McGee Creek to Steelhead and Big McGee Lakes

Distance: 11.6 - 13.6 miles (round trip)

John Muir Wilderness Area, Inyo National Forest, near Mammoth Lakes in California's Southeastern Sierra

Great views along the trail up the McGee Creek valley

Great views along the trail up the McGee Creek valley


The scenic hike to Kearsarge Pass (11,823-ft.) travels by five shimmering lakes and features great views of the rugged crags and peaks along the east side of the Sierra Crest. From the pass breathtaking views encompass the Kearsarge Lakes, the Kearsarge Pinnacles and the Kings-Kern Divide. (full description)

  • Distance: 11.6 miles (round trip) to Steelhead Lake
    13.6 miles (round trip) to Big McGee Lake
  • Elevation: 7,840-ft. at Trailhead
    10,350-ft. at Steelhead Lake
    10,600-ft. at Big McGee Lake
  • Elevation Gain: 2,510-ft. to Steelhead Lake
    2,760-ft. to Big McGee Lake
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Basecamp: Mammoth Lakes / Bishop
  • Region: California's Southeastern Sierra

Why Hike McGee Creek to Steelhead and Big McGee Lakes

The long trail up the McGee Creek valley is filled with visual delights. Multi-hued peaks frame pretty meadows sprinkled with wildflowers and forests of quaking aspen and lodgepole pines. Hikers have the choice of two great destinations. Steelhead Lake lies nestled in a scenic granite basin with great views of the surrounding peaks. Further up the valley beautiful Big McGee Lake is surrounded by a colorful cirque, anchored by the aptly named Red and White Mountain (12,816-ft.).

Beyond Big McGee Lake the trail travels by Little McGee Lake on its way to McGee Pass (11,876-ft.), 9.0 miles from the trailhead. From the pass the trail drops to Fish Creek and Lake Edison.

It is best to get an early start on this hike. The initial section of the trail, traveling along the open valley floor, is a real scorcher during the summer. The trail, used by pack outfits, also tends to get quite dusty. Early in the season and during high water periods the three crossing of McGee Creek are problematic. Use caution.

Read the full trail description

Elevation Profile

McGee Creek Elevation Profile

Trail Resources