The Little Lakes Valley is a spectacular, glacier-carved canyon bursting with lakes and wildflowers. What makes it even more special is that the Mosquito Flat trailhead lies at 10,300 feet, giving easy access to the rarefied High Sierra. So your car does the bulk of the climbing, instead of your feet.
According to botanist Karen Weise, it’s a great chance to look for plants that thrive at the Sierra’s highest elevations. “This trail hugs the upper threshold of the subalpine zone,” she explains. Look for limber pines and endangered white bark pines—both species that grow only at the highest elevations. She recommends looking for various species (and colours) of heath in bloom, as well as gentian, elephant’s head and crimson and Coville’s columbine. Peak bloom time is usually mid to late July.
Wander as far as you wish amid this lake-filled wonderland. The trail stays remarkably level as it leads past Mack Lake and shallow Marsh Lake to Heart Lake in the first 2.4km. Continue to discover Box Lake and Long Lake, then turn around here for a seven-mile round trip. Those with more stamina can continue to Chickenfoot Lake (4.8km or the Gem Lakes (5.6km). Many hikers consider the Gem Lakes to be the loveliest of the lot, but that’s a tough contest.
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: From U.S. 395 at Mammoth Lakes, drive south 24km to Tom’s Place. Turn right (west) on Rock Creek Road and drive 16.8km to its end at the Mosquito Flat parking lot.
Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colours in fall—this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World-class mountain resorts circling turquoise-blue Lake Tahoe, and at Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and vistas in summer.
Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” --photographer Ansel Adams
Yosemite National Park, a World Heritage Site, is here, roughly 3½ hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps, or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you’ll find your perfect getaway.
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