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2022-09-17  
Hilton Creek Lakes, CA
mini location map2022-09-17
16 by photographer avatarOregon_Hiker
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Hilton Creek Lakes, CA 
Hilton Creek Lakes, CA
 
Hiking8.00 Miles 1,839 AEG
Hiking8.00 Miles   9 Hrs   12 Mns   0.87 mph
1,839 ft AEG
 
1st trip
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This hike to one of the Hilton Creek Lakes (also called Hilton Lakes) starts at an unofficial unmarked trailhead on the paved Rock Creek Road across from the entrance to the Lower Pine Grove Campground. There is a well worn trail which switchbacks up the steep hillside to connect with the official trail and is shown on the HAZ Topo map. The official signed trailhead is about 1.4 miles further up Rock Creek road. Although this short cut reduces the hiking distance by about 0.6 miles, it adds 475 ft of elevation gain up the steep hillside. The redeeming features of this shortcut are the up-close views of large majestic trees of at least 3 different species. These old gnarled trees are wonders to behold.

After the climb up to the main trail there is a long section of trail passing through forest eventually reaching its maximum elevation of 10380 ft before dropping down to a fork in the trail. The sign at this fork shows Davis Lake and the "2nd Lake" to the north and the "3rd Lake" to the south. I took the south fork to the nearest lake. This numbering of the Hilton Creek Lakes is confusing. Where is the 1st Lake? I have not found a map which names the individual lakes other than Davis Lake. There are several lakes along the Hilton Creek drainage south of this trail sign but only two to the north, one of which is Davis Lake.

The short hike up to what I assume is the 3rd Lake provided a good view of Davis Lake to the north but only small glimpses of the 2nd Lake. There were beautiful views of the 3rd Lake from the north shore and I chose this location for my turn around point. Locals I encountered on the trail told me this is the most beautiful of these lakes. I was looking for a nice sunny spot to take a short nap when the hordes started showing up. One young man told me he believes Sasquatch inhabits the Eastern Sierras based on hearing weird eerie noises while backpacking up the North Fork Big Pine Creek. The noises he described sounded to me like the thumping noises male grouse make during their mating season. I told him perhaps he had heard the ghost of Lon Chaney who's cabin built in 1929-30 is preserved on the bank of that creek. His puzzled look revealed that he didn't know who Lon Chaney was. I decided at that point to forget the nap and start hiking back to the trailhead.

There are many spectacularly beautiful alpine lakes in the Eastern Sierras. I've hiked to many that can be reached on relatively short day hikes since my first venture into the eastern side of these mountains in 2014. This hike, although not the most spectacular of those I've been on, was certainly worthwhile for the amazing trees along the trail at the beginning of the hike and the lake view at my turn around point. For those who are fit enough to cover longer distances at high elevations, exploring the other lakes in the Hilton Creek drainage would be a bonus.
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