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Hiking and Fishing With Sally in Little Lakes Valley

Sally and I packed up our dog food and fishing gear to head over to Little Lakes Valley, above Rock Creek Lake south of Mammoth Lakes for 3 days of hiking and fishing. We saw so many beautiful lakes and snow flecked peaks, it was hard to keep count.

Where: John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest
Distance :7 to 8 miles, or as far as you wish to hike
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 10,100 – 11,131′
Date: June 16 – 19, 2014
Maps: Florence Lake and Mount Morgan Topogs

Sally and I headed east across the Sierra via Tioga Rd., then south on Hwy 395 to Tom’s Place and headed up to Rock Creek Lodge. I had originally planned on camping and I could have handled the night time weather predictions of 31 degrees, but the 49 mph wind gusts didn’t sound fun, especially after I calculated the wind chill.

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So I called Rock Creek Lodge to see if they just might have a cabin available and sure enough, they did. So, Sally and I roughed it in our rustic little cabin with a wood stove and indoor bathroom with shower.

Since we arrived just after lunch, I had time to unpack and grab my fishing pole, working my way upstream. We caught some beautiful views of the clouds and mountains, along with a few small fish that I threw back.

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As the wind started to increase to a fairly steady 25 mph or so with higher gusts, we headed back to the cabin and settled in for a warm and toasty night with the wood stove going and a good book.

The second day of our adventure was the big day to explore Little Lakes Valley. This was my first time in Little Lakes Valley and I had seen pictures of pristine reflections in still blue lakes that were surrounded by old rocky, snowy mountains. Well, the wind was going to present a bit of a challenge on this day to see those reflections but I had a strategy all mapped out.

I was at the Mosquito Flat Trailhead, about 10,200′ elevation, at around 8 to start hiking. I had heard that this closest parking lot can fill up early and if that is the case, you need to park in an overflow area, adding 3/10ths of a mile to the hike. There was one other car in the parking lot when we arrived.

There was a little ice on the ground and gusty winds when we started out, so we both bundled up for the day. The first part of the trail followed Rock Creek up on a gentle grade as we entered into the John Muir Wilderness.

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We passed the junction in the Trail for Mono Pass, a different Mono Pass from the one near Tioga Pass, where we would go the next day.

My goal for the day was to hike to Chickenfoot Lake, do some fishing, then fish my way back along the other lakes. We quickly passed Mack and Marsh Lakes then were floored by the view of Heart Lake as we approached it. Miss Sally’s ears were flappingin the wind as I asked her to pose for me on a footbridge that crossed Ruby Creek.

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We didn’t stay long because we were on a mission to get to Chickenfoot Lake.

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The trail took us over a hump as we walked along Box Lake.

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A small tarn or pond next to the trail treated us with abstract reflections.

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Onward up the trail with Sally in the lead, we followed Rock Creek up to our next lake, Long Lake.

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Little Lakes Valley 16We continued up to the trail, taking the left fork to Chickenfoot Lake. There was a beautiful creek that fed Chickenfoot Lake, surrounded with beautiful snow coated rocky mountains that were reaching up to about 13,000′ or so.

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Finally, we reached Chickenfoot Lake and I fished! The wind seemed to get stronger but I held on to my goal of fishing and did not get one single bite. It was a great lunch spot though.

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I wandered back down the trail, fishing at Long Lake, where I did pretty well. There were quite a few 6 to 8 inch Brook Trout that were anxious to buy what I was selling. I threw the smaller ones back but kept a couple of 8 inchers. Talking with other fisher-folks, that was the norm.

I thought I needed to try out Box Lake on the way down and caught a few but the real keeper was the reflections in the water.

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Sally and I made it back to the car and were heading back to our cabin when we got stuck in a traffic jam. We had to just be patient and wait until the stock passed us by. I amused myself by asking the riders to smile for the camera as I clicked away. Sally was also fascinated.

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On our third day, our adventure took us up the trail to Ruby Lake. We started at the Mosquito Flat Trailhead again but took the right fork on the trail that goes through Mono Pass.

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The trail climbs up a well-designed and used trail along the side of Mount Starr, which has an elevation of 12,835′. As we climbed, we had amazing views of Little Lakes Valley.

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Clumps of paintbrush were in pockets hidden along the rocks.

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What a surprise to find these incredible reflections in a small tarn along the trail.

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As we climbed higher, the trail started to follow Ruby Creek up.

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At last, Ruby Lake! And I fished.

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A few hours later, a person with their dog came over to the other side of the lake and that dog went swimming in the lake, yipping and yapping as it swam. Sally found this very interesting. That dog was having a “best day ever” day.

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We caught quite a few small fish and kept a couple of 8 inchers, then headed back down the trail. I wanted to explore some of the lakes that were off the trail and see what the fishing was like at those lakes. Once back on the same trail that I had taken the day before, I left the trail at Marsh Lake and headed cross country for the Hidden Lakes. The first one wasn’t that impressive, but they got prettier as I moved to the next one. They were all fairly shallow and I didn’t see a sign of any fish.

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Little Lakes Valley 42I wandered back to Box Lake and did a little fishing. Sally was mighty interested when these ducks swam alongside us.

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As we headed back to the cabin, I decided to act on a thought that had been in the back of my head for days. Pie In The Sky is known for its great pie and it would be an excellent idea to pick up a piece of pie to go with dinner. What kind of pie would I get? I had thought about this big choice I would need to make on and off all day.

I finally thought that some sort of cream pie would hit the spot, but I would be flexible. Hmmmm. Then I saw the whiteboard with the pies that they had for the day . . . and they were all crossed out. Sold out! How disappointing! I will return one of these days and will succeed!

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Little Lakes Valley is a wonderful place to hike with a dog. On our adventure, there was plenty of fresh, moving water for Sally to drink along the way. The trail was also a kind one for her feet. There were quite a few people and dogs out on a midweek and I imagine it has even more people on the weekends. It is easy to get away from the crowd though.

There were too many lakes for us to visit them all so I will just need to return to finish what I started. . .and get my pie.

Day 1 Profile for hiking to Chickenfoot Lake

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Day 2 Profile for hiking to Ruby Lake, then Hidden Lakes

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  1. Thanks for the article and great pictures of Little Lakes Valley. I’m taking a 15 year old friend of mine there on his first backpacking trip. I love that area!


  2. Sandy, You will have a wonderful time and there are so many beautiful lakes to wander around. Have fun!

  3. Love Rock Creek. My wife and I visit the area twice a year, early June and late September.

  4. Wow! Spectacular photos of gorgeous scenery. Thank you Candace!

  5. Thank you Candace. Your side is exactly what I was looking for. In upcoming middle of June we will like to take that hike. My concerns was weather condition / coming from Wisconsin big snow and chilly temps in June are not our favorite conditions for hike 🙂 / but you give us good view what we can expect. I seen many pictures of Little Lakes Valley but not to many are dated accurately. Thanks again. Andy

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