Mt. Mills is one of many fine 13ers that surround the Little Lakes Valley, nestled between Ruby Peak and Mt. Abbot. The approach to the east side of the peak is not far, just a little over 4 miles, half of it on a well-kept trail. For the north side routes, the approach is only a little longer, over Mono Pass, down into the Fourth Recess, past the Snow Lakes, and up a small glacier, for a total mileage of just over 6 miles, a very reasonable dayhike. There are a number of striking 13ers in the vicinity, and there are many traverses and enchainments available for the enthusiastic hiker/climber. In addition, there are a number of fantastic ski descents in the area, and it is a popular destination even in the winter.
The best (easiest) way to access this peak is via the Mosquito Flat trailhead. This trailhead is at 10,300' or so, making for an easy approach to the peak. The trailhead is reached by ascending the Rock Creek Road, which leaves Highway 395 at Tom's Place. Mosquito Flat is approximately 11 steep miles up the Rock Creek Road. Parking is limited at the trailhead, so during the busy summer months, get there early, or you'll get a little extra distance on your trip walking up from the overflow parking area. The other option to access this peak is the Pine Creek Road, which leaves Highway 395 near the turnoff to the famous Owens River Gorge. This turnoff is about 10 miles north of Bishop. Follow the road to the tungsten mine, and park outside the gate. This trail is an abandoned road, and the trailhead is much lower, around 7500 feet.
The Little Lakes Valley trail is a quota trail, and this area is very popular. A wilderness permit is required for overnight travel in this area, and wood fires are not only passe, but prohibited. The access to the routes on the north side of the peak is via Mono Pass, then cross-country through the Fourth Recess. The Mono Pass Trail branches off to the right from the Little Lakes Valley Trail about 1/2 mile from Mosquito Flat. There is no fee for the limited trailhead parking at either trailhead. Be advised that the Rock Creek Road is not cleared in the winter, so once the snow flies, the road is closed, unless you ski or snowshoe in.
When To Climb
The best time to climb this peak sans snow or ice is April (dry winter) or May through September (early winter) or October (normal), and even sometimes November or December. Depends upon Mother Nature. This area is very popular in the winter as well, there are numerous epic descents to be had.
There are over 300 campsites available in Rock Creek Canyon, in 13 different campgrounds and facilities. For all the info you will ever need on these facilities, click here.
I am unaware of a source of up-to-date conditions except the Feds in Bishop. The nearest Inyo National Forest facility is in Bishop at 873 N. Main St., Bishop, CA 93514 (760) 873-2400. Or contact them here.
The etymology info was courteously supplied by Snwburd.
"In the 1860's Darius O. Mills (1825-1910), a San Francisco banker and promoter, acquired part of the Buri Buri Rancho and built his residence south of the townsite. The name Millbrae (brae is Scottish for 'hill slope') was applied to the railroad station, and in 1867 to the post office. The San Francisco Municipal Airport was originally called Mills Field, because it was acquired from the estate. At the suggestion of the Sierra Club, of which Mills was a charter member [and likely a large source of monetary funds], the name was applied [to Mount Mills and Mills Creek] by the BGN after his death in 1910."
- Erwin Gudde, California Place Names
"Darius Ogden Mills (1825-1910), banker and philanthropist; founder and namer of the city of Millbrae; founder of the Carson and Colorada Railroad; a charter member of the Sierra Club. (Historic Spots, 119, 305, 403.) The mountain was named at the suggestion of the Sierra Club after Mills' death. The mountain and creek were named on the first edition of the Mt. Goddard 30' map, 1912. 'Upper' and 'Lower Mills Creek Lake' were named in 1943 by William . Dill of the DFG. (DFG survey.)"
- Peter Browning, Place Names of the Sierra Nevada