U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Inyo National Forest


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Forest Information

The Inyo National Forest is located in east-central California and western Nevada. In California, the Forest is comprised of 1,839,887 acres while 60,656 acres are located in Nevada. There are 69 developed campgrounds of which 59 meet the selection criteria (all in California).

The Inyo National Forest is a place of spectacular beauty and magnificent solitude, where every canyon has a different personality, every trail a unique character, and every day a new adventure. Except for a few narrow roadway corridors, the only way to approach the Inyo National Forest is from the east where the Sierra Nevada Mountains rise up like an enormous granite wall. The sight of this natural barrier gives pause to all who approach but further investigation reveals some wonderful discoveries. It takes only a short while but a visitor realizes the Inyo (thought to mean "the dwelling place of the great spirit") is a special place. Although, in the past, used most often as an overnight camping location for visitors to the neighboring national parks of Death Valley and Yosemite, the Inyo is being discovered as a place for long stays and many adventures.

It seems appropriate Inyo National Forest has its own special hybrid trout to challenge and delight anglers of all ages. Many of the streams, creeks, and lakes are stocked by local businesses with these trout. Averaging 2 to 3 pounds with tender pink flesh, Alpers are known for their fight and wildness.

At the southern end of the Inyo is the quaint ranching community of Lone Pine, CA. A long drive from this community through the Alabama Hills (a popular backdrop of many Hollywood movies), and up a spectacular series of switchbacks (with views of Nevada in the distance), leads to Horseshoe Meadows. At 10,000 feet, the area boasts of crisp summer nights, days of warmth, an extensive trail system, and great camping locations for car and tent camping enthusiasts. The walk-in campground of Cottonwood Lakes/Golden Trout and Equestrian (a.k.a. Horseshoe Meadow) campground, provide a great staging area for exploring the Golden Trout Wilderness or just enjoying the quiet beauty of this remote place.

The next canyon northward leads to the highest peak in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney, and several campgrounds. The popularity of hiking Mt. Whitney is illustrated by a lottery system used to select hikers (contact Mt. Whitney Ranger District for more information). The Trailhead campground is a hiker's staging area, while nearby Whitney Portal Family campground is used more by recreational vehicle (RV) and motorhome camping enthusiasts. A small trout pond provides anglers of all ages with hours of fun. And across from the pond is the Mt. Whitney General Store, offering limited supplies, good conversation, and a supper pancake breakfast. At the base of Mt. Whitney, on a sagebrush flat, is Lone Pine campground offering the best RV and motorhome camping with warmer temperatures and good creek trout fishing.

Similar but unique for the serene solitude found there is the next canyon and Onion Valley campground. Lacking the crowds of Mt. Whitney, visitors to Onion Valley can see the saddle of Kearsarge Pass. Native people used this Pass in their trade journeys for time beyond memory. The Pass is still used today by hikers exploring the many wonders of the surrounding wilderness. The campground is one of Inyo's undiscovered gems.

The northern portion of the Inyo has even more wonders and many pleasant camping locations. Two discoveries, of the many, are Sawmill Walk-in and Tioga Lake camping locations. Both are on the way to Yosemite National Park and each is uniquely different. Sawmill Walk-in is truly a walk in campground that stretches along a ridge above Sawmill Valley and Lee Vining Creek. Tioga Lake campground, just outside the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park, near the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and beside little Tioga Lake, is one of the prettiest little campgrounds around. Nearby, for those who aren't interested in visiting Yosemite but are looking for great hiking, there is Saddlebag Lake campground.

Not far away is June Lake. The beauty of the June Lake area has been acknowledged in many publications and around many campfires. Five different campgrounds offer five different camping experiences all in the wonderful scenery of the area.

And then different from the rest of Inyo National Forest is the Mammoth Lakes area. Known for its winter time recreation, this area offers outstanding summer camping, hiking, mountain biking, and fishing opportunities. Old and New Shady Rest campgrounds are in the community of Mammoth Lakes and adjacent to an extensive paved bicycle path. Further away, more rustic in setting, and near different lakes, are Twin Lakes, Lake Mary, Lake George, and others. The drive to these campgrounds, with views of the distant Crowley Lake, is almost as special as the campgrounds themselves.

Speaking of views, the star-gazing opportunities found at Grandview campground in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is amazing. And the hike through Schulman Grove, past living trees older than the Nation, is humbling.

Another especially unique place to visit is the Reds Meadow area with five campgrounds and Devil's Postpile National Monument right in the middle. Access to Reds Meadow requires a pass purchased at the Minaret Vista portal or other locations which includes a shuttle service during daylight hours. Entering Reds Meadow area is to pass through a time warp. The area is opposite to all the goings-on in Mammoth Lakes area. With the stride-wide San Joaquin River and a couple of lakes, a valley full of cottonwood, aspen, and pine groves, wide meadows of wild-flowers, John Muir trail, and the quaint Reds Meadow Pack Station and Resort, Reds Meadow area is a special place.

A place for water play recreation and an outstanding dining experience, is the Convict Lake area. Of course, one must not overlook the surreal beauty of Inyo's Mono Lake Scenic Area, another must place to explore. Also, there are the wonderful surprises in the Big Pine Canyon, Bishop Creek, and Rock Creek Canyon areas. Stretching 165 miles along the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, within view of the barren Death Valley and dusty Owen Valley and embracing pristine Wildernesses, the Inyo National Forest has so much to offer. So much to see. So much to do. So little time for it all. Come and experience "the dwelling place of the great spirit" called Inyo National Forest.

SUPERVISOR OFFICE 351 Pacu Lane Suite 200 Bishop, California 93514 760-873-2400 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESSES Mammoth P.O. Box 148 Mammoth Lakes, California 93546 760-924-5500 Mono Lake (Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center) POB 429 Lee Vining, California 93541 760-647-3044 Mt. Whitney P.O. Box 8 US 395 & SR 136 (Visitor Center) Lone Pine, California 93545 760-876-6200 White Mountain 798 N. Main St. Bishop, Califronia 93514 760-873-2500

Fred and Suzi Dow