Gorgeous Ruby Lake in the John Muir Wilderness

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

—John Muir

Continuing with our Fall 2022 Eastern Sierra adventures, we tackled three more hikes in the John Muir Wilderness.

Ruby Lake

Other than being at high elevation, the hike to Ruby Lake was a relatively easy one by Sierra standards. We hiked to Ruby on a gorgeous Sunday in mid-October hoping it would be significantly quieter than the wildly popular Little Lakes trail that departs from the same trailhead. Our hunch paid off and we enjoyed a day of near total solitude.

Our hikes to Ruby Lake (red line) and Little Lakes (orange line) shared a trailhead at Mosquito Flat

The hike to Ruby Lake follows the Mono Pass Trail which starts at the end of Rock Creek Road near the Mosquito Flat Campground (elevation 10,189′). We shared the first stretch of trail with those headed up the Little Lakes Trail and it was anything but a wilderness experience. A conga line of hikers clogged the trail. We’d pass half a dozen hikers and then someone would pass us. It was slow going and we were happy when we were the only people splitting off onto the Mono Pass Trail.

Views near the Ruby Lake/Mono Pass trail junction

From the trail split, it was a steady climb up the Mono Pass Trail to Ruby Lake. Granite peaks towered above us and we had nice views down into the Little Lakes Basin where we’d be hiking in a few days. Ruby (elevation 11,127′) was a highly scenic lake and we enjoyed having it all to ourselves. This is a great hike if you are looking for an easy day (just 5.5 miles roundtrip) and to beat the crowds.

Stunning Ruby Lake. Those granite peaks above the lake made it one of my favorite Sierra destinations.

Little Lakes

Happy hikers on the Little Lakes Trail. Photo courtesy of our new friend Cindy.

We returned to the Little Lakes Trail a few days later and what a difference going mid-week made! We passed the occasional hiker, but the trail was generally pretty quiet. Best of all, we were joined by our new friends Sherry and Cindy who we had met the previous week. Once again, they had their sweet golden retriever, Dakota, with them. They were also joined by their little dog, Dory. To be honest, I’m not a small dog person. They tend to have an attitude that I find less than charming. But Dory instantly won me over and proved herself a skilled trail dog. No boulder was too big for Dory and she had no trouble covering 9.0 miles of trail at over 10,000 feet elevation. The best part about Dory was she didn’t feel the need to talk about it all. No yapping or barking from this tiny adventurer. Nope, she was too busy enjoying the trail and proving that she could do anything Dakota could do.

Long Lake
Long Lake
Chickenfoot Lake

The Little Lakes Trail begins at high elevation and makes a relatively gentle climb to a series of beautiful lakes. Provided one is acclimated to the 10,000+ foot elevation, it is a relatively easy hike which is reflected in its popularity. Most people do the out-and-back up to Gem Lakes. We added the side trail to Morgan Pass which gave us great views down into Little Lakes Valley. This put our day at 9.0 miles roundtrip with 1,400′ elevation gain. While none of the lakes were the most stunning that we found in the Eastern Sierras, the fact that we got to visit over half a dozen in one hike made for an excellent day on the trail. And getting to share the day with Sherry, Cindy, Dakota, and Dory left us with many wonderful memories.

View from Morgan Pass
Upper Gem Lake

Chocolate Lakes Loop

Our hike to Chocolate Lakes took us to the Bishop Creek area of the Eastern Sierras. The area is accessed via hwy 168 from the town of Bishop. Here you’ll find vacation homes, numerous campgrounds, boat launches, and two of the most popular and easily accessible lakes in the Eastern Sierras, Lake Sabrina and South Lake. Despite the area’s popularity, our hikes here were pretty quiet thanks to our late season visit. Sadly, both Sabrina and South are dammed lakes and their levels were quite low during our visit.

We followed the Bishop Pass Trail out of South Lake and then caught the Chocolate Lakes Loop at Long Lake (blue line)
South Lake looking very low
Traces of snow as we climbed to Long Lake

We hiked the Chocolate Lakes Loop from South Lake the morning after a massive storm had pushed through the area. At the trailhead, backpackers entertained us with stories of surviving the cold night after the gusting winds had destroyed their tent. We had skiffs of snow along portions of the trail and saw our first frozen sections of lakeshore. With even colder temperatures ahead in the forecast, we could feel our Eastern Sierra adventures coming to an end. But not before we hiked Chocolate Lakes Loop! I didn’t know much about this hike, but it sure did sound delicious.

On paper, this loop looked easy enough—a 7.3 mile lollipop route past half a dozen lakes at a cost of about 1,600 feet elevation gain. No problem compared to the other hikes we had been doing. But I’ll confess, this one felt more strenuous. It felt like we climbed more than 1,600 feet and route finding was a bit challenging as we made a steep descent down into the Chocolate Lakes. In fact, after reaching Upper Chocolate Lake, we had a German woman catch up with us and say the only reason she wasn’t lost was because she had been following us. She asked if she could join us for the rest of the hike as she was afraid of becoming lost and all alone.

High above Upper Chocolate Lake
Watch your step, its a steep and rocky descent
Beautiful lakeshore view at Upper Chocolate Lake

Having talkative company for the second half of our hike, the next few lakes blurred together. I’ve identified the next set of photos the best that I was able!

Similar to the Little Lakes hike, none of the lakes were the most stunning that we found in the Eastern Sierras. But getting to see over half a dozen pretty lakes in one hike made for a lovely day on the trail. We returned to the area a couple days later to hike Sabrina Basin, but we could feel our time in the Sierras drawing to a close.

The Adventure Continues

Join us for our next post as we wrap up our Eastern Sierra adventures, including a back door route into Kings Canyon National Park. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!

On the Chocolate Lakes Loop in the John Muir Wilderness

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