to Independence - The Gateway To Discovery!
on scenic Highway 395, Independence sits in the foothills of the
Sierra Nevada Mountains in the beautiful Owens Valley. Independence
is on your way to or from Los Angeles, Mammoth Mountain, Mono Lake
Independence is the gateway to Mt. Whitney, John Muir Wilderness,
Bristlecone Pine Forest and Death Valley. Local recreational opportunities
abound including Fishing, Camping, RV'ing and Hiking, just to name
While you are here:
Numerous scenic wonders are within easy driving
distance of Independence.
Here is a list of just a few:
John Muir Wilderness
Muir Wilderness encompasses more than one-half million acres within
the Sierra and Inyo National Forests. It extends almost 100 miles
along the crest of the Sierra Nevada in Central California. Elevations
range from 5,000 to 14,495 ft. (!) on Mt. Whitney . The John Muir
Wilderness is characterized by deep canyons, meadows and many streams
and lakes. This wilderness was named after the famous naturalist
John Muir, who led the effort to protect what he referred to as
"the most beautiful of all the mountain chains", the Sierra
The John Muir Wilderness contains hundreds of miles of trails.
Three of the more well known are the Pacific Crest, John Muir and
Mt. Whitney trails. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) extends 2,620
miles from Canada to Mexico. The John Muir Trail (JMT) extends 212
miles from Mt. Whitney on the south to Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley
on the north. The JMT and the PCT follow the same route in most
places within John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National
Parks. The 10.7 mile Mt. Whitney Trail begins at Whitney Portal,
near Lone Pine, and leads to the highest peak in the Lower 48 states.
Wilderness travel is by foot or horseback ONLY. Wheelchairs may
be used in wilderness, but all other mechanical travel, including
bicycles, is prohibited. Winter offers an entirely different experience.
Skis and snowshoes become the mode of transportation. Pets are not
permitted in National Park wilderness and are under some restriction
in National Forest wilderness.
Maximum group size is 15 people and 25 head of stock.
Wilderness visitor permits are required winter and summer, for entry
into the John Muir and adjoining Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park
National Forest and National Parks wilderness areas for overnight
or longer trips. Permits are available at the Forest or Park Service
Ranger Station closest to the trailhead entry location. During heavy
use periods many popular trails are subject to a quota, where a
set number of people may enter the wilderness each day. Quotas are
designed to protect the resources and preserve the solitude of the
visitor. If the daily quota has been filled for the trailhead desired,
options include picking another available entrance point or starting
on a different day.
Leave No Trace:
The John Muir Wilderness is a heavily visited area. Over the years
thousands of people have enjoyed, and in some instances, damaged
the resources. By practicing Minimum Impact techniques, you will
make it hard for others to know you were there.
For More Information:
East side entry above Independence:
Inyo National Forest
Mt.Whitney Ranger Station P.O. Box 8 Lone Pine, CA 93545 (760) 876
East side entry McGee Creek south to Big Pine:
Inyo National Forest White Mountain Ranger Station 798 N. Main St.
Bishop, CA 93514
East side entry north of McGee Creek to Mammoth:
Inyo National Forest Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center & Ranger Station
P.O. Box 148
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546 (760) 924-5500
West side entry:
Sierra National Forest Pineridge Ranger Station P.O. Box 559 Prather,
Descriptions courtesy of Sierrawilderness.com
Ancient Bristlecone Pines
High on windswept ridges in the White Mountains east of Bishop,
live the world's oldest known trees - the ancient bristlecone pines.
Some of these trees were growing when the Egyptians built the pyramids
over four-thousand years ago. These trees that botanists call Pinus
longaeva (long-lived pine) are protected for public enjoyment and
their great value to science.
Open daily from Memorial Day through October, weather permitting.
The Schulman Grove site includes picnic areas, restrooms, outdoor
exhibits and two self-guided nature trails. Driving time from Independence
to Schulman Grove is approximately 60 minutes on paved roads. Take
HWY 168 east 12 miles from Big Pine to White Mtn Road. Turn left
and drive ten miles to the Schulman Grove Visitor Center. The Bristlecone
Pines can be viewed from the parking area of the visitor center
and along two nature trails.
The Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center is usually open mid-May
through November 1st. The center is the interpretive focal point
for the oldest living trees in the world, the Bristlecone Pines.
The interpretive center has exhibits, a natural history sales area,
self-guided interpretive trails, and rangers on duty. The interpretive
program with a ranger on the patio outside of the visitor center
is an excellent introduction to the history and significance of
these trees. The area also has restrooms, picnic tables, hiking
trails, and a nearby campground. The Bristlecone Pine Forest is
located at 10,000 feet so visitors are urged to come prepared for
just about any weather conditions and to bring your own water. Sunscreen
and a hat are also recommended.
Beyond Schulman Grove lies the Patriarch Grove. This second grove
is a 12 mile drive north of Schulman Grove on a good-quality dirt
road. Near tree line, the grove is the home of the world's largest
Bristlecone Pine, the Patriarch Tree. Its splendid remoteness and
moonscape appearance gives the Patriarch Grove a surreal atmosphere.
Bristlecone pines and limber pines dot the area with a background
view of the Great Basin in Nevada. Patriarch Grove is a favorite
location for filming and photography in the early morning light.
Picnic tables, restrooms (pit toilet), and a self-guided nature
trail are available. A visit to Schulman Grove and Patriarch Grove
is possible in the same day if you can get an early start.
Schulman Grove is Recreation Fee Demonstration Project. The fees
collected are used to open the visitor center earlier in the spring
and later in the fall, provide seven-day staffing, and extended
hours. The cost is $2.00 per adult to a maximum of $5.00 per vehicle;
kids under 18 are free; Golden Eagle, Golden Age and Access Passes
are accepted. Fees are collected at the visitor center during operating
hours or at a self-service fee tube near parking area.
Visitors can call a recorded line for up-to-date information on
the visitor center, road conditions, and the Ancient Bristlecone
Pine Forest: (760) 873-2500.
Just over 90 minutes to the north the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area/Mountain
Bike Park (summer) is easily reachable from Independence for those
who wish to enjoy Mammoth as well as the comparatively inexpensive
and tranquil atmosphere in Independence after a days fun on the
Mountain's Official Website
main trail accessing Mt Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous
U.S. 14,494 ft., is probably the most heavily used wilderness trail
in the country, if not the world. With thousands of visitors each
year the human impact on Mt. Whitney and the surrounding area presents
some unusual problems to the agencies responsible for that part
of the John Muir Wilderness.
An area designated by the U.S. Congress as wilderness is off limits
or motorized equipment and that creates some serious limitations
managers who are charged with protecting the area while still providing
as many visitors as possible. Human waste alone is a huge problem
high altitude alpine environment cannot sustain the volume of body
by thousands of visitors each year. Even the simple act of walking
on the trail
becomes a big issue when multiplied by tens of thousands.
The Mt. Whitney Trail and other trails accessing the Whitney Zone
are under a
special series of quota restrictions. The main Whitney Trail is
the only trail on the
Inyo National Forest that requires a day hike permit and limits
the number of those
permits to 150 people per day. Over night Permits are required year
round and are
subject to a limit of 50 people per day from May 15th to November
1st each year.
Onion Valley located at the end of Onion Valley Road is the start
of the most popular alternative route to Mt. Whitney. Permits for
this trip are much easier to obtain than permits for the main Mt.
For More Information on Mt. Whitney Contact:
Mt. Whitney Ranger Station
640 S. Main St./P.O. Box 8 Lone Pine, CA 93545
Ph: (760) 876-6200 - Fax (760) 876-6202
Throughout its history Independence has been highly regarded as
a recreational destination. Outdoor Recreation opportunities in
the Independence area are plentiful to say the least. Independence
and the Eastern High Sierra offer a paradise for outdoor recreation
enthusiasts of all ages and interests.
Below you will find a sample of the most popular recreation opportunities.
Keep in mind this is only a sample. The only real limit to what
this area has to offer is your own imagination.
and its surrounding area provide fishing enthusiasts with a vast
number of both warm and cold water fisheries. Stream fishing for
trout in Independence Creek and waters to its south opens on the
first Saturday in March (March 5, 2005), more than a month before
the general trout season for the Eastern Sierra. This fact makes
getting a jump on your Spring fishing a great opportunity. Warm
water fish such as Largemouth Bass can be caught in the Lower Owens
River area East of town.
Inyo County Parks and Recreation, Pit toilets, Piped water, 25
sites, RV length restriction = 30feet, Open all year.
Located on the edge of town. From U.S. 395 turn west on Market
Street (Onion Valley Rd.)
Convenient to town, this campground offers easy access to the
downtown area of Independence.
Inyo County Campgrounds
Get more information about Inyo County campgrounds by calling
Grays Meadow (upper and lower)
U.S.D.A. Forest Service, 52 sites, flush toilets and clean piped
well water are supplied, reservable. A number of sites will accommodate
large RV's. RV length restriction = 22 feet.
Grays Meadow Campground is located 6 miles west of town. From
U.S. 395 turn west on Market Street ( Onion Valley Road). Proceed
past the County campground on the west edge of town and follow
the road for 6 miles.
Most of the campground is located in a large oak grove. Independence
Creek flows through the entire length of the campground and Grays
Meadow has long been know as a popular destination for Trout fishing.
The California Department of Fish and Game plants rainbow trout
(including their "Trophy" size fish) in the creek at
several points within the campground. The camp grounds are open
from March 16 to October 15 subject to weather conditions. Reservations
are available. Click here for online reservations
U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Vault Toilets, Piped Water, 28 Sites
Located 5 miles northwest of town. From U.S. 395 turn west on
Fish Hatchery Rd. and follow the road past the Mt. Whitney Fish
Hatchery. Stay on the right fork of the road which follows the
north fork of Oak Creek. Turn left into the campground at the
Once a very popular campground, Oak creek has been largely overlooked
since The California Department of Fish and Game ceased planting
fish in the north fork of Oak Creek. Even so it is still possible
to catch wild rainbows in the creek. Several sites are located
on the banks of the creek. The low amount of visitation Oak Creek
receives makes it a very quiet and secluded recreation site. Convenient
to town, it is a good choice for those looking to "get away
from it all" with out having to go a long way off the beaten
track. Some sites will accommodate large RV's. RV length limit
= 22 feet. Reservations are not required. Open all year.
For more information email the Chamber of Commerce at email@example.com.
U.S.D.A. Forest Service, Chemical Toilets (upgraded to modern
vaults in Fall 2001),
Piped Water, 29 sites, (some walk in), Reservable. Open June 2
through October 1. No RV's.
Located 13 miles west of town. From U.S. 395 turn west on Market
Street (Onion Valley Rd.). follow the road past Grays Meadow Campground
to the road end. Proceed past the Kearsarge Pass trail head and
through the gate into the campground.
Located at 9,600 ft. Onion Valley is literally on the edge of
the John Muir Wilderness. The popular Kearsarge Pass trail begins
at the entrance to the campground and several alpine lakes are
within day hiking distance. Rainbow, Eastern Brook, and Golden
Trout can be caught in the area. Mt. Whitney Climbers often spend
several nights at Onion Valley to acclimatize to altitude and
prepare for Whitney. Reservations are available.
Located along beautiful Oak Creek, this locally owned campground
has spaces for R.V., auto, and tent camping. Full R.V. hookups
and dump station are available. Most sites have power and water.
Some pull through sites are available. Fully shaded sites are
also available. Showers are available to campers and non-campers.
An interpretive trail and native plant garden are available for
Located just 5 miles north of town, Fort Independence Campground
welcomes all visitors. From U.S. 395 look for the sign and entrance
on the west side of the highway just north of the Mt. Whitney
Fish Hatchery road.
For more information contact Fort Independence Reservation at
(760) 878-3200. Look for the new web page www.ftindependence.com
at the end of June 2005.
is the gateway to a number of world class mountain climbing experiences.
The skyline to the West of town is dominated by several well known
"Fourteeners". The most obvious is Mt. Williamson. Often
mistaken for Mt. Whitney by the unfamiliar due to the fact that
it is the highest visible point for many miles around, Mt. Williamson
rises to an impressive 14,375 ft. making it the second highest peak
in California, a scant 121 ft. shorter than Mt. Whitney. Not recommended
for beginners due to the lack of a maintained climbing route, Mt.
Williamson is nonetheless a desirable challenge to Mountaineers.
Other prominent peaks in the area include:
- Mt. Brewer 13,570 FT.
- Charlotte Dome 10,690 FT.
- Mt. Clarence King 12,905 FT.
- North Guard 13,327 FT.
- Central Peak 12,760 FT.
- Mt. Gardiner 12,907 FT.
- Dragon Peak 12,955 FT.
- Junction Peak 12,955 FT.
- Mt. Williamson 14,375 FT.
- Mt. Tyndall 14,018 FT.
is the main point of entry into the spectacular back country of
Kings Canyon National Park and the Kern Divide. The Kearsarge Pass
Trail beginning at Onion Valley is one of the main access points
for the John Muir Trail and The Pacific Crest Trail. Onion Valley
is also an alternative route used to access Mt. Whitney.
Major trail heads in the area include:
Golden Trout Lake
George Creek( Mt. Williamson)
Alternative access to Mt. Whitney is available from the Kearsarge
Pass Trail which has its own quota of permits issued for backcountry
travel to the Whitney Zone. Here is a short description of the
Kearsarge Pass to Mt. Whitney-53
The route begins at Onion Valley, West of the town of Independence.
The trail climbs past Gilbert and Big Pothole lakes, past the
Kearsarge and Bullfrog Lakes to the Junction With The PCT/JMT.
Following the trail south through Vidette Meadow and along Bubbs
Creek to Forrester Pass. Passing Diamond Mesa and crossing Tyndall
Creek the trail passes Bighorn Plateau and from near the crossing
at Wright Creek the Summit of Mt Whitney can be seen to the east.
From Wallace Creek the trail continues south through Sandy Meadow
and turns east to the Crabtree Ranger Station. Form the Ranger
Station the JMT continues past Guitar and Hitchcock Lakes to Trail
Crest. North 1.9 miles is the Summit of Mt Whitney. Returning
to trail crest and down the "96" switchbacks the Mt.
Whitney trail leads east to Trail Camp and out at Whitney Portal.
Courtesy of sierrawilderness.com
Numerous off road trails of every level exist in the Independence
area. From leisurely cruises along the Owens River to the extreme
rides of Mazourka Canyon in the Inyo Mountains and the Sierra Nevada
Another activity that has always been popular around Independence
since Pioneer days is exploring the vast expanses of publicly owned
land. Locked gates and "no trespassing" signs are rare.
Canyons, ravines, meadows, desert flats, Pinyon pine forest and
historical sites known by only the few who have ventured there await
the modern day explorer. It is actually unusual to see another person
at all once you get a few miles off the popular track. Some of these
remote places have scarcely seen a footprint in 100 years. Archeological
and petroglyph sites, some dating back thousands of years, are scattered
around Independence. New ones are still being discovered to this
day. Mines and town sites dating back to the gold rush era are to
be found in various stages of decay. Gold as well as other interesting
and valuable minerals can even be found in many places in the Inyo
Mountains and placer gold can still be found in Independence Creek.
Geological features like lava tubes which extend into the earth
are located in the Inyo Mountains North of town.
4 Wheel Drive and Off Road Vehicles
Much of the surrounding Sierra front country as well as numerous
roads and trails in the Inyo and White mountains are open to 4 wheel
drive, ATV, motorcycle, and off highway vehicles. There are literally
hundreds of miles of dirt roads, double track and even some single
track. Off road enthusiasts will find plenty of space to roam.
Independence has long been renowned for Big Game, Waterfowl, and
Upland Bird hunting. A major deer migration area of the Sierra front
country, Independence has, and continues to provide deer hunters
with bucks worth bragging about. Fall Dove, Quail, Chukar, and Sage
Grouse seasons also draw their share of sportsmen. Winter brings
Duck, Canada Goose and Snow Goose to the area and each season has
its own enthusiastic following. Many Hunters take advantage of all
three seasons and participate in rabbit season as well. It is possible
to hunt for something any time of the year here. Naturally you can
hunt all of these animals with camera and lens as well.
Big Game animals include:
- Black Bear
- Tule Elk (special hunt)
Upland Birds Include:
- Valley Quail
- Mountain Quail
- Sage Grouse
- Canada Goose
- Snow Goose
- Ducks and Teal (various species of each)
Rock Hounding South Along Hwy.
Independence - East on Colosuim Rd. , 3 miles - follow power lines
5 miles, South 2 miles to Crystal Ridge, continue into Inyo Mountains.
Minerals found - Clear and Smokey Quartz, Amethyst with red tint,
Hematite, Snail Fossils.
Kearsarge - 10
miles - Turn West on Market St. in Independence. Minerals found
- Wulfenite, Jasper, Turquoise, Hematite.
- 20 miles - East on Mazuourka Canyon Rd. Many mines. Minerals
found - Green Dendrite, Opalite.
Cerro Gordo - 35
miles - Turn East at Lone Pine to Keeler, into mountains. Minerals
found - Gold, Silver, Amazonite, Opalite.
Lone Pine - 20
miles - Turn East on road past railroad station, cross river,
to next railroad, turn South 1/2 mile to Kern Knob Gem Valley.
Minerals found - Crystals, Obsidian, Beryl, Orthoclase.
Owenyo - 35 miles
- East of Lone Pine. Minerals found - Barite, Fossils, Pink Orthoclase.
Keeler - 35 miles
- East of Lone Pine to Jackass, Dobbs and Goldbelt Springs. Minerals
found - Azurite, Malechite, Galena, Anhydrite, Silver, Gold, Quartz,
Chalcopyrite, Talc, Anglesite, Stibnite.
Darwin - 45 miles
- Turn East at Lone Pine on Hwy. 136. Go 12 miles. Minerals found
- Iceland Spar, Garnets, Wulfenite, Erussite.
Darwin Mines -
45 miles - Turn East on Hwy. 190 at Olancha, go 5 miles South
to Ophir Mountain, many mine dumps. Minerals found - Scheelite,
Pyrite, Iceland Spar, Silver. Over 60 minerals available.
Lee Mines - 45
miles - Turn East on Hwy. 190 at Olancha, go 7 miles. Minerals
found - Lazurite, Agate, Jasper, Chalcedomy, Obsidian.
- 50 miles - Turn West at Lone Pine. Minerals found - Agate, Quartz.
There are no limits to the possibilities for outdoor recreation
in the Independence Area. Bird Watchers from all over the world
come here in spring and fall since the Owens Valley is a major migration
route for a large number of migratory birds. Hang Gliders from all
over the world consider the Sierra Front Country one of the best
hang gliding areas in the world and several distance and duration
records have been set here. A sample of other outdoor activities
must include the following:
Cross Country Skiing
in Independence, CA:
(Across the street from the Inyo County Courthouse)
211 N. Edwards St., Independence, CA
Email the Hotel
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 189, Independence CA, 93526