Chickenfoot Lake in Little Lakes Valley, California
Campsite name: Chickenfoot Lake in Little Lakes Valley, California
This is a popular spot for backcountry camping and fishing in the eastern Sierra Nevadas mountains of California. This is an easily accessible chain of lakes that is perfect for a beginner backpacker. Chickenfoot Lake is located only 3.5 miles from the start of the trail.
Glaciers have carved an expansive chain of lakes that makes this area so beautiful. Be warned this is a popular hiking area for both day hikers and backpackers especially during the summer season. You can download an area map here.
Camping type: Backcountry Campground
Campsite opening hours: There are no official opening hours as the campsite is technically always open and is unstaffed.
Booking Link: You will need to purchase a wilderness permit up to six months prior to your camping date. These can be purchased from recreation.gov Alternatively you can purchase a walk up option two week prior to your camping date. This is a very popular hike so permits can be hard to reserve. If you are having trouble getting permits for this area you sign up and be notified of cancellations for specific dates via Outdoor Status.
From May 1 to November 1 there is a quota in place that limits the numbers of visitors to 25 people per day.
Fees: $6 for the wilderness permit + $5 per person
Facilities: There are bathrooms, trash cans and bear lockers at the trailhead. It is recommended to store any food in the bear locker not your car whilst you are hiking.
The backcountry campsites are rustic and minimalist so do not expect facilities to be available at the sites.
However whilst you are hiking please leave no trace at all times. This means that any human waste is to be buried away from water sources.
If you are looking for day or mule rides into the area please contact the Rock Creek Pack Station on (760) 935-4493 or 760-872-8331
Camping Month: May through to the end of September. This depends on seasonal conditions and snowmelt during Spring. Before and after these months it can be very cold and snow is possible at any time due to the high elevations. During the winter months the access road may be closed due to snowfall.
Gear: Typical backcountry hiking gear and equipment is required for this trail. There are no outhouses so a trowel is recommended so you can dispose of your human waste correctly.
Hiking poles is highly recommended as the trail is undulating and there are many ups and downs. The trail is rocky so poles will help reduce knee strain.
Bug spray or repellent is a must pack for this area. Especially in the summer months the bugs are relentless in this area.
Food: There is water available at the campground as you can collect it from the lake itself. It is always highly recommended to filter the water prior to drinking, so pack a water filter or alternative purifying method.
This is an active bear region so bear proof canisters are required to secure your food, scented items and trash while you are in the area.
Lookout Spot: Day hikes from Chickenfoot Lake will take you in search of more lakes. Hiking cross country through high elevation alpine meadows toward Gem Lakes is a worthy day hike. These are the final set of lakes at the end of the valley. At Lower Gem Lake you will find a small, shallow lake with water so clear that you can see the stunning stones underwater. However, continue to push ahead and on top of the granite bench you will find the Upper Gem Lake. This is the larger of the two lakes. Their name comes from the beautiful aqua color. Perfect place for a refreshing alpine dip.
Activities: Fishing is permitted in the lakes and ponds. Many species of trout live in the valley. For further information about the fish species check out the Eastern Sierra Backcountry Fishing Guide.
You can extend the hike by hiking via Rock Creek to Mammoth Lakes. The total will then be 38 miles and you will need to have a second vehicle at the other trailhead. However you will be able to visit Duck Lake which is very beautiful.
Climbers use this trail as the access point to routes up to Bear Creek Spire, Mount Abbot and Mount Dade. All overnight trips require a wilderness permit.
Swimming in the high alpine lakes is always a great reward from all of the hard work on getting to the campsite.
Unfortunately campfires are not allowed anywhere in the valley.
Highlight: Wildflowers bloom in the high elevation and you will be surrounded by the 13,000 ft peaks such as Bear Creek Spire, Mount Dade, Mount Abbot and Mount Mills.
Tips: As you drive to the Mosquito Flat Trailhead you will gain 3,210 ft as you drive. The trailhead is actually the highest trailhead in the Sierras. This means that you can get all of the beauty of the Sierras without all of the grueling work.
It is recommended to get to the trailhead before 7:30am especially during summer weekends as it can get very busy. Chickenfoot Lake is only 3.5 miles from the trailhead however you have to gain over 1000 ft in elevation.
From the starting point a system of trails wind through the Little Lakes Valley. The beautiful scenery of the valley is a strong scenic lake that is all special for its own unique reason. The toughest part of the hike is the first quarter mile from the start up the first hill. However the views that will surprise you are well worth the effort.
During the first three miles you will pass through alpine meadows filled with wildflowers. You will be treated to 180 degree views of snow capped mountains. By taking a short detour off Little Lakes Valley Trail you will find your next chain of lakes, Chickenfoot. This lake is situated at 10,761 ft. It is a large clear lake with plenty of shoreline to share.