Golden Trout Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, and Tuolumne Meadows:

The Golden Trout Wilderness and Inyo National Forest are reached en route to Tuolumne from Southern California. Tuolumne Meadows is a part of Yosemite National Park. It can be reached by driving from the Sierra east side’s Tioga Pass, north of Mammoth.

Horseshoe Meadows, Golden Trout Wilderness
To get to Horseshoe Meadows, start at the town of Lone Pine and drive to Whitney Portal Road. Lone Pine is a town along Highway 395, about four hours from Ventura, and the gateway to Mt. Whitney. (Information for a trip to Mt. Whitney can be found at this link. Hiking Mt. Whitney) Turn left on Horseshoe Meadow Road and drive this road across switchbacks up the side of the mountain for spectacular views of the Owen’s Valley. The road drops down over the to the west side for a short while. It is a total of twenty miles from Lone Pine to the end of the road where you will find Cottonwood Lakes Campground, Horseshoe Meadow, and the Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. This area of the Golden Trout Wilderness is a popular hiking, backpacking, and fishing spot. The elevation of Cottonwood Campground is around 10,000 feet. Temperatures might be in the 90’s in Lone Pine in the summer, but can be thirty degrees cooler at Horseshoe Meadow.

Bishop, California
While continuing your drive up the east side of the Sierra towards Inyo and Tuolumne, you might be ready to make another stop by the time you get to Bishop, the largest town in the Owen’s Valley. The town lines Highway 395, If you are a flyfisher, drop in at Brock’s Flyfishing Specialists and Tackle Experts. Brock’s Website This small store is located across the street from the Galen & Barbara Rowell Mountain Light Gallery, where Rowell photographs are on display and for sale. Mountain Light Gallery Website A well-known eatery and bakery is Erick Schat’s. Be prepared for crowds. This place is popular, but crowded. Schat’s Bakkery

Inyo National Forest and Tuolumne Meadows are located another hour or so past Bishop. Continue up Highway 395 to Tioga Pass.

Junction Campground, Inyo National Forest
Junction Campground is at an elevation of 9,600 feet between Lee Vining and Tuolumne Meadows just off Tioga Pass Road on Saddlebag Road across the highway from Ellery Lake, and one of our favorite campgrounds. The campground is a part of Inyo National Forest. Junction Campground is first come-first serve. There are 12 sites, and it sits just next to a stream that is stocked with trout. The fee for camping, bear boxes, and pit toilets, is $14 per night.

Bennettville, Inyo National Forest
The trail to Bennettville begins in Junction Campground, located just outside of the National Park boundary. It’s a one mile hike to reach two remaining cabins and the site of what was Bennettville over a hundred years ago.

From the U.S. Forest Service Interpretive Sign, “Welcome to Bennettville, Have you ever had a dream? The dream of finding a large vein of silver lured people to this remote area in the early 1880’s. They faced frostbite and avalanches while bringing eight tons of mining equipment from Lundy Canyon in 1882. They later built a road from the gentler western slope of the Sierra Nevada to bring in supplies.

After two years with new equipment, miners had extended a tunnel deep within the rock. Still, they found no silver, and failure settled in as investors refused to send more money to an unproductive mine. Bennettville was quickly added to the list of ghost towns. Consider the changes to this place. If these people had found silver.

Though their dreams of fortune never came true, these miners did leave behind a treasure for us. The abandoned supply road was later purchased and given to Yosemite National Park as the foundation for the Tioga Road. Today, many discover the riches of this area along this road through a swim in Tenaya Lake, a hike from Tuolumne Meadows, or simply a drive that cannot be forgotten.”

From Junction Campground, make a short drive on Tioga Pass to the Tuolumne Meadows entrance to Yosemite National Park.

Elizabeth Lake
Once in Tuolumne Meadows, head over to Tuolumne Campground to find the trailhead for Elizabeth Lake. The hike to Elizabeth Lake is considered moderate. Round trip the hike is 4.8 miles. With a 1000 foot elevation gain, this hike will take, at least, a few hours. Although this hike begins right out of a large Campground, it was surprisingly not very crowded over Independence Day Weekend. We did see a few people fishing, so be sure to bring fishing stuff if you’re into it. Another note, the trail was very soggy from snowmelt in some areas. I would imagine it will start to dry up. There is a trail around the lake. It’s a mile or so, but offers many views of this beautiful alpine area.

Snow on the far side of Elizabeth Lake

Walk around Elizabeth Lake

Alpine Flowers

There are so many things to see and do in this area of California. These are only a couple of spots we happen to like. But, the eastern Sierra has many spectacular places to hike, fish, camp, and backpack. Head up Highway 395 to explore these areas and more of the mountains, meadows, lakes, and streams on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Enjoy!

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