Inyo National Forest

Hot Creek Geologic Site

Hot Creek is a place to marvel at geology in action. Imagine standing inside an ancient volcano! One that erupted 700,000 years ago and spread ash as far as Nebraska! What remains of this blast is a region of fascinating geologic wonders; hot springs, fumaroles and craters. Explore the ever-changing wonders of the earth at Hot Creek.


Hot Creek is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Because of the potential danger of scalding water and the high concentrations of chemicals in the water, swimming is not recommended at Hot Creek.

Stay on walkways and boardwalks. The ground can be unstable.

Dogs must be leashed at all times and children should be carefully watched.

Glass containers are not allowed.

Soap and shampoo pollute the water and are not alloy ed. Please keep y our public lands clean and pack out what you bring in.

Geologic Story

Boiling water bubbling up from the creek bed, fumaroles and periodic geyser eruptions at Hot Creek attest to the chamber of hot magma which lies about three miles below the surface of the earth in this area.

The steam you see along the Hot Creek drainage is created when water percolates deep into the ground and enters a complex underground plumbing system. The water is heated and pressurized before ibises to the earth's surface. It is believe that this journey takes 1000 y ears.

Earthquakes are common in this area. The U.S. Geologic Survey maintains a system of seismographs which records the many small quakes that occur weekly. Most quakes are of the magnitude of 1.0 to 3.0. However, the occasional large one does occur. Earthquakes can cause drastic fluctuations in the underground plumbing system. During the earthquake swarms in the early 1980's there were sudden geyser eruptions at Hot Creek, overnight appearances of new hot springs and changes in creek bed, shoreline and water temperature. Hot Creek is always changing, and for this reason, entering the water is not recommended.


The warm waters of Hot Creek are home to several kinds of fish. A tiny mosquito eating fish called Gambusia is commonly seen in the areas were the water is very warm The Owens Sucker and the Tui Chub are a] so native to the creek. Introduced (non-native) fish are the Rainbow and the Brook Trout.

Hot Creek has been designated an official Wild Trout Stream. This means that only naturally reproducing trout exist in the stream. Hatchery raised fish are not release into the waters.

Hot Creek is very popular for flyfishing. It is a Catch and Release only stream, artificial flies and single barbless hooks are all that are allowed. Consult a copy of current state fishing regulations for more information.


Hot Creek is a natural sanctuary for many kinds of wildlife. Listen for the hooting of the Great Horned Owls which nest on the cliff ledges. Bald Eagles may be spotted during the winter, flying over the creek. Look along the shoreline for Water Dippers, which bob up and down while searching for aquatic insects. Cliff Swallows are the most abundant birds in spring and summer. They can be seen catching flying insects with graceful aerial maneuvers and building mud nests on the cliff sides. Waterfowl often rest in more secluded areas of the creek, especially during spring and fall migrations.

Piles of dry sticks jammed into rock crevices are nests built by Bushy-Tailed Woodrats. These nocturnal rodents are the classic"packrats" which hoard objects. Occasionally Mountain Lions pass through while they hunt for migrating deer.

Quietly follow the footpaths along the creek to hear and see wildlife.

Hot Creek Fish Hatcher

The warm springs of Hot Creek provide ideal temperatures for trout development. You may view the fish in long rearing ponds called raceways. Fish are raised here to plant in local waters and to provide eggs for other hatcheries. The hatchery is operated by the California Dept. of Fish and Game. The raceways are open for visitors to view fish.


The Mammoth Ranger District offers free interpretive tours and ranger programs during the early summer at Hot Creek. Check with our office for a schedule of events, dates and times.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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