Sunday, July 17, 2016

Day Hike On The Rock Creek Trail John Muir Wilderness

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge
Hike Route
Rock Creek Road is located at the Tom’s Place turnoff from CA Highway 395 south of Mammoth Lakes. The Rock Creek Trail begins at the end of Rock Creek Road south of the Mosquito Flat campground. The starting elevation of 10,300’ may be the highest trailhead in the Sierra Nevada and makes for a gradual uphill hike. The trail is understandably popular because it begins above tree line and the beautiful views are immediately evident. As you hike by the lakes, Mack, Marsh, Heart, Box, Long and Gem Lakes there is also a view of several 13,000’ peaks to the south (Mt. Abbot, Mt. Dade and Bear Creek Spire) and massive Mt. Morgan to the east. I did not include Chickenfoot Lake, which is accessed by a sometimes-confusing use trail and has 300’ of additional climb.

Box Lake

 Long Lake

 Fisherman In Rock Creek

This trail, located in the John Muir Wilderness is well suited to fishermen, day hikers and backpackers. Backpackers will need a wilderness permit, which can be obtained at the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop. The round trip distance from the trailhead to Gem Lakes is about seven miles with about 1,000’ of altitude gain. The trail has the most per mile wow factor and even hiking to one or two lakes for the less fit is adequate.

Upper Morgan Lake

I chose to include the climb to and over Morgan Pass to Upper Morgan Lake. I was looking for Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep to no avail once again. My round trip distance was about 10 miles and took me about 7 hours. It was a long day since I drove over from Fresno through Yosemite (Highway 120) to the trailhead that morning. The drive was about 5 hours including stops for photographs at Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows. I was glad to have an overnight reservation in Bishop at the end of the day.

If you are driving Highway 395 and have a day for hiking, I believe this is the best one-day hike on a well-established and maintained trail that you will encounter. The only other trail that surpasses the Rock Creek trail for beauty in the eastern Sierra Nevada is the trail that follows the North Fork of Big Pine Creek off Glacier Lodge Road out of Big Pine. This trail is more difficult and labor intensive however with an early start recommend.
Here is a video slideshow of the hike on YouTube with more graphics.
I used a Sony A7R2 with a Zeiss Batis 85mm and 18mm lens plus the Sony RX1R for the photographs.

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