Backpacking Little Lakes Valley


"Little Lakes Valley" is a hiking and backpacking trail that runs along a series of small lakes. It is located about just North-East of Bishop, California. It is one of the best hikes in California, and ideal for beginning backpackers–and those who want light-pollution free sights of the Milky Way. The trailhead (Mosquito Flat Trail) is accessible by a 2-wheel drive car. The address is:

Inyo National Forest, Rock Creek Rd, Bishop, CA 93514:


Although the hiking is relatively easy, the trailhead starting elevation is 10,300 feet–making it the highest trailhead in the Eastern Sierras. If you live in a low-elevation area like I do, I would recommend you first spend a night in Bishop (which is roughly 4,200 feet) and acclimate yourself to a higher altitude. The drive from Bishop to Little Lakes Valley is about an hour:

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No permits are needed for a day hike. If you are going to backpack, or spend a night on the trail, you will need to get a permit. You can get one by clicking here. You will need to pick up the permit in Bishop. You can rent bear canisters from the same location. Bears are rarely spotted in Little Lake Valley, but do occasionally roam the area. The state only gives a small number of nightly permits for each lake along the trail (usually 10-20), so book in advance. Evening temperatures hit 20 degrees by October. Summer, although temperate, makes a nice environment for mosquito–so bring some form of "DEET". I'd recommend visiting March/April, or September (if you are okay with chilly nights).

After parking in the lot (pictured below), it is easy to find signs leading to the trailhead. If you are interested in a day hike, I would recommend starting at the trailhead (Mosquito Flat) and hiking to "Box Lake (pictured below)"–roughly 3-miles roundtrip. If you plan to stay overnight, I would recommend hiking all the way to "Gem Lake". From Gem Lake, you can then take "Morgan Pass" and head further up the range.

Map of the Little Lakes Valley

Map of the Little Lakes Valley

Parking Lot at "Mosquito Flat" Trailhead

Parking Lot at "Mosquito Flat" Trailhead

One of the most scenic areas is "Box Lake". The below photos was taken early in the AM, during a fall backpacking trip.

"Box Lake"

I highly recommend this trail for beginners. The trails are desolate at night. However, you would be hard pressed to get lost (even without a map or compass). If you are interested in more information, here is a good resource: