Sierra Nevada – Big Pine Creek


A second trip in the month of May, back up to the Eastern Sierra where the mountains should be topped with snow for about another month. When the clouds finally disappeared at night, a full moon lit up the sky.

Trip Details:

Date Range – May 20-22
Campground – Upper Sage Flat
Distance – 269 miles
Closest Town – Big Pine, CA

Our original plan was to stay at Grandview Campground in the White Mountains, but we decided to try and find a spot around Big Pine Creek since we’d be hiking the North Fork trail in the morning. The campgrounds were almost completely empty, so we grabbed a spot by the creek and set up camp. We ran into our old friend and campground host at Upper Sage Flat, Jim, who we met in August last year. It ended up being an early night after the wind got a little wild when the sun went down.

First Lake

We headed to the trailhead after a filling breakfast of fresh bacon and store-bought donuts. This was the fourth time hiking up the North Fork trail for each of us. The weather was great with blue skies and minimal wind. We made it to First Lake in pretty good time, but kept going the extra half mile towards the better view of Temple Crag at Second Lake.

Second Lake is a great place to stop for a while and enjoy the view even if you plan to continue on. The lakes were more of a deep emerald color this time, rather than the turquoise we’d seen before. This was the first time I had been there with snow on the peaks, and it was well worth the trek.

Temple Crag from Second Lake

The next day we headed up to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains after another bacon-heavy breakfast. We stopped at the vista point along the way, where you could see as far south as Mt. Whitney and as far north as Mammoth. The weather was nearly identical to the previous day, providing excellent conditions for hiking.

Over the next two days we visited Lake Sabrina and South Lake, where the strong winds made it brutally cold; Weir Lake, where the weather went from sunny to snowing fairly heavily in a matter of minutes; Convict Lake, where we had great views of Mt. Laurel and saw fisherman pulling in 13″ rainbow trout; and Rock Creek Lake, an unexpected surprise tucked between the mountains at 9,700 feet.

Convict Lake

Our last stop along the trip was Rock Creek Lake, which had a similar set up to Lake Sabrina with many camping options along the way to the lake. Those campsites were tucked back beneath tall Jeffrey Pines that ran along Rock Creek. Just like Lake Sabrina, these hundreds of sites provide for so many great camping opportunities.

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