MONO CREEK TRAIL RIDE
John Muir Wilderness
Start and End at Rock Creek
Day 1: Rock Creek Pack Station to Mono Creek (10 miles…5˝ hours riding)
Leaving Rock Creek Pack Station (10,000 ft.), our route follows the Mono Pass Trail which ascends Mt. Starr to Mono Pass (12,000 ft.). During the first part of this section one has a panoramic view of Little Lakes Valley, an area with more than twenty lakes framed by towering mountains including Mt. Morgan(13,748), Bear Creek Spire(13,705), Mt. Dade and Mt. Abbott. During this climb to Mono Pass, the trail goes through meadows with scattered limber pine and wild flowers, crosses a few small creeks and then climbs above timberline. At all times there is an unrestricted view of the overwhelming landscape.
After crossing the pass,the route starts an easy descent going by Summit Lake; immediately afterwards, Pioneer Basin, Hopkins Basin and the northern Sierra range comes into view. The trail proceeds down past Trail Lake to Gold Creek where we enter the heavier timber and headwaters of Mono Creek alongside which we travel through a long valley with green meadows, wild flowers, stretches of lodge-pole pine, continually broken by small feeder creeks coming from tributary watersheds. Imposing Mono Rock towers over the valley as we head down Mono Creek.
We make camp near the confluence of one of the many streams cascading into Mono Creek. Majestic Mono Rock towers over the canyon to the south. There are a series of meadows and camping areas from Fourth Recess to Hopkins Meadow. This area was once the center of the Native American summer trading camps.
Day 2: Layover Day
Great areas to explore from a central camp alongside of Mono Creek. Side trips available to Hopkins Basin, Pioneer Basin and First Recess.
Exploring Hopkins Basin…to Lower Hopkins Creek, which is a climb, is a one hour ride from the confluence of Mono Creek and Third Recess Creek. Once at the meadow, there is a trail that climbs straight up to Lower Hopkins Lake…about a 20-minute ride. Lower Hopkins Lake is the most beautiful lake in the Sierra – if sets on a high shelf, you would never know it’s there unless you have been there before. To make a circle route, continue up the inlet stream and drop over a small hill to Hopkins Creek. The green meadows, winding crystal blue creek winding through the meadow and the red talus slopes of Red Slate Mountain make Hopkins Pass one of the most colorful vista points of the trip. The views looking south over the Recesses are awesome. Carpets of shooting stars, buttercups and yellow flowers alternate with the lush meadows dotted by gushing springs.
Pioneer Basin is a one hour ride to Mud Lake (Pioneer Lake #1). This wide-open basin has six lakes with Golden, Rainbow and Brook trout. An ideal day trip is to follow the streams and meadows to Lake #4, cross country over to Lake #5 and circle the basin following the shores of Lake #3, #2A and Lake #2. This sub-alpine region represents the finest in high mountain meadows, flowers and panoramic views of the Sierra.
Hopkins & Mono to First Recess (3 hour ride)
Traveling west to the John Muir Trail, ride through several life zones with groves of lodge pole pine giving way to the Jeffrey and Juniper Pine Forest. The trail parallels Mono Creek cascading to the side of the route. There are a wide variety of flowers, shrubs and trees as we descend to the large White Fir forest and tall aspens of First Recess. We head down for lunch at a secluded camp overlooking a lake beneath the smooth polish granite cliffs of this narrow valley of lower Mono Creek canyon. We commonly see bears, eagles and deer in the meadow visible from the ridge where we camp. Outstanding fishing for golden trout in Mono Creek near First Recess.
Day 4: First Recess to Camp near Third Recess and Mono Creek
Day 5: Layover at First Recess
Beautiful meadows and a quiet pond invite a leisurely hike. Or you can ride to one of the few remaining log cabins in the wilderness. A day ride to Second Recess and fishing in Mills Creek are options, as well.
Outstanding golden trout are waiting for you in Mills Creek and in Mono Creek, near camp.
Day 6: Mono Creek to Rock Creek Pack Station ( 5 hour ride)
The ride up Gold Creek and back to Mono Pass seems easier on the way home. Lunch at Trail Lake. The views of Abbott, Dade, Mills and Bear Creek Spire frame the view as we crest Mono Pass and turn the corner to view the countless lakes in Upper Rock Creek. The views of Wheeler Ridge, Rock Creek Lake and Boundry Peak are in view as the trail winds its way alongside the westside of the canyon.
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Rock Creek Pack Station provides all of its trips as a permitee of the Inyo National Forest.
All Trail Rides and Packing Schools are subject to an 8% regulatory reservation fee, plus 2% USFS fee.
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Last Updated: May 13, 2013
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