Independence, Inyo County, California

Inyo Mountains

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INYO National Forest

The Inyo mountains, a multi-hued, 6,000 foot wall of steep canyons and sharp ridges overlooking the Central Owens Valley, contains many special places for those properly prepared and appropriately equipped.  A surprisingly extensive road system, most of which was once no more than a series of rough trails pioneered by hopeful miners, makes many parts of the Inyo’s available to explore, appreciate, and enjoy.  Only lightly visited when compared to the Sierra Nevada a few miles to the west, this desert range offers a decidedly different, but nonetheless rich and varied, recreation experience.

Semi-primitive motorized areas combine solitude with self-reliance, challenge and risk in a predominately natural environment.  Few on site controls or restrictions are apparent.  Motorized use is permitted on open routes only.  Driving off road is prohibited.  Visitors are encouraged to park no more than 15 feet off-road to help limit vehicle impacts.  The recently designated Inyo Mountains Wilderness required closure of some four-wheel drive (4WD) routes.  Visitors have a responsibility to be aware of where wilderness starts and stops as far as vehicle entry is involved.  Closures are signed and regularly monitored for compliance.  Recreation opportunities include camping, recreational driving, backpacking, day hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, rock hounding, photography and viewing scenery.  The Inyo Mountains contain important wildlife habitat, rich and varied plant communities, and historical and cultural resources.


Evidence of past and present mining activities is abundant in the Inyo’s.  Permission may be required to enter signed property.  Old mine workings can be extremely hazardous and exploring abandoned tunnels or shafts is strongly discouraged.  Stay away from vertical shaft openings.  Don’t throw rocks or other materials into them!


The Interagency Visitor Center at the junction of Highways 395 and 136 has maps showing most roads and trails.  The Inyo National Forest map shows primary vehicle routes.  Some junctions may be signed, some routes may have road numbers to aid travel- but don’t count on it.  Many routes are steep and narrow.  Pull outs and turn around areas may not be present.  Know your vehicle limitations.  When in doubt, walk the area ahead before driving it.

Mazourka Canyon Road is a popular entry point.  This road leaves Highway 395 from the south end of Independence and is paved for a few miles before it becomes dirt.  High clearance (pick-up trucks) or 4WD vehicles are recommended for travel to Santa Rita and Badger Hats.  Some spur roads within these areas require 4WD vehicles.  Fine views of the Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierra are available from these locations.  Travel north, beyond Badger Flat, requires 4WD. Papoose, Squaw and Harkless Flats can be reached from Badger Flat or from Saline Valley Road, east of Big Pine.  Established campsites are scattered throughout all areas except Papoose Flat.  High clearance, 4WD vehicles are recommended for these areas.  Keep in mind many spur roads not shown on maps are open and available to explore along the main route system.


Off-highway vehicle use is permitted on routes not signed or barricaded closed.  Unlicensed motorcycles must have a California Green sticker and approved spark arrester.  Green stickers are required for All Terrain vehicles.  ATV riders are required to wear a helmet.  Passengers are prohibited.  Please be familiar with the regulations covering OHV’s.  You’ll have a safer and more enjoyable experience



Have a good map and know how to read it.  File an itinerary with family or friends, travel in two’s.


Carry extra water (5 gallons or more recommended) and gasoline.  Remember, no water is available in most areas.  Have food, warm clothing, a tool kit and shovel.  Basic first aid supplies are desirable.


Carefully check vehicle - fluid levels, tire pressure and condition, belts, hoses, etc.  Avoiding mechanical failure is important.


Hikers should carry at least one gallon of water for each day out.  Water sources are few.  If you locate water, filter or boil before drinking.  Camp well away from springs, wildlife depend on these for survival.


Pack out trash and garbage, including food items.  Cans, bottles, foil and plastic don’t bum.  Always try to leave the area in better condition than you found it.


Sanitation: Use the “cathole” method of burying human waste.  Dig a hole 8 to 10 inches deep at least 100 feet from water sources, campsites and roads.  Consider packing out toilet paper in an airtight container.


Help protect and preserve natural, historical, and scenic values found in the Inyo Mountains and wherever else you may venture.  Leave Native American or mining artifacts as you found them.  Use existing firerings when present, and water, not dirt, to extinguish campfires whenever possible.  Tread Lightly!  Minimize the impacts of your visit. 

For more information contact:

Mt. Whitney Ranger Station
640 South Main Street
P. 0. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545 (760) 876-6200

Information contained herein is from a Forest Service Flyer
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Last modified: March 10, 2008

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