Photo of Fourth Recess Lake, CA

Fourth Recess Lake Fishing

John Muir Wilderness

Photo of 4th Recess Lake

Fourth Recess Lake

Along the Mono Creek drainage, which flows into Lake Thomas E. Edison, are four recesses, or side canyons, carved out by glaciers. Each is an adventure, but the largest lake rests in the Fourth Recess. The quickest way to reach this beautiful mountain lake is to hike from the eastern side of the Sierra at Rock Creek over Mono Pass and down into the Mono Creek drainage. It's a strenuous single-day trek, well worth the effort. Fishing around the lake is excellent, both for fly fishing and spin casting.

In My Creel

  • #16 Blue Olive Parachute
  • #16 Adams Parachute
  • #16 Red Quill
  • #16 Creamy Yellow Soft Hackle
  • Rooster Tail
  • Panther Martin
  • Daredevle Skeeter

Having never been to Fourth Recess Lake, I was unsure of what I would find and carried a variety of flies and lures. Sometimes windy conditions made fly fishing challenging, so on those days I stuck to spin casting with good results. Fourth Recess Lake is 0.6 miles long and at its widest point 0.2 miles across.

Making Your Way to
Fourth Recess Lake


Find the turnoff to popular Rock Creek along Highway 395 at Tom's Place, 25 miles north of Bishop. A paved road leads 10.5 miles up the valley past Rock Creek Lake to a trailhead parking area at Mosquito Flat. There are campsites and vault toilets at the trailhead. It's a popular trailhead for both backpackers and day hikers, most headed up Rock Creek to numerous lakes scattered along the valley. (See our Chickenfoot Lake trip for details about Rock Creek and Little Lakes Valley.)

Photo of Summit Lake on Mono Pass

Summit Lake on Mono Pass

Along the Trail

The trailhead is at 10,250 feet in elevation and begins its climb up to 12,000-foot Mono Pass almost immediately. Plan an early start to avoid heat along the exposed switch-backs. Water is available part way up at the Ruby Lake turnoff. Beyond that the only water for some time is at Summit Lake, which by summer has no inlet or outlet. Plan at least 3 hours to reach the top of the pass and another 3 to descend the northern side into the Mono Creek drainage. For anyone wanting to camp along the way, Trail Lakes, halfway down the north side of the pass offer a reasonable stopping place.

At the bottom of the pass the trail intersects the Mono Creek trail. Turn west (downhill) and in less than a mile you find a sign marking the trail to Fourth Recess Lake. From there it is only a 10 minute hike to the lake.

Alternate Approach Route

An alternate way to reach Fourth Recess Lake is to take the water taxi from the Vermilion Resort on Lake Edison to the upper end of the lake and hike up the Mono Creek valley. The 12-mile hike begins at 7,700 feet and ends at the lake at 10,100 feet. The main advantage of coming this way is a virtually all-downhill hike out. A disadvantage is the long, twisting drive into Lake Edison.

Photo of  4th Recess Lake

Fourth Recess Lake

Accommodations and Supplies

Trailhead 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.

At Fourth Recess Lake good backpacking camps can be found on either side of the lake, up among the trees, close to the lower end of the lake. Other sites are available nearby along Mono Creek.

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.

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

Recommended Maps and Books for Fishing Fourth Recess Lake

Photo of lake in Pioneer Basin, CA

Pioneer Basin

Photo of Ruby Lake, Inyo County, CA

Ruby Lake


Nearby Pioneer Basin, with its half dozen lakes, makes an excellent day-long sidetrip from your base camp at Fourth Recess Lake. The lowest of these lakes is only 1½ miles from Fourth Recess Lake. It has a meadow setting. We passed it up and did our fishing in the next three lakes. The most successful fishing was in the largest of all the Pioneer Basin lakes, 3 miles and 1,000 feet up from Fourth Recess Lake. Although the fish were only pan-size, they were so thick it was hard to cast without getting a strike.

Another sidetrip option is Golden Lake, 2 miles up at the head the Mono Creek. It is possible to hike cross country on up Mono Pass from there, so it makes a good alternate route to use on the way out.

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