Rock Creek is considered one of the premier areas for outdoor lovers in the Eastern Sierra. It is not only gorgeous views. Enthusiasts are attracted because of the pack station, 10 campgrounds, 3 trailheads, a creek and a lake full of fish.
Visitors can camp, hike, bike, swim, rent a boat or relax. In winter, the area counts with a snow park where skiing, snowboarding, and dog sledding are allowed.
In this article, I will am showing you all the wonderful things you can do at Rock Creek.
Things to Do in Rock Creek, California
Stop by Tom’s Place
A visit to Rock Creek is not complete if you do not stop at least once at Tom’s Place. This long-standing café, lodge, store and permits seller is so famous that it appears as a marker (to get oriented) in most area’s maps.
Tom’s Place offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and lodging daily during summer months. People love to congregate here since there is a bar on the premises. Winter hours are more limited.
And, of course, this is the place to visit if you forgot something from your camping list.
Hike the Little Lakes Valley Trail
At the end of Rock Creek Road, you are going to find the trailhead for the Little Lakes Valley Trail.
The trail is special since it starts at over 10,000 feet above sea level. This is the highest trailhead in the state of California (or, in other words, Rock Creek Road is the highest paved, public road in the state).
This gives visitors the opportunity to access raw parts of the Sierra without having to hike to gain a certain amount of altitude.
The trail gains about 1,000 feet of elevation and has a length of 7.2 miles. On a hike, you are going to pass next to several lakes (Mack, Marsh, Heart, Box, Long). It takes 1.5 to 2 miles to reach the first lakes. Some people hike for a while and return depending on how they fill (or time available).
Even if you are not a hiker, I recommend experiencing the highest road in the state. Hiking or not, you are going to be surrounded by spectacular vistas.
Note: At this altitude, a lot of people start to feel funky. I felt fine but some of my friends had trouble breathing. Take it easy and breathe deeply if you start to feel dizzy. Also, temperatures can drop dramatically once you hit a certain altitude. Always carry a sweater or jacket to protect yourself from the cold.
Book a Trip with the Rock Creek Packing Station
The packing station offers horse rides to places in the Sierra such as Davis Lake, Hilton Lake, and Kern Peak. In addition, the have trips where people ride from Rock Creek to Mammoth, Yosemite or Sequoia National Park.
Trips tend to be multi-day and you spend the night at different camps the company has set up in the Sierra. They take care of everything.
The packing station offers hiking trips too.
Hike the Hilton Lakes Trail
You can reach the Hilton Lakes by horse (I mentioned it above) or on foot. The trailhead is located a bit south of the pack station.
Now, this is a 12.5-mile-long trail where 2,000 feet are gained. People usually carry the proper equipment and stay the night at a primitive campground. Therefore, the hike is suitable for more experienced hikers.
Stroll around Rock Creek Lake
Rock Creek Lake can easily be accessed by car. Once parked, you can have views of the lake from different points. If you want to see more of the area, a walk around the lake is less than 2 miles. This is a trail apt for all levels and ages.
People engage in all sorts of activities in the lake area. When I visited, some were fishing, kayaking or canoeing. Fishing seems to draw the most attention since the lake is full of trout.
See the Fall Colors
You may not know this but the Eastern Sierra Nevada area is one of the best places to observe the fall colors in California. I have visited several times during peak season and the colors are incredible.
Vivid yellows and burnt oranges captivated your sight. The colorful leaves add a sharp contrast to the pine green and white snow seen in the area during fall.
You will observe various trees while driving Road Creek Road. The other thing that you can do is walk around the camping areas to see even more colors. Campsites are probably going to be closed for the season but you can still walk around. In some spots, you can see the yellow and orange leaves over the creek.
Eat BBQ and Pie at the Rock Creek Lakes Resort
The smoked meats from the Rock Creek Lakes Resort are well-known among returning Sierra visitors. People love their brisket sandwich served in a toasted bun. Chefs are so obsessed with flavor that they make and bottle their own BBQ sauce.
The grill serves hamburgers, sandwiches, and vegetarian options as well. I have heard the breakfast is great too.
Now, if the brisket is good, the pie is legendary. Do not miss it! Some people visit the Rock Creek area only for the pie.
Ski and Snowshoe at the Sno-Park
Every winter, the California State Park agency habilitate different spots in as Sno-Parks. Visitors are encouraged to practice cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and snow playing. Parking lots are kept free of snow and facilities such as restrooms are maintained.
A permit is needed to visit the Rock Creek Sno-Park. It can be obtained at Tom’s Place for $5.
Camping in Rock Creek, California
Part of the popularity of Rock Creek has to do with the many campsites in the area. It is relatively simple to snag a scenic spot. If you are planning a trip, these are some of the campgrounds you can consider.
- Holiday Campground
- Rock Creek Lake Campground
- French Camp
- Aspen Group Campground
- Iris Meadow Campground
- Big Meadow Campground
- Palisade Campground
- East Fork Campground
- Pine Grove Campground
- Mosquito Flats Campgrounds
Most campgrounds are open during the warm months and operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Nightly fees range from $25 to $27 (except the group campground).
Attractions Near Rock Creek, California
Bishop (30 miles) – As the largest town in the Eastern Sierra, Bishop is full of restaurants, outfitter shops, and cozy accommodations. I suggest visiting the famous Erick Schar’t Bakery in order to grab some focaccia, soda bread or sandwiches before heading to mountains. The carved turkey sandwich is phenomenal.
Bishop Creek (32 miles) – Bishop Creek counts with two forks full of lakes, trails, RV resorts, and campground.
Mammoth Lakes (44 miles) – Weeks can be spent checking out everything Mammoth Lakes has to offer. You can drive/hike around the Lakes Basin, hit the sloped during winter, visit craters or admire a waterfall.
June Lake Loop (58 miles) – This is one of my favorite areas in the Eastern Sierra. It is very easy to drive the road that passes four glistening lakes. If you have more time, you can ski, boat, fish, swim or hike to more remote lakes.
Mono Lake (68 miles) – This is one of the most unique (and ancient) places you are going to find in California. The lake’s Tufa Towers will make you feel like you are on a different planet.
As you can see, Rock Creek is an amazing area to visit. I recommend it to anybody driving around, trying to discover a new place or just hanging around.
Have you been to Rock Creek, California? Let me know in the comments section below.
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