Best Camping and Fishing in Southern California: Convict Lake

Ok, so it’s not in Southern California, but it is only a four and a half hour drive from Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Great fishing and hiking in possibly the most beautiful spot in the Eastern Sierras. Rent a boat at the marina to fish the heavily stocked lake.  Fish the creek as it winds through the campground. Rent a cozy cabin at the lakeside resort. The Convict Lake Resort boasts the finest dining on highway 395. Horseback riding is available as well. The amenities of Mammoth are only a 15 minute drive away. Lake Crowley and Yosemite National Park are both within driving distance making Convict Lake an excellent choice for your next vacation. 



Convict Lake was known as Mount Diablo until 1871 when 29 convicts escaped the Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Six of them hid out at the lake. When a local posse caught up with them, 2 deputies were killed and the convicts escaped, although they were later captured in nearby Long Valley and subsequently hung. Thereafter it became known as Convict Lake. The towering mountain that frames the lake is now known as Mount Morrison, named for slain deputy Robert Morrison. The resort first opened in 1929 by Bill Garner and was later taken over by the Wenger family in 1962. In 1982 the current family took over operations and turned it into the first class resort it is today. Several old westerns were filmed there as well as the 1998 film Star Trek: Insurrection, as well as ads for Nature Valley Granola bars.



Trout fishing remains the number one draw to Convict Lake. Stocked weekly by the DFW and supplemented by the resort with trophy sized trout, fishing remains great throughout the season. The entire lake is fishable from shore as a trail circles the entire lake, but the north shore seems to produce the best. Garlic flavored Powerbait, pink and white Mousetails and inflated nightcrawlers always work. Try casting Thomas Bouyant spoons, Panther Martins and castmasters as well.  Trollers due well using lead core line with daisy chain flashers pulling rainbow colored needlefish or threaded worms. Rent a boat and soak bait near the inlet at the back of the lake. Float tubers score well flyfishing or drifting baits near the marina. There are several fishing derbies held throughout the season which runs form April 29 -November 15th.  Fred Hall Opening Weekend Derby,  Ambush at the Lake and Round-up at The Lake  are both in the fall. Convict Creek which runs from the marina and out through the campground is loaded with trout just waiting for mini-jigs, worms and salmon eggs.



Convict Lake Loop is a 3 mile trail that follows the shoreline and can be hiked in either direction. Start at the marina or Convict Creek Bridge. This a relatively flat trail at 7,600 feet in elevation that almost anyone can enjoy.  Convict Lake Overlook Trail is a 4 mile each way SUV trail with a short hike at the end that is accessible in the summer months. There are spectacular views and photo opportunities 700 feet above the lake. Check with the store for maps and information. Convict Lake Backcountry is available for the more adventurous and overnight campers in the amazing John Muir Wilderness. The first 6 miles are strenuous as you climb 2,700 feet to an elevation of well over 10,000 feet. There is good fishing at several of the lakes up there. Books and trail guides are available at the store. Kayaks can be rented at the marina for some water adventure.


The campsites at the lake can be reserved at Situated among cottonwood and aspen trees along Convict Creek are nice-sized spots. There are flush toilets and hot showers but no hookups. Although not heavily shaded, the trees provide a nice wind break and privacy. The lake is about 100 yards away and supplies can be purchased at the resort store, Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be bought at the cafe as well as fine dining at the Convict Lake Restaurant. Cabins are available for rent at,  and the city of Mammoth Lakes is 15 minutes away with numerous restaurants, stores, condos and hotels.


Local Activities

Try Lake Crowley for a different place to fish or head up to the June Lake Loop. Tioga Pass, Hwy 120, is the gateway to Yosemite National Park. Stop at the Tioga Gas Mart in Lee Vining while you are there for the best fish tacos you ever had from the Whoa Nelly Deli or try the pork chop plate, delicious. Get a gourmet dinner at the Historic Mono Inn. Take a side trip back in history at Bodie Ghost Town.  A definite must if you have the time. Check out the Hot Creek trout hatchery or take a soak in one of the numerous natural hot springs. Of course you may just be ready to relax in a chair by the lake soaking in the incredible scenery right in front of you. So bring a good book and some cold beverages.

All in all,  I bet that with all there is to do at Convict Lake you will find yourself planning the next trip because you were not able to experience everything. So make your plans and head up Hwy 395 to Convict Lake.

It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Pin on Pinterest
Email this to someone

Leave a Reply