Photo of Hilton Lake, CA

Hilton Lakes - Eastern Sierra

Mono County

Photo of Hilton Lakes

Hilton Lakes

Hilton Lakes are about a two hour hike (4.5 miles) from the trailhead near Rock Creek Lake in the Eastern Sierra. Anglers flock to the Rock Creek area to fish the lakes scattered along Little Lakes Valley. Hilton Lakes offer a convenient alternative, either for a day trip or an overnight backpack.

The 9 Hilton Lakes are all within 2 miles of each other along Hilton Creek, ranging in elevation from 9,800-foot Davis Lake to alpine lakes at 11,050 feet. The second and third lakes are the most popular for both camping and fishing. Less than a mile downstream from the Second Lake is sprawling Davis Lake, good fishing but popular with mosquitoes too.


In My Creel

  • Black Ant
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Parachute Adams
  • Olive Wooly Bugger
  • Thomas Buoyant
  • Panther Martin
  • Mepps

I had heard that foam ants were a great choice for the lakes and I wasn't disappointed. Most of the Hilton Lakes have rainbow and brook trout. Several of the higher lakes, which I didn't visit, have golden trout. I saw people on Second Lake doing well with float tubes that had been packed in on mules.



Making Your Way to Hilton Lakes

Map

The trailhead to Hilton Lakes is on the Rock Creek road across from Rock Creek Lake. The sign for the trailhead is angled the wrong way for drivers coming from Tom's Place on Highway 395, but a roadside parking area on the right and a restroom and information signs on the left will catch your eye. There is a shorter, alternate trail that starts across from the Pine Grove Campground, but it requires an additional 450 feet of climbing.

Photo of Hilton Lakes

Second Hilton Lake

Along the Trail

Carry plenty of water because after an early stream crossing there is no water until you reach Hilton Creek. The main trail climbs and dips slightly for the first two miles. Then begins a sandy stretch to the top of a ridge, about 500 feet up in 1½ miles. Beyond, you give back everything you gained, descending to a trail junction on Hilton Creek.

Downstream half a mile is Second Lake, large and beautiful, with good camping spots. You could easily spend the day fishing there. Turning uphill about a half-mile from the trail junction takes you to the next Hilton Lake at 10,300 feet. Fishing is great there, especially along the northern shore. Two higher lakes are within half a mile. Smaller lakes are waiting farther up the canyon.

For those who would prefer to be packed into a camp by the lakes, Rock Creek Pack Station can arrange to pack your gear in and drop it off at a location of your choice or they can provide a full service trip, complete with riding horses and a cook, to one of their wilderness camps.

Photo of Second Hilton Lakes

Third Hilton Lake

Accommodations and Supplies

Good backpacking camps can be found all along the north shore of Second Lake. One family I met reported that they particularly enjoyed a campsite directly across from a small island on Second Lake. At the third lake there are good campsites around the outlet and along the northwestern shore.

Back at Rock Creek Lake are a number of forest service campgrounds, including Lake Outlet Campground, Rock Creek Lake Campground, Lake Inlet Campground, and Pine Grove Campground, and Upper Pine Grove Campground. Rock Creek Lake Resort has rental cabins, a restaurant, store and boat rentals. Rock Creek Lodge also has rental cabins. Their restaurant serves breakfast from 8 AM until 10 AM.

California's Best Camping logo

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

Fishing supplies can be purchased locally at the following places:


Recommended Gear and Books for Fishing Hilton




Photo of Davis Lake

Davis Lake

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

Little Lakes Valley

Sidetrips

It's hard to bypass Rock Creek Lake. In 1985 a 15 pound 8 ounce brown trout was taken from the lake. Boat rentals are available.

A 2-mile hike from the Mosquito Flat trailhead at the end of the road leads up to 11,100-foot Ruby Lake where you can fish for brook trout.

The Little Lakes Valley contains a dozen small lakes, some close to the main trail, others requiring a little cross-country travel. You can start out fishing at Mack Lake near the trailhead and fish your way through Marsh Lake, Heart Lake, Box lake, Hidden Lakes, and Long Lake, not to mention all the unnamed lakes hidden back from the trail.



Other Featured Trips Near Hilton Lakes


  • Chickenfoot Lake - An easy hike up Rock Creek through Little Lakes Valley takes you to this broad mountain lake.
  • 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