Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
6,517.00 ft (1,986.38 m)
Trail type
39.40 mi (63.41 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Second Recess Loop is a 39.4-mile route in the John Muir Wilderness. It starts at Edison Lake and heads east, following Mono Creek, to the Second Recess Trail. This route crosses a variety of landscapes including lush pine forests, boulder fields, and open expanses with waterfalls, flowing creeks, and numerous alpine lakes. It crosses several trails, including the well-maintained Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) / John Muir Trail (JMT), and travels into remote wilderness areas with plenty of solitude opportunities. It is a moderately strenuous route that can easily be shortened or extended to accommodate different fitness levels. The loop is suitable for running, hiking, backpacking, and horseback riding. 

The Second Recess is one of four hanging valleys that are located above Mono Creek. Following Mills Creek, the Second Recess Trail leads to Mills Lakes, an area of glaciated cirques, high alpine scenery, and pristine backcountry camping. Experienced Sierra Nevada hikers will appreciate the opportunities for off-trail exploration. 


  1. Hike from Vermillion Valley Resort to Mono Campground and the Bear Creek Trailhead. 

  2. Take the Bear Creek Trail to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) / John Muir Trail (JMT) (northbound).

  3. Take the PCT/JMT to the Mono Creek Trail (head east).

  4. Follow the Mono Creek Trail (east) to the Second Recess Trail.

  5. Head south along the Second Recess Trail (turnaround point at the end of the Second Recess Trail).

  6. Turn around and take the Second Recess Trail (north) back to Mono Creek Trail (head west).

  7. Mono Creek Trail to High Sierra Pack Station Trail to Vermillion Valley Resort. 

    1. Take the Edison Lake Ferry instead of hiking the High Sierra Pack Station Trail to shorten the distance. Check with the Vermillion Valley Resort in advance to see if the ferry is available.

WATER: Water that is collected from streams, rivers, and lakes should be treated before consumption. 

CAMPING AND PERMITS: Wilderness permits are required for overnight camping throughout the John Muir Wilderness. These permits can be reserved up to six months in advance through

Vermillion Valley Resort

Mono Creek Campground

White Mountain Visitor Center: 1- (760) 873-2500.

Wilderness Permit Information: 1-(760) 873-2483.


Logistics + Planning



Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Scenic lakes. Varied landscapes.


Mosquitos in the summer.

Trailhead Elevation

7,805.00 ft (2,378.96 m)

Highest point

9,956.00 ft (3,034.59 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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