Rock Creek Road
Rock Creek Road leaves US 395 at Toms Place
, following a stream through wooded surroundings past eight Inyo National Forest campgrounds and one lodge, ending a little way beyond Rock Creek Lake
at 10,200 feet - the highest elevation of any of the eastern Sierra roads. The land remains fairly level for another couple of miles, along the floor of Little Lakes Valley
, which contains a dozen small lakes, some within the forest, others above the treeline. Two main paths, starting at the Mosquito Flat
trailhead at the far end of the road, are west above Ruby Lake to 12,000 foot Mono Pass
then upper Mono Creek, and southeast past the Gem Lakes over Morgan Pass
(11,100 feet), followed by a descent towards Pine Creek, a place also reached by the next access road south.
Pine Creek Road
The lesser used Pine Creek Road forks off US 395 ten miles north of Bishop in the middle of Round Valley and climbs fairly gently along a largely treeless canyon. Two trails start at roads end (site of a dormant tungsten mine), at 7,400 feet; one ascends the steep side valley of Morgan Creek, to Mono Pass
and then Little Lakes Valley, the other passes a succession of pretty lakes including Pine, Upper Pine and Honeymoon, reaches the Sierra crest at 12,400 foot Italy Pass
and continues to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) along Bear Creek. Another branch heads further south to Pine Creek Pass
, which leads to French Canyon and, over a broad ridge, to Humphreys Basin. All the scenery hereabouts is particularly impressive.
Road 168 is one of the busier routes into the eastern Sierra; a 15 mile county highway following Bishop Creek
to Camp Sabrina, near Lake Sabrina
. A slightly narrower route leads 7 miles to South Lake
, and both have several trailheads, for hikes to various locations including the Treasure Lakes
, 11,950 foot Bishop Pass
above Palisade Basin (at the far north end of Kings Canyon National Park), and 11,423 foot Piute Pass
above Humphrey Basin, within the Sierra National Forest.
Glacier Lodge Road
Glacier Lodge offers rustic accommodations in log cabins, and is accessed by a ten mile road that climbs not too steeply alongside Big Pine Creek
, through a valley that becomes wooded towards the upper end. Trails continue further into the mountains along the north and south forks of the creek, and the former is most spectacular, although not crossing the Sierra crest or linking with any extended cross-country routes, this passes the scenic Big Pine Lakes
and the base of Palisade Glacier
Glacier Lodge Trails
Big Pine Lakes and Palisade Glacier★★★★★
11 miles, 3,400 feet (loop)
Loop past nine beautiful glacial lakes, just east of the Sierra crest, and a spur trail to the base of a glacier
North Creek Road
Two miles north of Independence along US 395, North Creek Road is one of the less traveled routes, and it climbs only a little way into the Sierra foothills, to a trailhead at 4,900 feet. One long distance trail starts here, climbing steadily beside North Fork Oak Creek
to Baxter Pass
at 12,300 feet, then meeting the PCT on the far side, within Kings Canyon National Park.
Onion Valley Road
Onion Valley is another busy Sierra trailhead; from the sizeable parking area (9,200 foot elevation), the main path encounters four pretty lakes while climbing to 11,760 foot Kearsarge Pass
, before descending to the Kearsarge Lakes
in Kings Canyon National Park, ending at a junction with the PCT. Besides the spectacular scenery, the trail is also popular for being part of the shortest cross-Sierra route; together with the linked Bubbs Creek Trail
which leads follows a long ravine to the upper end of Kings Canyon Road, the full distance is just 18 miles (310 miles if driving). Onion Valley is reached by a 13 mile road that is steep and winding towards the upper end, climbing over 5,000 feet mostly across barren hillsides, starting in Independence
on US 395.
Onion Valley Trails
Kearsarge Pass, Mt Gould and the Golden Trout Lakes★★★★★
8.5 miles, 3,800 feet (loop)
Spectacular loop hike, climbing steadily past four pretty lakes to 11,760 foot Kearsarge Pass, ascending further to the summit of Mt Gould then returning via an adjacent canyon
Whitney Portal Road
Start point for hikes to California's highest peak is the Whitney Portal Road, beginning in the center of Lone Pine
, soon passing the photogenic rocks of the Alabama Hills
, and ending with a couple of wide switchbacks, leading to the wooded floor of the valley of Lone Pine Creek
, elevation 8,300 feet. One dead-end trail goes south, to Meysan Lake
, but almost all visitors take the main route, past three more lakes and very steeply up to the mountain crest at 13,650 feet. A spur path heads north to Mt Whitney summit, while the other trail continues to the PCT and Kern Canyon
, within Sequoia National Park. The summit hike is 22 miles round trip, so possible to be completed in one long day, though camping for one night en route is a better option. The peak can also be reached by a shorter, primitive trail, the Mountineers Route, which along the way passes two scenic lakes (Iceberg and Upper Boy Scout), both good intermediate destinations.
Horseshoe Meadows Road
Forking off near the start of the Whitney Portal Road, the paved Horseshoe Meadows Road traverses south a few miles before zig-zagging up the mountainside and into the upper valley of Cottonwood Creek
, surrounded by scenery, while still pretty, that is generally more wooded and less rocky than the other routes to the north; south of here the peaks gradually lessen in height. The main hiking destinations are the Cottonwood Lakes
and New Army Pass
, at the south edge of the John Muir Wilderness; other locations include Horseshoe Meadows, Cottonwood Pass, Trail Pass and Mulkey Pass.
Horseshoe Meadows Trails
5.7 miles, 1,500 feet
Group of lakes in a high basin just below the granite slopes of the Sierra crest, reached by a path alongside a wooded creek, through meadows and boggy areas