Big Pine Lakes


Since my camping trip to Eastern Sierra this summer, I’ve been wanting to go back to Big Pine to finish the hike we started but never finished. I made an overnight trip plan with my sister to do this hike together in September.

Bishop is located 266.6 miles (428.9 km) north of Los Angeles.

We arrived at Bishop around lunchtime. After checking in to Red Roof Inn where pets stay free, we yelped dog-friendly restaurants nearby. We found a couple of good options and decided to try Burger Barn.

It had a small parking lot which was full so we parked across the street. There was plenty of outdoor seating though. We had a burger, a chicken sandwich and shared a basket of fries. They were all good but especially the fries!

I will only participate in this in exchange for a burger

Before dinner, we went for a stroll at Bishop City Park. The park had a fenced area for dogs but it’s much nicer to walk around the park so that’s what we did. It’s a nice park.

Big Pine Creek Trailhead is located 26 miles (41.84 km) southwest of Bishop.

The next morning, after having breakfast at Looney Bean of Bishop, we drove to Big Pine Creek Trailhead. After parking in the day-use parking area near the trailhead, we began the hike.

When you come to a fork, go toward North Fork. Although the trail has a gradual incline overall, the incline was most noticeable in the first mile. We came to the first waterfalls at about 0.75 miles into the hike. We watched it from a wooden bridge. North Fork Big Pine Creek was along the trail and we had to cross two short wooden bridges.

After the first mile, we came out to this gorgeous open space. Do you see the rocky mountain ahead? That’s where we were heading.


This trail is beautiful every step of the way so keep going.


The terrain changed to rocky near the 2nd waterfalls.


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Look how far we’ve come already?

At the 2-mile marker after the John Muir Wilderness sign, we arrived at Second Falls. There was access to the waterfalls unlike the first one so we headed down for photo ops, of course!


Soon after, rocky terrain changed to dirt again and the gradual incline continued. We were back to hiking along North Fork Big Pine Creek.


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Getting close to the lakes…


There were some sections where we had to cross water. Water was shallow and usually, there were rocks to step on if it was at least ankle deep.


After 4.75 miles, we reached First Lake of Big Pine Lake (elev. 9,934 ft) and we were awestruck by the spectacular view. The surface of the water was sparkling from the sun and created countless tiny stars like clear diamonds do. It was magical! I was moved by the sheer beauty and got emotional the way only nature can do to me.


Most hikers we ran in to on the trail were backpackers. If you want to see all 7 lakes, I recommend backpacking here. Since we began our hike little before 9 AM unfortunately and still need to drive 5+ hours to get back to L.A that evening, we only had enough time to hike to Second Lake.

I had the hiking route mapped before we began the hike so we followed my GPS to get to the 2nd lake via off-trail. It’s only 0.25 miles from the 1st lake via use trail. Maybe the main trail takes you to a different location of the second lake? I’d like to try that next time. Second Lake had a deeper shade of turquoise and had its own rugged beauty. Unlike the first lake, there was no one there. We unpacked and had a lunch break.


It was absolutely gorgeous. We couldn’t stop marveling at its raw beauty.


Big Pine Creek N Fork Trail is well-maintained. Let’s keep it that way by respecting “Pack it in, pack it out” rule. Whenever you are ready, just go back the way you came in.

Good to Know:

  • Hike Date:  9.17.17
  • Trailhead Coordinates:  37Β°07’30.9″N 118Β°26’14.9″W
  • Length:  10 miles RT
  • Elevation Gain:  2,256 ft
  • Maximum Elevation:  10,068 ft
  • Difficulty Level:  Difficult
  • Day use does not require a permit but overnight camping in John Muir Wilderness requires a permit. Please click here for more info.
  • Vault toilet available at the trailhead

Get Our Latest Comprehensive Dog-friendly Trail List Here. Enjoy!

Happy Hiking!

19 comments on “Big Pine Lakes”

  1. Beautiful hike, beautiful country and very nice photos, Jamie. These last posts along the eastern Sierra are great. When I read you were headed to Bishop, I think my pulse actually jumped! Similarly, June Lake and Lee Vining are other prominent eastern entry points to Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia and elsewhere along the Sierra Nevada Mtns… all of which raise my pulse level. Xena sure seemed to like the views… to bad however, she isn’t allowed in so many of these National Park and other pet-restricted areas. Here’s a link to some of my hikes in Yosemite and Kings Canyon; for any readers who hike without pets -it’s truly amazing country. [] If you’d rather not include the link, just delete, no prob. I’ll soon be snowshoeing, as winter is on it’s way. Say hi to Xena for me! πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Mike! Haha, i know what you mean by your pulse jumping. This area definitely has my heart beating fast. Such a beautiful place and I hope it stays like this as long as I live because I plan to go up there every year and explore new places with Xena. Thanks for sharing the link. I’ve been to Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia but it was long time ago before Xena. Yes it’s too bad that dogs are not allowed on the hiking trails at those places. Thank goodness for the dog-friendly National Forests though! I can’t wait to read your post! I will relay your hi to Xena! πŸ™‚

  2. This hike looks gorgeous! Clearly I’m going to need to visit California again soon because I keep putting more hikes on my list.

  3. Oh my goodness!! This has SO inspired me to try to take my dog on this hike!!! I’ve hiked around Twin Lakes in Mammoth Lakes area (not the twin lakes farther north) and loved it. Fall is the best, with the beautiful golden leaves!
    SO SO thankful to have found your blog. The photos, trail information, and stories are inspiring me to explore new places. Thank you!

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