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East Side of the Sierra - Log in to edit.

Category: Destinations



395 follows the Sierra Crest, allowing quick access the High Sierra and a myriad of possible trips.

Relevant Guidebooks & Maps

Owens River Gorge Climbing, Sierra South, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails, topo maps of John Muir Wilderness (3 part Sierra map set)


Take I-15 North to 395 North to the East side of the Sierras (Bishop/Lone Pine area). Stop for amazing pizza in Adelanto (turn right on the main street and go one block). It's about 20 miles North of I-15 - an hour from Claremont. Follow 395 to whatever destination you seek. Driving times vary - its about 5.5 hours to Mammoth and 4.75 to Bishop. Lone Pine is a little less than 4 hours.


Many great spots are available on the East side for exploring, hiking, climbing, camping, and so on. 395 travels up the Owens valley in the shadows of the towering Sierra Nevada and White Mountains. From the valley floor elevation (which varies from 4 to 5 thousand feet), mighty Mt. Whitney and other peaks can be seen at 14,000 feet. This unbelievable elevation difference means quick but strenuous access to the High Sierras and some of the most outstanding views found anywhere. OTL-graduate Derek Churchill, always enthusiastic about the East-Side, notes that "this is fine OTL adventuring country!"

Trailheads: Many trailheads enter the Sierra from the Owens Valley. Whitney Portal and Horseshoe Meadows above Lone Pine, Onion Valley above Independence, and Rock Creek above Tom's Place all offer amazing hiking and quick trails over the crest to the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails. See the hiking guide Sierra South for details on trips from these and other trailheads.

Lone Pine - Whitney Portal: From Lone Pine the road to Whitney Portal rises up to the trailhead for Mt. Whitney. Whitney Portal provides amazing hiking, backpacking, and the start to the trek up Mt. Whitney. For more info on attempting Whitney see the section on Mt. Whitney.

Big Pine - Ancient Bristlecone Forest: Big Pine is a small town with a general store and gas station. A turn east on 168 brings you up to the pass over the White Mountains where a road will take you to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, the oldest trees alive.

Keough Hot Springs: Keough Hot Springs is a primitave hot creek right off 395 between Big Pine and Bishop. Look for the west turnoff to Keough Hot Springs. Take this road to the dirt roads on the right in about a half mile. Soak in any of the pools in the creek. Clothing optional.

Bishop: Bishop is the largest town on the East Side. Besides the expected grocery stores and fast food restaurants, Bishop has a respected climbing/outdoor store on main street (395) called Wilson's Eastside Sports.

Buttermilks: An incredible area similar to Joshua Tree except with the Sierras in the background. Exceptional bouldering possibilities and great explorative hiking. Camping is free, but no water is available. To get to the Buttermilks take 168 from Bishop to Buttermilk Road. Turn right.

Owens River Gorge: A huge gorge full of bolted climbs halfway between Bishop and Mammoth. The access is quick (although the central path is very steep) and the climbs are plentiful. The lower elevation provides warm enough temperatures to allow climbing even when the higher Sierra climbs are snowed in. The climbing is very sporty and the routes tend to be crowded. Rockfall is common despite the sporty nature of the area. See Owens River Gorge Climbs for specifics on the area.

Mammoth: Mammoth offers the best downhill skiing within driving distance of Claremont. A resort destination, Mammoth is packed with condos, stores, and restaurants. Devil's Postpile National Monument is within minutes drive when the road is open.. Mammoth also has a great ranger station/visitor center worth visiting (you can also get permits here).

Mammoth Hot Springs: A collection of primitive, undeveloped hot springs scattered through the basin. Incredible soaking and mind-blowing views of the Sierras and White Mountains. Camping is free - don't camp next to the hot springs though. Pulky's Pool and Crowley Hot Springs are best for large groups. Hot Creek is worth a visit, but crowded and developed (and swimsuits are required). Hot Tub is excellent for groups seven or less. See the map to some selected tubs.

Mono Lake: An interesting drying lake near Lee Vining. The visitors center is worth a visit to find out cool places to go.

Safety Notes

There are ranger stations in Bishop, Lone Pine, and Mammoth. Temperatures can be extreme (hot or cold) with snow in the winter. Check the weather carefully before departing. Storms can hit the Sierra out of nowhere and drop tremendous amounts of snow. Permits are required for any over night trips into the Sierra wilderness areas.

Edited by (in order): OTL Staff

Last updated: 05/22/2009


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