OCLB - Upper Rock Creek Trail Backpack (Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead)

  • Fri, June 23, 2023
  • 8:00 AM
  • Tue, June 27, 2023
  • 12:00 PM
  • Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead
  • 1


Great Outdoors Orange County/Long Beach presents

Upper Rock Creek Trailhead Backpack (Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead)

June 23 - 27, 2023

June in the Sierras is the opening of the Summertime backpacking window with a chance to visit magnificent alpine environs. This trip is a 5-day 24-mile loop hike, starting from Horseshoe Meadows along the Cottonwood Lakes trail, up over New Army Pass to Upper Rock Creek, then proceeding along the PCT to Chicken Spring Lake, and return to the trailhead on the Cottonwood Pass trail.

This trip is limited to 6 hikers plus the 2 co-leaders. Permit slots will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis. All others will be added to a waiting list.

You must contact the trip leader directly if you are interested in participating.  The trip leader will send you the registration form after confirming that you are qualified as fit for the activity.  This trip is rated as “moderate” because of elevations exceeding 11,000 feet.  Altitude effects can significantly impact a hiker's ability and altitude sickness is a real risk.  Some sections such as ascending New Army Pass may be considered as “strenuous” by some hikers.  It is “non-technical”.

Contact either trip Leader: Doug Cable dccable2@verizon.net, or Larry Purtle lvpurtle@hotmail.com

Please be aware that you are not registered for this backpack trip until the trip leader has determined you are qualified, and you have completed and submitted the registration form and payment of $40. The registration form needs to be returned to the trip leader and payment made within 7 days of receiving the registration form or the trip leader will contact the next person on the waiting list and you will forfeit your spot.

You may cancel at any time up until June 1, 2023 and your fee will be refunded.  There will be NO refunds after June 1, 2023, unless the Trip Leader decides to significantly alter the trip due to weather or safety considerations.

The higher elevations are likely to have snow so you have to ensure that you bring appropriate clothing and microspikes and large baskets for your poles. (yes, you have a large basket already)

Sorry, no pets.

Although not part of the official trip, it is essential to drive up on Thursday 6/22 and camp at Horseshoe Meadows Campground near Cottonwood Pass Trailhead, to acclimatize better to the altitude of about 10,000 feet and rest up for the hike the next day. Diamox prescription medicine is HIGHLY recommended for 3 days prior to avoid altitude sickness.

Click here for an overview map of the backpack.

6/23, Day 1: Hike 5.3 miles from Horseshoe Meadows to S Fork Lakes 5.3 miles, to 11,073’ elevation. Depending on how we feel, we may go on to Long Lake or High Lake in preparation for ascending New Army Pass on day 2.

6/24, Day 2:  we will ascend New Army Pass, 12,300’.  It has rocky switchbacks that proceed from the South Lakes basin to above the tree line with outstanding views.  Our destination will be Upper Rock Creek. It is 6.5 miles from the S Fork Lakes. We can stop early at Soldier Lakes if necessary.

6/25, Day 3: we will go to Chicken Spring Lake 11,258’. 6 miles.

6/26, Day 4: rest day at Chicken Spring Lake. We will look for the chicken, or do day hikes to explore the area

6/27, Day 5:  Return to Horseshoe Meadows and the trailhead along the Cottonwood Pass trail.

Key distances and altitudes






Cotton Wood Lakes Trailhead


10,080 ft


Long Lake

6 miles

11,160 ft


New Army Pass

8.2 miles

12,300 ft


Soldier Lake

11.7 miles

10,800 ft


Upper Rock Creek Campsite

12.7 miles

10,450 ft

3 & 4

Chicken Spring Lake

19 miles

11,258 ft


Cottonwood Pass

19.9 miles

11,000 ft



24 miles

10,080 ft

You will need your ten essentials and appropriate backpacking gear. Click here for the list. Carpooling is recommended to reduce fuel costs and vehicle emissions.

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