Photo of Chickenfoot Lake, CA

Chickenfoot Lake Fishing

Eastern Sierra - Inyo County

Photo of Little Lakes Valley on Rock Creek, CA

Long Lake (left) and Chickenfoot Lake

With its odd name, Chickenfoot Lake can be overlooked by hikers and anglers working their way through Little Lakes Valley along the headwaters of Rock Creek on the Eastern Sierra. A number of wonderful places for fishing are within easy striking distance of Chickenfoot Lake, making it a great base camp from which to explore the area. For those who want to make a single day trip, the 3-mile hike follows an easy trail with hardly more than 500 feet in elevation gain.

In My Creel

  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • #16 Creamy Yellow Soft Hackle
  • #14 Gray Quill
  • Blue Wing Olives
  • Sparkle Dun
  • #16 Black Ant

With my early morning start, I was at Chickenfoot Lake by 8:00 AM. I imagine stiff breezes can sweep down the valley in the afternoon, but the morning was perfect for fly fishing. I almost always start off with an Adams, but I carried others.

Making Your Way to Chickenfoot Lake


Find the turnoff to popular Rock Creek along Highway 395 at Tom's Place, 25 miles north of Bishop. A paved road leads 10½ miles up the valley past Rock Creek Lake to a trailhead parking area. In the summer you are likely to find a flock of people heading out for day hikes; but if you plan an early departure, you will be gone before they arrive. There are vault toilets at the trailhead.

Photo of  Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake

Along the Trail

The trailhead is at 10,250 feet in elevation, but thankfully the trail is fairly gentle the entire way to Chickenfoot Lake, climbing about 500 feet gradually over the 3-mile hike. The trail passes through Little Lakes Valley, an area dense with lakes such as Heart Lake, Box Lake, and Long Lake. All of them are great opportunities for fishing. Off the trail are a number of smaller lakes. It's easy to get disoriented wandering around off-trail here. Some heavily used areas are marked for restoration and should, of course, be avoided.

After passing Long Lake at about mile 2½, watch for a sign marking the trail to Chickenfoot Lake. It is a short hop over to the lake. I knew I was in for a great day of fishing for Chickenfoot's rainbow and brook trout. There's more than a mile of shoreline to explore.

Photo of Rock Creek

Rock Creek

Accommodations and Supplies

Campgrounds abound along Rock Creek: French, Iris Meadow, Big Meadow, Palisade, East Fork, Pine Grove, and Rock Creek Lake. Mosquito Flat Campground is designated for one night stays for backpackers before setting out on the trail. There are also 3 group campgrounds. Backpackers will find plenty of campsites around the lakes. Chickenfoot has good sites around the northern shore. Campfires are not allowed at that elevation.

Lodging can be found at nearby Rock Creek Resort and Rock Creek Lodge, both of which rent cabins from one bedroom to multiple rooms. A complete selection of motels can be found to the south in Bishop. To the north at Mammoth Lakes, condominiums are available. It's best to make reservations ahead of time there.

California's Best Camping logo

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

You can pick up fishing supplies locally at the following places:

Recommended Books for Fishing Little Lakes Valley

Photo of Chickenfoot Lake

Chickenfoot Lake

Photo of Little Lakes Valley, Rock Creek, Inyo County, CA

Little Lakes Valley


With so many lakes in the area, it's difficult to choose which other ones to fish. An interesting side excursion is to hike up Morgan Pass and have a try in the upper Morgan Lakes. The first lake is only 1.25 miles from Chickenfoot and the pass is a mere 300 foot climb.

Other choices might be to head up to Gem Lakes or back down to some of the lakes you bypassed on the way in. Long Lake in particular is known for its outstanding fishing. Rock Creek itself has some tantalizing areas for fly fishing back near the trailhead.

More adventurous hikes might take you over rugged cross-country to Treasure Lakes or up the trail toward Mono Pass to 11,100-foot Ruby Lake.

Other Featured Trips in Inyo County

  • Marie Louise Lakes - great little lakes near South Lake
  • Hungry Packer Lake - spectacular scenery, top fishing spot
  • Baboon Lakes - beautiful lakes to explore, days of good fishing
  • Bull Lake - an easy hike out of South Lake takes you to this often overlooked gem a half-mile off the main trail
  • Fourth Recess Lake - a multi-day backpacking destination over Mono Pass. Dramatic country with rewarding fishing at Fourth Recess and nearby Pioneer Basin.

High Sierra Trails

A Backpacker's Guide to the
Most Spectacular Trails
in the Sierra Nevada