On Monday we had a nice, uneventful drive of 162 miles south on US 395 from Carson City, NV to Bishop, CA. We arrived mid-afternoon at Highlands RV Park, the same place we stayed during a visit here two years ago. After getting set up in our site we relaxed for the remainder of the day, although a trip to the local chain coffee shop broke up the afternoon.
Early the next morning we set off for a hike to the Gem Lakes on the Little Lakes Valley Trail. We tried to hike this trail during our previous visit but a little blunder on our part cancelled that hike. We failed to factor in what an increase of 6,000′ of elevation can do to the temperature. With temps approaching the high sixties in Bishop that morning we dressed in shorts and tee shirts. But as we drove up the road to the trailhead we knew we were in trouble. Arriving at the trailhead we found everyone dressed in heavy coats with gloves and hats, as the temperatures were just below 40 degrees with a strong wind and fog.
This year we were prepared for the cooler temperatures at 10,000′ and dressed appropriately. But since it is about a month earlier in the year, the temps were much more reasonable, even with the elevation gain.
To get to the trailhead we drove 20 miles north on US 395, then west on Rock Creek Road. It is a ten mile drive up to the trailhead, with the first 8 miles a nice, wide road.
The last two miles of Rock Creek Road are on a narrow, paved road just wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other.
Rock Creek Road ends in the trailhead parking area where we were fortunate to find a space. Apparently during the high tourist season parking is at a premium here.
From the trailhead at over 10,000′ the trail immediately begins a steady climb as it heads up toward the first of a number of lakes it passes.
As we moved up the trail the views of the mountains were impressive.
When going along the lakes the trail was fairly level, but between lakes it would go sharply uphill.
After hiking over three miles our legs were definitely feeling the effects of the high altitude. We felt that we were close to our destination, the Gem Lakes, when we came to a fork in the trail. An old post probably once held a sign indicating which way to go, but the sign was long gone. So we made a guess and took the left fork, which began to go steeply uphill. Fortunately, we met a hiker coming back down the trail and he had hiked up a bit and turned around.
We followed his advice, returning back down to take the right fork. That turned out to be the correct trail, as we soon came to the Lower Gem Lake.
Laurel and Eric( Raven and Chickadee) had done this hike before and told us to be sure to keep going beyond that point. So we continued, crossing another creek and making our way further up the trail.
Our extra effort was rewarded when we soon came to the end of the trail at beautiful Upper Gem Lake.
On the return hike we took a side trail for a visit to Chicken Foot Lake. Look at the lake in Google Maps and you’ll see that the shape of the lake does resemble the foot of a chicken.
We were fortunate to have perfect weather for this hike, a clear sky and comfortable temperatures. The high elevation made the eight mile trek quite a challenge. But the beautiful scenery makes it very worth the effort!