Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
3,818.00 ft (1,163.73 m)
Trail type
26.30 mi (42.33 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.

Located above Mono Creek in the John Muir Wilderness, the Second Recess Trail is one of four hanging valleys. The trail follows Mills Creek south of Mono Creek and leads to Mills Lakes. The Second Recess Trail can be accessed from two directions: either via the trails around Rock Creek Lake on the east side, or via Edison Lake on the west side, as described here. 

This route is a 26.3-mile out-and-back starting from Vermillion Valley Resort/Edison Lake. It features lush pine forests, boulder fields, and open expanses with waterfalls, flowing creeks, and alpine lakes. It can be completed as a long day trek or as an overnight backpacking trip, and it is suitable for running, hiking, backpackering, and horseback riding.

The trail begins by following the pack trail along the northwest shore of the lake, then passes through Quail Meadow, following Mono Creek, to the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) / John Muir Trail (JMT). 

It follows the PCT/JMT north for about a mile before continuing east on Mono Creek Trail. It passes through the First Recess on its way to the junction with the Second Recess Trail (approximately 3.5 miles). 

The route continues south along the Second Recess Trail, following Mill Creek. The official Second Recess Trail ends at the base of a climb leading to Mills Lakes. Here the route turns around, but those who are comfortable hiking off trail and don't mind adding some extra miles can continue south to explore lower and upper Mills Lakes. Either way, when you are ready to return to Edison Lake, simply retrace your steps.

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

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Varied landscapes. National Scenic Trails. Solitude.


Mosquitos in the summer.

Trailhead Elevation

7,799.00 ft (2,377.14 m)

Highest point

9,464.00 ft (2,884.63 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required


Permit self-issue on site



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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