Set at 10,000 feet in the Inyo National Forest of the eastern Sierras, Rock Creek Lake is idyllic, with its sandy shores and the colorful rainbow trout easily spotted in the transparent blue water. An easygoing 1.75-mile loop around it lets you sneak in some alpine scenery, too. The trailhead is unsigned, but it’s the only obvious path from the parking lot. You’ll go over a hill and past a boat dock with lake panoramas framed by the rocky, snow-tinged peaks in the background. Here, the trail briefly turns into a paved road that maneuvers through a dense aspen forest.
As you reach the group campground, the trail becomes a dirt path again with a bridge over Rock Creek, and a sandy lakeside shoreline frequented by campers and fishermen. Have a snack, cast a rod, or simply take a seat on a rock or bench at one of the many shore spots that separate the road and water. Continue back on the paved road (watching for traffic) and as you near your car, listen for the curious song of the mountain chickadee, which many claim sounds like “cheeseburger.”
To get to the unofficial trailhead and parking lot, take either CA-14 or I-15 to U.S. 395 N. Pass through Bishop and, 25 miles further on, at Tom’s Place turn left onto Rock Creek Rd. Follow it up the hill, taking a left at the sign for Rock Creek Campground directly across from the Rock Creek lodge, parking at the first lot. Start your stroll on the unsigned but only recognizable trail to the right of the lot. Dog-friendly!