Best Hikes in Inyo National Forest (CA)

Inyo National Forest Overview

Inyo National Forest extends 165 miles north-to-south near the California and Nevada border on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Running just east of Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park, Inyo National Forest gets a lot of visitors. The forest is divided into 4 ranger districts: Mono Lake, Mammoth, White Mountain, and Mt. Whitney. Elevations range from 3,900’ to 14,494’ across nearly 2 million acres. With such a large and diverse forest, there are plenty of mountains, lakes, rivers, etc. to explore and you can’t go wrong with any of the best hikes in Inyo National Forest listed below.

StateCalifornia
Nearest Metro AreaBishop, CA
Area Size1,903,381 acres
EstablishedMay 25, 1907
Hiking Trails1200 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Inyo National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Inyo National Forest)

Big Pine Creek Trail (North Fork)*** – 14.4 mile loop
Second Lake, Big Pine Creek
Second Lake, Big Pine Creek, Photo by Jim Morefield

Breathtakingly scenic trail that starts from Glacier Lodge and passes lakes, mountains, and waterfalls. The trail branches off along the way and hikers have the option of climbing up to Palisade Glacier, the most southern surviving glacier in the US. 

Convict Lake Trail*** – 2.5 mile loop
Convict Lake
Convict Lake, Photo by Chris M Morris

The trail itself is flat and easy but the views of the lake and surrounding mountains cannot be beat. Gorgeous scenery the entire way. There are some picnic spots and beach areas if you’re bringing along the family as well. 

Devil’s Postpile Trail to Rainbow Falls*** – 4.8 miles out and back
Devils Postpile, California
Devil’s Postpile, California, Photo by Blake Carroll

Devil’s Postpile is a unique rock formation near Mammoth Lakes. This trail travels south from Devil’s Postpile to the 101’ waterfalls on the San Joaquin River. The trail is frequented with wildlife so you may see deer or even a bear along the way.

Little Lakes Valley Trail*** – 7.6 miles out and back
Little Lakes Valley
Little Lakes Valley, Photo by Jan Arendtsz

Starting at the Mosquito Flat trailhead at 10,200’, hikers will need to be well acclimated for this high altitude trail. The journey is very scenic while climbing steadily to Morgan Pass with beautiful views of the surrounding peaks along the way. 

Lone Pine Lake – 5.6 miles out and back
Lone Pine Lake Mountains at Sunrise
Lone Pine Lake Mountains at Sunrise, Photo by David Phillips

For those not willing or able to hike to the top of Mt. Whitney, this trail that takes the first 2.8 miles to Lone Pine Lake is a great alternative. No permit is required to this point. 

Mammoth Crest Loop*** – 13.2 mile loop
Sunrise at Crystal Crag, Lake George, Sierra Nevada, CA 2016
Sunrise at Crystal Crag, Lake George, Photo by Don Graham

This route is a little long for a day hike but will lead you up the scenic Mammoth Crest mountain ridge with incredible views of the surrounding John Muir Wilderness and Inyo National Forest. The loop will circle back to Duck Pass Trail before heading back to your trailhead near Lake George. This is easily one of the best hikes in Inyo National Forest.

Mount Whitney Trail*** – 21.4 miles out and back
Mt Whitney, Highest in th Forty-Eight, 10-21
Mt Whitney, Highest in the Forty-Eight, Photo by Don Graham

The Mt. Whitney Trail climbs over 6,000’ in elevation in almost 11 miles to the highest point in the contiguous United States. Due to its extreme popularity, wilderness permits are required year-round. They’re available via lottery from May – September because of the limited amount they can provide. Most people turn this into a 2-day overnight hike taking advantage of one of the several campsites along the way. This hike is intense, so come prepared if you attempt to climb it. 

Parker Lake Trail – 3.8 miles out and back
View from the June Lake Loop road (IMG_9207a)
View from the June Lake Loop, Photo by Frank Kovalchek

Short trail leading to Parker Lake with views of Mount Wood and Parker Peak as your backdrop. The beginning of the hike is somewhat steep but should be manageable for most families.

Featured Image: Fall Colors Along McGee Creek, Photo by Jonathan Cook-Fisher

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