Photo of Lower Big Pine Lake, Inyo County, CA

Big Pine Lakes Fishing

John Muir Wilderness - Inyo County

Photo of Big Pine Lakes, Inyo County, CA

Second Big Pine Lake

The seven Big Pine Lakes are tucked against the dramatic crest of many of the highest and most rugged peaks in the Sierra Nevada - the Palisades, Temple Crag (shown right), and Thunderbolt Peak. The cluster of lakes is only a day's hike from the trailhead on Big Pine Creek, southwest of Bishop and east of Kings Canyon National Park.

In My Creel

  • Rooster Tail
  • Panther Martin
  • Daredevle Skeeter
  • #14 Partridge & Yellow Soft Hackle
  • #16 Red Quill
  • #14 Adams

These are great lakes for spin casting or fly fishing. I saw most of the activity just around sunset. Fish were rising all around the lakes. The fourth lake sees the most people, so is more heavily fished than the others. I especially enjoyed my time at the Fifth Lake and fishing for rainbow, brook and brown trout around creek inlet on the First Lake.

Ambitious anglers could rise early, hike to the lower lakes in a couple of hours, and spend the day fishing from lake to lake and returning to the trailhead before evening. The lakes are better fished by spending at least two or three days camped among them. If you're not a backpacker, the great people at Glacier Pack Train (760-938-2538) can pack you and your gear into a base camp. You will find their pack station located right at the trailhead.

Making Your Way to Big Pine Lakes

The trailhead to Big Pine Lakes is 9 miles east of Big Pine on Highway 395, 15 miles south of Bishop. If you are planning to spend the night in the wilderness, be sure to pick up a wilderness permit from the Inyo National Forest.

Park in the hiker's parking area adjacent to the pack station. An early morning start is best because the first several miles of trail traverse an open hillside with no shade. The night before you could camp in one of the campgrounds near the trailhead.

Photo of Big Pine Lakes, Inyo County, CA

Third Big Pine Lake

The trail to Big Pine Lakes leads out from the trailhead parking lot along the hillside, climbing at an easy grade. There is a lower trail which starts at the end of the road down by the river. It eventually merges with the upper trail.

The first 2 miles of trail are along the arid hillside well above the North Fork of Big Pine Creek. Then the trail cuts over to the creek above the falls and stays mostly among the trees for the next 2½ miles to the first lake at 10,000 feet. The turquoise color of the first three lakes is caused by glacial silt known as flour. The climb to the first lake is 2,300 feet. Another 1½ miles of hiking and 750 feet more of elevation gain takes you to the popular fourth lake. Most of the lakes can be accessed within a 4 mile loop.

Photo of Big Pine Lakes, Inyo County, CA

Fourth Big Pine Lake

Accommodations and Supplies

At the First Lake a good backpacking campsite is down in the hollow where you first see the lake from the trail. I didn't see any good camp sites at the Second Lake. At the Third Lake sites were situated well back and up from the water. Fourth Lake (shown in masthead photograph) has many good sites. Fifth Lake has nice spots tucked in among the small trees near the outlet.

The old Glacier Lodge built in 1917 burned down recently, but cabins and campsites are still available there on Big Pine Creek. Cabins rent for from $90 to $145 per night for two, depending on the season. Glacier Lodge also have a store, a free trout pond, and showers for a modest $4 during the day. Contact Glacier Lodge.

Forest Service campgrounds are located along Big Pine Creek near the trailhead - Big Pine Creek Campground, Sage Campground, and Upper Sage Campground. The sites can be reserved ahead of time. More accommodations are found back in Bishop, about 25 miles from the trailhead.

California's Best Camping logo

To find the very best campgrounds in the area and all across California, visit California's Best Camping.

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:

Recommended Books for Fishing Big Pine Lakes

Photo of Big Pine Lakes, Inyo County, CA

Fifth Big Pine Lake


An alternate fishing destination is the South Fork of Big Pine Creek. The trail is near Glacier Lodge. A short hike will take you to some nice little sections of creek. Four miles of hiking and 2,200 feet of climbing will take you to Brainard Lake.

Other lakes in the Big Pine Lakes area are worth fishing, including Black Lake and Summit Lake.

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