If you drive the Rock Creek Road from Tom’s Place off of highway 395, one begins to get a direct taste of the grandeur of this marvelous area of the Eastern Sierra. This is in an area north of the city of Bishop California and south of the city of Mammoth. First massive Mount Morgan, 13,748′ looms ahead. A few miles further along Bear Creek Spire, Mount Dade and Mount Abbot, all high thirteeners come into view beyond Rock Creek Lake. A couple more miles bring you to the Mosquito Flat trailhead parking. A short hike of less than a mile and you’re in the heart of Little Lakes Valley surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery the high Sierra has to offer.
With a starting elevation of 10,200′ and an excellent trail system one has easy access to a great cirque of peaks and 2 major passes into the backcountry that can all be done in a day.
The valley is packed with sparkling trailside lakes and streams with lofty granite giants on all sides.This is truly a mountain lovers paradise for hiking, fly fishing, camping and climbing.
With all this being the case the area is a very popular destination in the summer. Everything from short 1-2 hour strolls up to Marsh or Heart Lake to extensive climbing/backpacking adventures along the crest or over the passes await. With a 1 yr old on my wife’s back and a 5 yr old with us, we decided to hike the 2 hour short hike to Heart Lake. And into the John Muir Wilderness we go. This wilderness is like no other, it’s special to me and my family. The John Muir Wilderness is a wilderness area that extends along the crest of the Sierra Nevada of California for 90 miles (140 km), in the Inyo and Sierra National Forests. Established in 1964 by the Wilderness Act and named for naturalist John Muir, it contains 581,000 acres (2,350 km2). The wilderness lies along the eastern escarpment of the Sierra from near Mammoth Lakes and Devils Postpile National Monument in the north, to Cottonwood Pass near Mount Whitney in the south.The wilderness area also spans the Sierra crest north of Kings Canyon National Park, and extends on the west side of the park down to the Monarch Wilderness.
Little Lakes Valley is in the John Muir Wilderness. There are no permits required for day hiking.The Mono Pass and Morgan Pass Trails are quota trails.
Wood campfires are prohibited in Little Lakes Valley and bears roam the area.
The Mosquito Flat trailhead to the lakes starts at the end of Rock Creek road with restrooms and a picnic area to enjoy. They also have bear boxes to store food in, so you don’t leave any in your car.
Mosquito Flat didn’t get it’s name for nothing. Be prepared for a potential onslaught of pesky skeeters in the early summer of Little Lakes Valley especially around trees, lakes and streams. Pack some deet.
Ben’s 3. 4 oz. 100 Percentage Deet Repellent Pump Spray Repellent
For camping in the John Muir Wilderness permits can be obtained at:
Mammoth Ranger Station and Visitor Center, 760-924-5500. Box 148 Mammoth Lakes, Ca. 93546
White Mountain Ranger Station, 760-873-2500.
So we packed a lunch and loaded up our fishing gear and food in my pack and hit the trail. The trail to Heart lake is an easy trail with very little elevation gain,some steps we took here or there like stairs,but all and all easy. My 5 yr old son did well hiking the way in and out.My wife is a rock and carried our 1 yr old son on her back in a carrier system. Remember to get a good pack when day hiking. High Sierra makes great packs at low prices,Shop Active and Outdoors at High Sierra!
The first lake we come upon is Mack lake. A small one at best, it is beautiful. On we go to the second lake around the bend. Marsh lake a bit bigger than Mack lake. Marsh lake is surrounded by tall grass but there is a spot with some rocks to walk to to get to the waters edge to take a great photo. Rock Creek is flowing through all these lakes on the trail we took. There is an abundance of small Brown and Brook trout in these lakes and creek.
So on we go Hiking the trail. Heart Lake is not far. Along the way we pass horses and pack mules taking supplies into the John Muir Wilderness for the serious hike through hikers. Birds can be seen everywhere and they are fun to watch.The Eastern Sierra offers dramatic landscapes ideal for bird watching in California. Study a surprising variety of wildlife in Inyo County. Bird species you’re likely to see in the Eastern Sierra include golden and bald eagles, gray-crowned rosy finches, American dippers, Piñon jays, warbling vireos, sage thrashers, wood ducks, long-eared owls, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl. We saw animal scat here and there ,but it was not Bear. Bears are regularly found in the area, and I saw one years back hiking this trail. So practice bear safety while hiking this whole region for that matter. Common animals in the wilderness include yellow-bellied marmots, pikas, golden-mantled ground squirrels, Clark’s nutcrackers, golden trout, Mountain Lion and black bears . The wilderness area also includes California bighorn sheep zoological areas, which are set aside for the protection of the species. And the hike continues on forward.
I’m feeling excited to get to Heart lake. I can’t wait to get my pole in the water to catch some wild mountain trout. I used salmon eggs and tiny lures. I also carry a telescopic fishing rod which folds up compact and can be attached to your pack like this Blue Telescopic Fishing Rod 2M 6.56Ft w 5.2:1 Spinning Reel .I caught several trout and released them back into the wild. I figured they wouldn’t keep well on the hike back ,with it being around 90 degrees, out. Always bring a good full water bottle when hiking the backcountry. I also carry a Sawyer Products Mini Water Filter which i can purify water out of the creek or lake with right into my water bottle.
Outdoor Products 0.75-Liter Stainless Steel Rocket Bottle
So we get to Heart Lake and everybody goes wild. My kids love it, both are running around barefoot on the nice grassy shoreline. My wife is happy and we sit under a tree in the shade and have a wonderful lunch we brought. Sandwiches,chips,nuts and fruit were among the delicacies we enjoyed. We took some photos because the view was amazing,it’s hard to describe , you just got to be there.
Fishing Heart Lake with son.
Enjoying Little Lakes Valley
Liam did not want to leave.
We pack up our stuff and head back toward the trail head. The walk back seems easier than hiking in but at the same time I was tired from the day and being out in the sun so it felt the same. We loaded up the car and used the nice restrooms they had at the trailhead and then we headed a short drive back to Rock Creek Lake to enjoy a slice of delicious pie. The restaurant is called “Pie in the Sky,” its at Rock Creek Lake Resort across from the lake. The pie slices are huge portions. The price is ok considering where you are. It’s first come first serve.When they run out thats it for the day. Lodging is available as well,for info check out www.rockcreeklakesresort.com
Our trip to Heart Lake in the John Muir Wilderness was wonderful. There is so much to see and take in. On our way back to our campground I wondered what is was like back then for John Muir. That night we sat by the fire sharing what we had seen ,and had some quality family time together. The Eastern Sierras are a special place that can only be explained if you see it yourself. Until next time here on Campingandfishing.org.
“This is creation. All that is going on today, only men are blind to see it…They can not pause long enough to go out into the wilderness where God has provided every sparrow enough to eat and to spare, and contemplate for even an hour the wonderful world that they live in”.
“You say that what I write may bring this beauty to the hearts of those that do not get out to see it…The good Lord put those things here as a free gift that he who chooses may take with joy – and he who will not walk out of the smoke of the cities to see them has no right to them.”
“Three Days with John Muir,” The World’s Work (1909)