4 min read

Eastern Sierras: California’s Most Well Known Secret

Written By: Jesse Jurado

Hidden in the shadow of California’s famous coastline is a place that hosts a multitude of world class activities. I understand the title is a juxtaposition, and I used it intentionally because over the years I am shocked at how many people I know that love the outdoors have yet to explore what people come from around the world to experience.

It is close enough to do an easy weekend trip, yet has more to see than a lifetime will allow. A book can be written, and many have, about the unique landscape in the Eastern Sierras, but I will keep it short with my two favorite things to do when I want to escape the daily hustle and bustle.

Fishing

Without a doubt, the main reason I go to the Eastern Sierras is the fishing. It has been my getaway since childhood. Miles of streams and rivers, dozens of lakes and ponds scattered about from the beautiful Owens Valley to the high elevation Sequoia National Park. If you are already chasing fish up there, don’t worry, I won’t mention any of the local secret spots: )

Arguably, the most popular body of water people fish is the Owens River. And it is no wonder why, with 183 miles of river to fish ranging from 3,556 to 7,291 feet in elevation, it hosts a wide array of world class fishing. It is also one of the only places in the country where you can catch warm and cold water species and one of the only bodies of water in the Eastern Sierras open year round. It is broken up into two sections, the Upper Owens and the Lower Owens.

Important: ALWAYS check up to date fishing regulations before you go as they can change year by year.

The Upper Owens is known for its trophy Brown and Rainbow Trout, which get so large they are often referred to as “Sierra Steelhead.”

What to know before you go:
Species:
German Brown Trout, Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brook Trout
Lures: Dry Flies, Spinners, Rapala’s, Streamers
Weather: Alpine Climate
Difficulty:
Easy
Spot worth trying: Benton Crossing


The Lower Owens one of the most diverse fisheries in the Sierras and one of the only fisheries where you can catch natural warm and cold water species.

What to know before you go:
Species: Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, German Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Bluegill, Carp, Flathead Catfish, Crappie
Lures: Rapalas, Spinners, Crankbaits, Jigs, Mouse Tails, Worms, Crickets, Flies
Weather: High Desert Climate
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Spot worth trying: Five Bridges


Hiking

The amount of trails in the Eastern Sierras is limitless. Within a short distance you can find yourself surrounded by the famous super bloom in the Owens Valley, hanging out with the oldest trees in the world in the White Mountains, looking up at the fifth tallest waterfall in the United States or summiting the tallest mountain in the continental United States. On top of that, most of these you can accomplish within a single day! Each one of these places deserve acknowledgment, but I am going to focus on my “go-to” hiking spot, especially when I bring new people with me.

Rock Creek Canyon offers a variety of hiking trails for hikers with all experience levels. For those with less hiking experience or want to do a quick half day trip Little Lakes Valley is a perfect way to experience the Rock Creek Canyon without pushing yourself or your friends too hard. However, if you are a more experienced hiker and want to reach the summit, you can continue on the 10.8 mile trail for breath-taking views that can be seen at Mono Pass.

Rock Creek Canyon is also one of my favorite hikes because it is extremely dog friendly. I can take my side-kick Doby and not have to worry about predators, snakes, and strict regulations. The streams and lakes also offer a chance for him to cool off and go play in the water in the warmer months.

As you are hiking through the picturesque canyon you are paralleling Rock Creek and the several crystal clear high elevation lakes that it flows into. If you are like me and like fishing, these lakes offer amazing opportunities for catching vibrantly colored Brook, Rainbow, and Brown Trout. Throughout the hike, there are open fields of bright green grass that offer a perfect opportunity for a rest stop to take a moment to look around and appreciate the scenery because there is a lot to take in.

These fields are also a great opportunity for a picnic! Speaking of food, if you didn’t pack a lunch or are hungry after a long day of hiking, I LOVE ending my day at Tom’s Place Cafe which you pass on the left right before you get back on Highway 395. There are signs all over so you cannot miss it. They are famous for their homestyle cooking and friendly staff. Don’t forget to look at the wall of pictures of “the good ol’ days” in the Eastern Sierras

Tips: 

BRING BUG SPRAY. The mosquitos are ruthless in the warmer months and can ruin a perfect day.
Early is better. Many times the afternoon wind will start blowing through the canyon, dropping the temperature making it difficult to appreciate your time in nature.
Bring a map! They offer them at the store on the right as you are going up.
Stay hydrated, make sure to bring water.

What to know before you go: 

Elevation: 10,000-12,000
Length of Trail: Up to 10.8 Miles
Weather: Prepare for any kind of weather, it can change quickly
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Other things to do: Horseback riding, mountain biking, camping, fishing

Resources: Regulations


About the author:

Jesse is a veteran in the insurance space, having ran captive and independent insurance agencies for 10+ years before starting Covered Traveler. He is an avid sportsman, enjoying fishing, surfing and anything water related.