Inyo National Forest is full of hidden gems that are easy to access and have very little crowds. The Pine Creek Pass Trail cuts through a portion of the John Muir Wilderness and provides visitors with access to various lakes along the way.

The Pine Creek Pass is usable for day hiking and overnight adventures. If you'd like to spend the night, be sure to pickup a wilderness permit! If you plan to bring a four legged friend, make sure to indicate that on your wilderness permit request. There are several lakes you can stop at throughout the trail, but this adventure covers the hike out to Lower Pine Lake.

Start out at the Pine Creek Pass Trailhead and follow signs for the Pine Creek Pass. The trail immediately starts your ascent into the woods below the mountains. Make sure you pace yourself because there is very little break from the ascent. There are several streams and creeks along the way where you can replenish and filter your water. Once you exit the woods, about a mile from the start, you'll start climbing along the ridge of the mountain via several switchbacks. The trail is very easy to follow and clearly marked, but, it is covered in horse manure and loose rocks, so be sure to watch your step. There are a lot of mosquitoes along this trail and they get worse once you reach the lake, so be sure to have plenty of bug spray and to cover your exposed skin! Additionally, the trail has very little shade, especially when the sun is at its peak, so be sure to bring a lot of water, wear a hat, and use sunscreen.

Once you reach the lake area, you will have to cross Pine Creek. The footbridge was down during this time, so be sure to call ahead and make sure you have an alternate plan. We were able to cross the creek further west (making a left at the sign indicating direction to the footbridge), where the lake filters into the creek. There are two large boulders, which you'll pass in between, and shallow water where you can easily traverse with your pack and water shoes. The current can be strong, so know your limits!

Once you cross the creek, continue on the trail along the lake. There was a large patch of snow during the time of this hike (early August). There are several campsites along the lake for you to spend the night. If you do setup camp, be sure to follow proper regulations and camp at least 200 feet away from the lake. Additionally, this is bear territory, so store your food accordingly in a bear bag that is suspended properly or in a bear canister. The Wilderness Permit Station rents bear canisters if you forget yours at home.

Once you are ready to leave, return the way that you came! Be sure to pack out your garbage and practice proper Leave No Trace etiquette. 

Pack List

  • Stove, fuel, food
  • Utensils
  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow
  • Tent
  • Hammock
  • Bear canister or bag (this is bear territory!)
  • Water shoes
  • Trekking poles
  • Camera
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray, mosquito net for face, mosquito repelling clothing
  • Wilderness Permit (Gable Lakes via Pine Creek)
Show More
RT Distance 10 Miles
Elevation Gain 2500 Feet
Activities Chillin, Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Forest
Lake
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers

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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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