to.

    1. Thanks! Yes, Yosemite and really all of the Sierra Nevada is fantastic. The Eastern Sierra is less crowded and gets fewer tourists, which is great in my book!

  2. Beautiful, I like the tree root one (#5 and #6) and the last one. All are great, I do like the effect of exaggerated sharpness for this purpose. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Any thoughts on how doable this would be with a toddler? I used to be an avid hiker and stopped after spawning. Am now really looking into getting back at it. Thanks! The pictures are breathtaking.

    1. Hi, I think it would be great for a toddler. The route rises very slightly and starts at about 10,000, so the trail provides high country views without much effort at all. There will be snow on most of the trail until June I’d imagine, so you’ll have to keep that in mind for any hiking at that elevation.

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