Carolyn and I did this hike on a Saturday in an effort to get away from the weekend crowds in the Mammoth Lakes area. It was July 23rd, 2011 and the temperatures were in the mid 60's when we pushed off at 9:00 in the morning. The trailhead is at an elevation of 9,880 feet and overlooks Rock Creek Lake which is very pretty. It was a quick climb of a couple hundred feet to get up to the ridge that the trail then follows north. The trail was under tree cover up until just before the intersection with the pack trail coming up from the Pine Grove Campground at the 1.3 mile mark. After this point the trail becomes more sun exposed. There were numerous small creek crossings along this ridge as the snow pack was the most it has been since 1951. As one turns northwest at the end of the ridge at about the 2.0 mile mark a series of switchbacks take the tail up to another flat section. The trail then starts climbing in earnest to the highpoint of the trip at 10,380 feet which is roughly the 3.7 mile mark. From there the trail heads down a series of swithcback to the proverbial fork in the road at 4.1 miles. A left takes one to Hilton Lakes while a right takes one past the 2nd Hilton Lake to Davis Lake.
We'd heard from several hikers coming down the trail that Hilton Lakes was infested with mosquitoes and since most people were headed that way anyway, we opted for Davis Lake. It was a little less than 1.5 miles to Davis Lake from this intersection and it was all downhill to the tune of about 500 to 600 feet. We passed a pretty meadow on our right along the way. There was an unmarked secondary trail to the left at about the 5.25 mile mark which we took as it appeared to be heading to the northern half of Davis Lake. (This secondary trail was at the word "Davis" on the topo map.) We arrived at Davis lake and walked around looking for a good spot to have lunch and maybe fish. This lake was very shallow where we were. There were lots of weeds so we decided to pass on the fishing. There were a couple of groups of campers already near the shore so we headed north a bit and found some nice spots on some large boulders next to the water. This was an open area with a stiff breeze which kept the mosquitoes at bay. It was 5.5 miles to Davis Lake with another .5 miles spent exploring the shore before we stopped for lunch after 2 hours and 20 mnutes. We ate lunch, read and relaxed for an hour or so. The lake was virtually at the same elevation as the trailhead so the hike back would be a duplicate of the hike in. It took us another 2 hours and 20 minutes to get back to the trailhead as we slowed down in the heat along the sun exposed area on that first ridge.
In retrospect, I wish we would have taken the left at the fork and gone to Hilton Lakes. They were ony .3 miles away and while a steeper climb, had half the AEG as going to Davis Lake. More importantly, I belive that those lakes are more condusive to fishing and afford better views of the Owens Valley. lesson learned, but there's always next time. (The round trip hike to Hilton Lakes is reported at 8.8 miles.) All told, the hike to Davis Lake, including the .5 miles exploring the shoreline, came in at 11.5 miles in 4 hours and 40 minutes, (not including the lunch break), with 1,500 feet of AEG. - Aug 02 2011 Tim