The north-south Inyo Mountains comprise a high and vast desert range, and the isolated and pristine Wilderness that bears their name encompasses a large portion of this sheerly rugged terrain. The area reaches a high point on Keynot Peak, at about 11,000 feet, and separates the Owens Valley on the west from the Saline Valley on the east. Most of the eastern border is shared with Death Valley National Park. Year-round streams, some cascading over waterfalls, can be found in eight canyons on the rough east side. These steep-walled canyons offer challenges to rock climbers. In addition to Keynot Peak, the prominent summits of New York Butte and Mount Inyo provide tough, nontechnical hikes with splendid views as rewards. Creosote, shadscale scrub, and sagebrush proliferate at lower elevations. You'll find a lush riparian habitat in the moist canyons, and pinion-juniper woodlands on some of the slopes. Bristlecone and limber pine grow in the higher reaches. Inyo Mountains Wilderness lies partly on BLM land and partly within Inyo National Forest. A rich mining legacy has left a smattering of ruins to explore, and the towers that supported a men-and-salt-bearing tram from the Saline Valley salt mines to Owens Lake can still be seen on Cerro Gordo Peak. There are 103 miles of unmaintained trails, often difficult to follow, a holdover from historic use. Most of these trails are not shown on maps. From Reward, the old Lonesome Miner Trail (40 miles) will take you south through the highest country to Hunter Canyon. The chance for a solitude-rich Wilderness experience of a high order awaits the adventurous.

Slushy snow , slippery at about 3/4 miles to the lake. 2 rivers running strong so be prepared to get wet, the log bridge is in the water about half way - so again be prepared to get feet wet. At the lake - snow and ice too. Trekking poles would have probably made it easier and safer. Some people had crampons to make Handling the slush better. Other than that it's a fairly easy hike - but we're OK with going slow and stopping when needed. Especially with 2 dogs - we made room for other hikers and other dogs on the hike. Enjoyable hike, at the lake it's partly frozen so we were careful not to let the dogs too close to the frozen lake.

snow and ice today. gorgeous place and worth the trek. trekking poles came in handy

The hike to Lone Pine Lake is about as far as you can hike out of Whitney Portal without a permit for the Whitney Zone. The hike is mostly sunbathed and hot. It climbs relentlessly in the heat. However, the endpoint of Lone Pine Lake is absolutely beautiful. The lake is relatively small and the granite faces above it are towering.

This is the bottom portion of the Whitney Portal Trail and as far as you can hike without a permit. Although forested, this section is mostly exposed to the sun and a good trail. The views of the Inyo Mountains, Owens Valley and the Alabama Hills open up as you gradually switchback up the trail. The only water crossing is just before you come to the John Muir Wilderness sign and the barely noticeable junction for the Mountaineering Route. At about 2.5 miles is the junction to Lone Pine Lake, a place to fish for golden trout, and some folks camp here if taking two days to Trail Camp - said to be better than Outpost Camp. We hiked on a beautiful day and was around 80 degrees at the bottom, but the lake was nice and breezy with some snow patches. Beautiful views. Take water and sunscreen. My goal is to do the rest of this hike to the top some day.

Still a lot of snow near the top at this time of year, but this is absolutely beautiful. Favorite hike I've ever done

So peaceful! While my husband hiked to the summit - I did my own thing a bit later and was quiet and cold and I loved it! I started at the camp a mile down and it was a great hike. Did a little running on the trail bc the path was very clear of rocks.

off road driving
3 months ago

Drove up this road for 7.5 miles. Super windy day so we only walked around a bit. Views were nice. Feels deserted old miners terrain.

Lone Pine Lake is the furthest that one can venture up Mount Whitney without the necessary permits. This section of the trail offers a great sample to climbing Mount Whitney. Additionally, even the base of the Mount Whitney trail is above 8,000 feet; this makes for a great altitude trek.

My father and I drove to Lone Pine from Los Angeles. The impending storm on Saturday (11/26) left us no time to properly acclimatize, which (in hindsight) most likely decreased our enjoyment of the trail. It was also below freezing during the eve of winter.

The trail immediately starts out at a moderate incline, as it will remain until Lone Pine Lake. During November, it's likely that there's going to be a dusting of snow and it's practically guaranteed that there will be sections of ice. We encountered both even before the first creek crossing.

The Mount Whitney trail cuts through Lone Pine Creek less than half a mile in. The creek is relatively narrow and can be easily crossed with two or three careful steps. Since the temperature was in the mid 20s, part of the creek has a thin sheet of ice atop its surface. Additionally, the creek is active.

The trail continues to gain elevation via a series of short switchbacks. I started to feel fatigued around this point since I was unaccustomed to the thin mountain air (I had been in L.A just hours before.) At this point, views of Inyo National Forest start to open up.

The trail continues to a second creek crossing. The creek is not shown on the map, which is somewhat ironic, for it's multiple steps wider than the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. The stagnant sections of this creek were covered in a sheet of ice, while the rushing sections were swelling and thus required an extremely careful crossing.

The trail then continues on a longer collection of switchbacks. This section is littered by trees, though they occasionally open up to views of the valley below. An intimidating, massive wall of rock is in your sight as you head south on the switchbacks. Thor Peak is visible as you head north.

As the switchbacks cease, the trail enters a wooded section. There's the third, and final, river crossing: Lone Pine Creek. There are seven or eight split-in-half logs that serve as a bridge over this creek. During the winter (even in November) the creek is characteristically frozen.

Due to time constraints ("time constraints" meaning "impending sunset"), my father and I opted against descending to Lone Pine Lake. Our descent down the trail was much quicker than the ascent, and we were able to manage a two hour round trip.

Overall, an elevation trek mixed in with a great (free) taste of Mount Whitney makes for a wonderful hike. Make sure to bring multiple layers (and gloves) if hiking anytime not in the summer months. Have fun!

Nice hike to get a taste of climbing Mt. Whitney, although it isn't the most scenic hike in the Eastern Sierra or Owens Valley area. It was very windy which made it rather cold when we arrived at the lake. Don't be afraid to take breaks even though it isn't a particularly long hike -- the high altitude can really affect you without you even noticing.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It had been some time since I had ventured into the secret valley and was apprehensive as to what I might find. For a while now, it has not been much of a secret. The Timbisha Shoshone have known about and inhabited the valley since before recorded history and called their village and the valley Koon. They all moved to Darwin in the early 20th century but still hold the land as sacred. Although many modern humans know about the place, due to its remote location, the condition of the road, and the rumors that surround the valley, it still remains one of the quietest and most remote wilderness areas in all of North America.

As I turned right out of Big Pine, heading up the hill I was impressed by the newly paved two lane highway. Last time I was through here, the road was full of potholes and the dividing line marking the lanes had long since disappeared having succumbed to the hot desert sun. As I reached the turn off to the dirt road that leads into the valley, I stopped to photograph and marvel at the majestic view of the Sierra Nevada.

From here, that familiar sense of freedom began to take over and my soul began to shake off the trials and tribulations of day to day life in the city. I opened the traditional beerput the truck into second gear and ventured forth anticipating the beauty and grandeur that I was long familiar with, but had not experienced for over 3 years.

All was as I remembered, with very little, if anything changed. The road was actually in good condition. The sky was blue and the early November air was crisp, clean and refreshing! The moon was almost full and still visible in the morning sky. Driving slowly along the dirt road through the various valleys, the Pinion Pine and Juniper Forests, through the narrows of Paiute Canyon and ultimately to the northwestern rim of the secret valley. The Valley is in the rain shadow of three major mountain ranges and it is quite common for a large storm to leave little in the way of moisture, even while the rest of California is getting soaked. However, heavy snow can fall at the higher elevations (up tp 10,000 feet) and one can easily become trapped unable to escape from either the north or south passes. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long... as you have plenty of food and no immediate plans!

To me, the valley appears to be a volcano caldera, surrounded by mountain peaks on all sides. However, it is a bolsa with a number of abutting mountain ranges creating the effect. All water flowing into this valley has no escape which creates a salt marsh and lake at the very bottom. There are a number of steep canyons cutting into the Inyo mountain range that have water that feed the lake. This water provides for exceptionally lush micro climates that provide life for a surprising array of flora and fauna. It never ceases to surprise and delight me, to find so much life in such an arid and desolate place.

The Valley was a significant mineral source in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Conn and Trudo Borax Company mined borax from the salt marsh from 1874 to 1895. The remains of this site can be seen today as a few shallow pits near the road. Salt mining began in 1903 at the south end of the lake, and continued into the 1930s.

An electric aerial tram was constructed in 1911 to carry the salt 14 miles (22 km) over the Inyo Mountains to the town of Keeler in the Owens Valley. It operated sporadically from 1913 to 1936, but ultimately proved to be too expensive to run. The tram, which was placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1973, was the steepest ever constructed in the US. It rose from an elevation of 1100 feet on the valley floor to 8500 feet over the mountains, and then down to 3600 feet in Keeler. In recent years it has been badly damaged by vandals. This appears to be one of the saddest things about the secret valley as well as every other remote arealittle to no respect for the land.

I stopped briefly at Willow Creek Camp just to take a look over the fence to see that all was well and the property appeared to be clean and in order. There have been many people who have had great hopes for this placeminers, adventurers, lost souls and wayward gypsies all searching for that magiclost treasure, escape from civilization, and for all, a place to set your spirits free.

From here it is only 11 miles to the natural wonder of the Hot Springs. Having visited hot springs throughout the world, these are indeed most dear and special to me. Although the water contains a large number of minerals, unlike many hot springs, these do not contain sulfur. The springs seep up from underground at a few locations. Most notably are the two areas that have been lovingly developed and cared for by volunteers over the years. The lower spring has two concrete soaking pools, a well maintained and manicured lawn and is more socially oriented than the upper, less developed Palm Spring. In the 1960s, the hot springs in the valle