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