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Little Lakes Valley
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15 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Little Lakes ValleySierra Nevada, CA
Sierra Nevada, CA
Hiking avatar Oct 04 2014
Oregon_Hiker
Hiking9.20 Miles 1,365 AEG
Hiking9.20 Miles   6 Hrs   38 Mns   1.39 mph
1,365 ft AEG15 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
This is a very popular hiking destination and I was there on the weekend which added to the crowd. I drove up to the TH at the end of Rock Creek Road Friday afternoon to check it out and the large parking lot was nearly full. I would discover why this was such a popular hiking destination the next day.

The campground at Rock Creek Lake had some empty sites but was a little too populated for me. I drove further down the road to Lower Pine Grove CG which only had 2 sites occupied and decided to stay there for the next 2 nights. As a general rule I prefer dispersed camping to crowded camp grounds but there are few dispersed camping areas on the west side of HW395. The National Forest Visitor's Center at Mono Lake was very helpful providing a list of camp grounds, a small map showing dispersed camping areas and pointed out a few free CGs in the area. The dispersed camping areas were mainly on BLM land on the east side of HW 395. I stayed for 2 nights at the free Hartley Spring CG about a mile west of HW 395 a few miles south of the June Lake Loop. It was a large CG in a Ponderosa Pine forest with clean vault toilets and only 3 sites were occupied. All the CGs where I stayed on this 2 week trip through the Eastern Sierra were well maintained, were exceptionally clean and had large bear proof food lockers. A real plus at the Lower Pine Grove CG was a heated restroom with flush toilets.

After setting up camp at the Lower Pine Grove CG on Friday afternoon I went for a stroll to check out the Rock Creek Lodge located behind the CG. It has 20 cabins of various sizes and prices, a restaurant only open for breakfast, and a small store. They remain open in the winter for cross-country skiers but you must either ski in or pay to have them come get you on a snow mobile. There was a trail from the CG which followed Rock Creek up to Rock Creek Lake. I hiked about a mile up this trail through a meadow and along the creek to a pond. It was a scenic jaunt and I included a couple pics in the photoset.

Saturday morning I got to the TH at 8:30 am and the parking lot was about one third full. Many cars were probably left there by backpackers on multi-day trips. The trail leads through the valley for 4.3 miles with a gentle increase in elevation and passing about 7 lakes along the way. It was a beautiful day with a clear sky and very little breeze making for great reflection pictures in the lakes. The lakes are full of Eastern Brook Trout and they could be seen swimming about in the clear water. A small shallow stream between two of the lakes was packed with these trout. A fellow hiker and I herded (by accident)a bunch of these trout into a small pool (he was walking the bank upstream and I was walking down stream). It made for a great photo op.

There were many people on the trail and having been solo for a week I enjoyed the conversations. I met a backpacker on top of a granite knob which I had climbed to get a photo of the valley. He had slept there that night taking advantage of the heat absorbed by the granite during the day. This would be one of about 6 to 8 encounters I would have on this trip with men of about my age and circumstance (retired) who had been hiking and backpacking in the eastern Sierras throughout their lives and now spend weeks at a time in the area. This fellow was very helpful recommending a number of trails along my travel route south on HW395. He couldn't remember all the names of the trail heads so I whipped out my gps and started naming off trail heads with driving routes I had downloaded for this trip (thanks to Grasshopper). This jogged his memory and I quickly marked his recommended routes on the gps by changing the color to yellow. I ended up going to 3 of his recommended trails and all were spectacular. But then I'm not sure if there are any trails in the eastern Sierras that aren't spectacular.

I hiked for about 2 miles with a foursome of young (20s) backpackers, three guys and an attractive gal. One guy, Josh, was a comedian - every time they paused to discuss which lake we had just encountered he would call out some bizarre name in an authoritative voice that had me convinced until I peeked at the map on my GPS. They asked me to take a group pic of them with the girl's I-phone. As I pointed the camera in their direction to take the picture some scarey grizzly looking old dude totally photo bombed the picture screen. The girl quickly informed me that the I-phone was in selfie mode and changed it so I could take a picture of them.

After reaching the last of the lakes (Gem Lakes) I took the trail up to Morgan Pass gaining about 400 ft elev. The trail is an old mining road which goes over the pass and down to some old mines. I paused at the pass to have lunch and enjoy the view, then started the return to the trail head. A short hike down the other side of the pass would have taken me to more lakes but I didn't relish the hike back up.
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