Wilderness Trail Names and Quotas for Inyo National Forest
Backpacking in the Sierra Nevada is a remarkable experience. On the Eastern slope of the Sierra from Bridgeport to Olancha backpackers can orient their experiences through Inyo National Forest. Planning your backpacking trip into the Inyo region includes making plans near some the Sierra Nevada’s most sought after destinations.
Inyo National Forest is over two million acres of granite playground in eastern California. Home to some of the highest peaks and mountain trail passes in California, including Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. Inyo National forest is home to a diverse array of plant and animal life, including the ancient Bristlecone Pine, the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, and the endangered Sierra Yellow-legged frog.
The John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail both pass through the forest, providing opportunities for backpacking and long-distance hiking. Backpackers and day trip explorers find access to several wilderness areas, including the John Muir Wilderness and the Ansel Adams Wilderness, which offer even more opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to explore the natural beauty of the forest.
Because of it popularity for hiker the Sierra Nevada mountain range inside Inyo National forest is managed with Trail quotas that have been created to try and keep the feeling and unique experience of wilderness as pure as possible for all that wish to explore. Trails such as Mt. Whitney, The John Muir Trail , the Pct or the High Sierra Route are high impact trail areas that require more management in order to maximize individual experience.
Most Permits for summer season of backpacking are attempted July – October, as the early season hikes and let season hikes have to deal with snow and weather concerns that prevent most backcountry travel. This is important to know since a good majority of the Backpacking permits are reserved in a 6 month window prior to the entry date of your hike. So for example in January Hikers are making plans and reservations for the end of June and early July this next summer.
Wilderness Trail Names and Quotas for Inyo National Forest
• Quota is the number of people that can start at the listed location each day.
• Permit is only valid to start on specific entry date and location reserved.
• (JMT) or (PCT) indicates trail connects to the John Muir Trail or Pacific Crest Trail.
The Trail Codes below will help reference your regions on forest service maps, In Short JM (Jon Muir Wilderness) AA (Ansel Adams Wilderness) HH (Hoover Wilderness) GT (General Trail ) SS (Southern Sierra)
• Information about quotas, commercial use, wilderness permit requirements on page 3.
• For help identifying what quota applies for a trip, contact our wilderness permit office.
Each trail Link below will open a separate tab with more information regarding that trail.
Inyo National Forest wilderness permit office phone line is open 8:00 am to 4:30 pm daily in summer.
During winter season, closed for lunch and closed on Holidays (760) 873-2483
Editors Choice Backpacking Trails
As few of the trails listed above make or top Editors Choice routes if you are looking for recommendations for hiking in Inyo National Forest. Note we have not traveled all these routes personally so our editors choice for Inyo is strictly personal notes experiences or reviews on our own bucket list items. One thing we consider always when booking our backpacking trips is the ability to limit the crowds we see on our trip.
From the North side of Inyo National forest we would recommend a backpacking trip into the the 20 Lakes Basin from either Saddlebag lakes or Lundy Canyon. Lundy Canyon is a much more strenuous hike, but adds an entire level of backcountry beauty to your experience. Early season hikes here will most certainly involve snow travel in most years and mosquitos can at times early int he year be a bit of a bother. But the water is sapphire blue in the lakes and Mt. Conness provides that granite explosion from the lake horizon that most enjoy from their campsites.
Just South of here is Bloody Canyon route which climbs up in to Ansel Adams Wilderness and on in Yosemite National Park mono pass. This vertical climb from the valley floor just south of Mono lake is steep but relatively short, where you will find two beautiful lakes (Sardine Lakes) that you may likely have to your self on most evenings, great views of the Mono basin below and a short trek above these lakes you enter into Yosemite Backcountry with views of the Kuna crest and the opportunity to loop around over Parker Pass and Koip Pass in the Ansel Adams Wilderness at over 11,000 and 12,000 feet respectively. Exit the Wilderness on the Fern Lake trail into June Lake as a great 3-4 day loop adventure.
Out of Mammoth permits that leave the Devil Postpile region are hard to come by, as this is a popular launching point North into Yosemite Valley or South to Mt Whitney and the High Sierra trail. As well as a traditional stopping point for PCT through hikers. The Duck Pass and Pika Lake Trail begins behind the coldwater campground, not far from Mammoth Mountain. The large, grand, austere mountain lake tucked in the John Muir Wilderness is close enough for a day hike from Mammoth Lakes, but far enough that it still offers solitude to those who want it. You will have the opportunity to make it to Arrowhead Lake, Skelton Lake, and Barney Lake from side trails stemming from this route. It is a beautiful hike that intersects with the historic John Muir Trail.
A little further south Chocolate Lakes Loop via Bishop Pass Trail this has a large quota and a little easier to obtain, which means more people, but the loop has many options and is stunning route to achieve. The Chocolate Lakes Loop is an ideal route for intermediate hikers and families with older childrenin Inyo National forest . The route leads you to a number of sublime alpine lakes where incredible views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain landscape can be enjoyed.
Wilderness Permit Requirements Boundary Peak, Inyo Mountains, Owens River Headwaters, and White Mountains Wildernesses
- Wilderness permit is not required. Campfire permit required for stove use.
- Ansel Adams Wilderness – Permits are required year round for all overnight trips. (Trail code begins with AA) – Quota applies May 1 through November 1.
- Golden Trout Wilderness – Permits are required year round for all overnight trips. (Trail code begins with GT) – Quota applies Last Friday in June through Sept 15th
- Hoover Wilderness – Permits are required year round for all overnight trips. (Trail code begins with HH) – Hall Natural Area is Day Use Only. Permit not required for day use.
- Only Yosemite Mountain Guides are permitted to guide Hoover Wilderness.
- Trails are not limited by quotas in Inyo NF portion of Hoover Wilderness. John Muir Wilderness – Permits are required year round for all overnight trips.
(Trail code begins with JM) – Permits are required year round for Day Use of the Mt. Whitney Zone.
- Quota applies May 1 through November 1. South Sierra Wilderness – Permits are required for trips that continue into Golden Trout Wilderness. (Trail code begins with SS) – Trails are not limited by quotas.
- Wilderness permit is recommended in South Sierra Wilderness. Quotas
- Quotas limit the number of people who can enter for each location to help protect areas from overuse. The number shown in the table above is the number of people. Permit is only valid to start on the date and entry location stated on the permit.
- Quota applies on the specific entry day only, you do not need to select quota for every day of trip.
- Exit quota applies for trips ending at Whitney Portal via Trail Crest. Exit quota is reserved together with the quota for entry location by selecting the permit type “Exiting Mt Whitney”. Trips that start on the Mt. Whitney trail are exempt from the exit quota.
- Day Use Quota cannot be used as part of an overnight trip. Day Use permit is valid for one calendar day, midnight to midnight.
- Review Inyo National Forests Wilderness Trip Planning Guide
Back country Food storage
While scenes like those in Inyo National forest are spectacular. One way to ruin your trip is to not take care of your food and endanger the life of a local bear. Bears are more than willing to steal your food in the wild given opportunity and Inyo National forest is active bear range. Bear proof food storage containers are mandatory while hiking in bear country. Storing your food properly is vital to keeping the “wild” part of the wilderness. You can help ensure that more bears won’t lose their lives because they have become accustomed to scavenging for human food instead of foraging for their natural diet.
Before you come to the area:
Ask about current bear activity in the area at the nearest ranger station or visitor center. Learn if your backpacking trip will travel through an area that requires use of a bear resistant food storage container.
View maps of required bear container use areas on the Inyo National Forest website. National park regulations may be different. Check Yosemite or Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park websites to learn where containers are required for those areas.
Ask if food lockers are provided in parking areas and campgrounds you plan to visit. Bears are smart and fast and have a very strong sense of smell!
When should you be storing your food? Whenever you are not actively preparing, eating or unpacking your food and even then you should be vigilant. Bears are bold and may wait near the bear box until you have walked back to your car before grabbing your stuff and taking off. Not only are they attracted to the scent of food and garbage but bears will eat anything with an odor, for example: toothpaste, soap, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Store all your food and non-food items with odors in storage lockers if they are available. If there are no lockers, store your food in your vehicle and keep them covered and out of view. Remember, portable bear canisters also work when you camp at campgrounds. All food needs to be secured; even cans and vacuum sealed items can be found and consumed by bears. Proper food storage is the law and you could be fined for not securing your food.
Normally bears are not aggressive towards humans, but they are possessive of food and will defend it. They are very quick, powerful, and dangerous when confronted. Never sleep with your food! If a bear gets into you food, stay a safe distance away and then clean up any food left afterwards. Report the incident to a ranger. You are the most important part of a successful bear protection program. You can keep bears wild and alive by storing your
Improper Food Storage Results in…
Property Damage Tickets or Fines A Safety Threat A Dead Bear
Be respectful of wildlife and store your food in the proper facilities provided.
Do not approach, feed, or harass wildlife.
Keeping Wildlife Wild… It’s Everyone’s Responsibility!