The Eastern Sierra offers arguably some of the best hiking in the country — one of its popular day hikes, Lone Pine Lake, follows the same trail as Mt. Whitney (without the same strenuity) and rewards hikers with an alpine lake, mountain streams, pine forests, and dramatic mountain peaks and granite cliffs.
Distance: 6.5 miles
Time: 3-4 hours
Elevation gain: 1,870 feet
Fees and permits: None
Trailhead address: Mt. Whitney Trailhead, Whitney Portal Road, Lone Pine, CA 93545
Park phone: 760-876-6200
Parking at the Lone Pine Lake Trailhead
For parking, follow this map to locate designated parking areas. Note that Whitney Portal Road is typically closed after the first major winter storm of the year until late April to early May. However, despite seasonal road closures, hikers are still able to trek beyond the closed gates towards the start of the road — it’ll tack on an additional three miles to your hike.
When to Visit Lone Pine Lake
The best time to visit Lone Pine Lake is late April or early May until October. During spring, you’ll be able to witness a frozen lake and snow-clad mountain scenery. During summer, I’d recommend starting your hike early as portions of the trail have no shade.
Hike to Lone Pine Lake
The trail begins at a starting elevation of 8,390 feet — the first portion and a majority of the hike consists of a seemingly endless number of switchbacks. Despite the trail only being about three miles each way, the ascent is challenging especially if you’re not acclimatized to the high elevation (like me). While hiking along the switchbacks, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of Owens Valley and Sierra Nevada mountain peaks.
During the ascent, you’ll cross two small streams, Carillon Creek and North Fork of Lone Pine Creek — trekking poles are helpful but not necessary to cross the creeks. After crossing the second creek, you’ll find the “John Muir Wilderness” sign and follow along more switchbacks before reaching a shaded pine forest in which you’ll cross a log bridge over Lone Pine Creek. Once you reach the Lone Pine Lake junction, you’ll turn left and head downhill toward the lake.
And… you made it! Once you arrive at Lone Pine Lake, you can walk the perimeter of the lake for incredible views of the surrounding peaks, granite cliffs, and valley floor.