Widely considered one of the most beautiful hikes in the eastern Sierra
, the glacier carved Little Lakes Valley is definitely one of the easiest hikes that allows access to the lakes and scenery of the High Sierra. This is due to the fact that your car will be doing most of the climbing for you: the trailhead elevation is 10,300 feet. There are no parking permits required, but the trailhead parking lot fills fairly quickly on summer weekends, and there are no permits required for day hikes. Wilderness permits are required for overnight excursions into the valley, however.
At the trailhead there are signs educating hikers about bears, and these should be heeded. There is plenty of bear activity in the area, and bear cannisters are required for overnight trips. The hike is a very gradual climb, and the scenery kicks in early with Mack Lake appearing less than a third of a mile into the hike, making this hike one of the best introductions for children and newcomers to the glories of alpine hiking. From there you will follow Rock Creek as it flows from lake to lake until the last lake in the chain, Gem Lakes. After Gem Lakes, people can continue on through Morgan Pass or turn around and head back to the trailhead.
The trip is easily done as a long day trip or as a leisurely backpacking trip. Fish, including the native California golden trout, are in all of the lakes, so many people bring fly fishing rods to fish the waters here. The entire trail hugs the tree line of the Sierra with plants that grow at the highest elevations, including limber pines and whitebark pines. Wildflowers are most common in mid- to late July, but they can be seen in late June to early July depending on the year.