North from Ridgecrest on Hwy 395
High passes may still be closed due to snow. Check at http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/Hourly
Kennedy Meadows and the Kern Plateau – see Kennedy Meadows page for more info
Signed turnoff is about 15 miles north of the junction of Hwy 14 and 395, 9 Mile Canyon Rd.
A way to check on conditions before you head out – see www.sierravisionsstock.com/sierravisions/sierra-nevada-webcams/
General info – www.395.com/
Inyo county info – http://www.theothersideofcalifornia.com/
Sherman Pass- Kernville Loop- (summer and fall only) SNOW (See Kennedy Meadows page for more info)
9200 ft. at Sherman Pass. See Kennedy Meadows and Blackrock info under Kennedy Meadows pages. This is a great summer loop drive from Kennedy Meadows to Kernville or to Giant Sequoia National Monument, wherever!! This high road does not open beyond Kennedy Meadows usually until at least Memorial Day weekend, snow permitting, and closes again usually in November as the deep snows dictate. Check with USFS on road conditions. It is paved all the way, one end to the other and you’ll sure see lots of old forest fire burn damage. About 180 mile loop from Ridgecrest and back.
At the Pass, in the red fir forests, you can see forever to the north – Mt. Whitney, Mt. Langley, the Kaweahs, the Kern Plateau. As you drop down the west side of the pass, you see across to the Greenhorns (and the smog of the Great Central Valley…) Hike to Sherman Peak, about 2.5 miles.
Little Lake: North on Hwy 395 about 40 miles; private property!
Indians loved it! Private Property today, but sometimes the Museum can arrange tours to see the
many petroglyphs on the rocks and cliffs surrounding the lake. It is a major stop-over for migrating
water birds – ducks, snow geese, coots, even white pelicans. The lake is spring-fed but there is a
man-made dam at the south end that keeps it about 10 feet deep in the center. Note that the
cliffs are columnar basalt just like at Devil’s Postpile.
There are a few petroglyphs on the columnar basalt rocks by the Railroad bridge and some grinding holes at the base of them- access from the side road (Old 395) turn left and park in the clearing opposite the cliff rocks. You might be most interested in stopping by the Maturango Museum or HUSO Building to pick up the Historical Society’s book “Zig Zag Post Office,” a history of the Little Lake area, the people who lived there, the post office locations, and more about the making of Little Lake (a dam), moving the train and roads around the marsh that was there, etc. The post office is a little green building set back to the west of where the hotel used to be.
Fossil Falls: (what’s fossil is the waterfall, not bones)
*north on Hwy 395 past Little Lake; 3 miles north of Little Lake, turn east (right) on dirt Cinder Road just south of “red hill,” a volcanic cinder cone and cinder mine- active during the week, watch for large trucks!; watch for BLM sign to turn south (hard right) to Fossil Falls, about another .7 mile with a left turn in there… to the parking lot. Picnic tables, pit toilet. New accurate archeology and geology signs at the beginning of a 1/4 mile trail that takes you to the falls overlook. The trail is obvious, but goes up and down over rocks which house various residents – watch for rattlesnakes when the weather is warm!! At the waterfall – note all the obsidian chips. Native Americans long ago camped along this stream; archaeologists have investigated several sites. There is abundant obsidian here from the source at nearby Sugarloaf mountain to the east. Do not collect arrowheads or obsidian chips!! – leave them where they are as a record of the past for others to see. (besides, it’s illegal to collect archeological artifacts of any kind any place!)
It’s a total of 80 feet from here to the bottom! It’s now dry of course, but the falls were cut through the basalt basement rocks of the area. The “fossil” part of the falls is that the Owens River used to run through here during Pleistocene times as the Sierra glaciers melted and fed the China Lake-Searles Lake system. The waterfall cuts are fascinating – lots of pockets and holes. The rock is solid to climb on, but be careful!! In the winter when we get our rains, the river runs again! and there is water falling once again. Listen for all the gurgles! When the winter rains come and fill the potholes on top, almost transparent fairy shrimp hatch from eggs lying in the dry mud and swim around in their little pools. Their life cycle is all of 6 weeks. This area is very popular with rock climbers. It’s tempting, but dangerous to try to slither down through the holes – and once you’re down there, how do you propose to get back up? The walls are vertical. Rock climbers have proper ropes and techniques, and also need to watch for snakes on ledges! http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/ridgecrest/fossil.html
BLM campsite. Tables, BBQ, pit toilets, water in season. 12 sites among the basalt rocks. Just north of the Falls trail parking lot – watch for signs. Picnic table and pit toilet; no drinking water, no trash collection, camping in designated campground sites, some OK for RV’s.
Little Lake Overlook: follow signs – go past the Fossil Falls turnoff and continue ahead and head east about 3 miles – all the way across the valley to the Power Lines – turn south on Power Line Roads, go 3.1 miles to the sign indicating turn to the parking lot. Walk a short ways to the overlook. !! 2 nice benches, 3 interpretive signs about the area, the birds, the geology. You’re on top of the volcanic basalt cliff overlooking the lake. (Don’t jump, the lake isn’t that deep!) The road is very rocky – high clearance best and good tires. Can be very windy up there!
Across the way on the Sierra escarpment, you can see the remains of the old Sacatar wagon road coming down from Kennedy Meadows. This road was the main trading route before the highway was put in over Walker Pass. Wagons and cattle were brought to the Owens Valley from the Central Valley by way of this switchback road. Settlers in Kennedy Meadows even drove down that road to Brown and Coso in the 1930’s! It is now in wilderness area, but you can hike on it.
Owens Lake, Owens River, LADWP activities.
Owens Lake is left over from the Pleistocene glaciers of 10,000 and 4,000 years ago. It used to be fairly deep and covered much of the area you now see when looking at the lakebed – but historically in the 1800’s it was only about 30 feet deep, though it went from Cartago across to Keeler. In fact, the silver mines at Cerro Gordo depended on steam powered paddle-wheel boat plying the lake – carrying charcoal from the 2 charcoal kilns at the bottom of Cottonwood Creek across to Swansea and Keeler to smelt the ore brought down from the mine, then carry the 82 lb. silver ingots across to Cartago where Remi Nadeu’s wagon trains carried them down to first San Pedro, then to Mojave to the train once it got there in 1876. Cerro Gordo’s silver built the coastal ports there (San Pedro and Los Angeles), and highly influenced San Francisco, where the silver wound up.
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power started buying up water rights in the Owens Valley back in the early 1900’s – see “Water Seekers” – and through amazing engineering, a 400 mile aqueduct system was built to carry water from almost every creek coming down from the Sierra to Los Angeles. Water flowed into LA by 1913. By the 1940’s, DWP had purchased the water all the way up to Mono Lake. Taking the stream water away from Owens Lake eventually made it go dry, about 1928. It had been dry before – wet and dry periods have been a fact of life! Water diverted from the Owens River dried up 60 miles of river corridor through the Owens Valley and ruined the prosperous farming that had been going on. To carry away more water, a second pipeline was put into service in 1970. It’s a long story – but eventually DWP was required by the courts to “rewater” the Owens River, which it finally did in December 2006. Recovery of the river corridor has been remarkable!
Meanwhile, the courts have also ordered DWP to do something to stop dust from blowing around from the dry Owens Lake Bed. As you pass by, you can see their various efforts – shallow flooding, gravel, saltgrass, snow fences, etc. It’s helping – but they’re not done yet. Meanwhile, because of the water out on the lakebed, some 60,000 birds use the lake during spring and fall migration, including nesting Snowy Plovers, a rare bird! It actually IS OK to drive out on the lakebed road weekends summer and fall when they’re not working… just stay on the main loop road and don’t touch anything. Don’t go when the plovers are nesting in May-June. Great birdwatching!! 115,000 birds observed on the lake in late April!! http://wsoweb.ladwp.com/Aqueduct/EnvironmentalProjects/owenslakedustmitigation/owenslakeindex.htm
Lone Pine: (1.3 hrs. from Ridgecrest) north on Hwy 395, 85 miles from Ridgecrest.
This little town is a jumping-off place for more adventures as well, but be sure to investigate the downtown area, and be sure to stop at the Lone Pine Interagency Visitor Center just south of town. They have the best collection of books and maps of sights/sites in the area!! View Mount Whitney. Get permits, pamphlets, tons of information about everything in the Owens Valley, Death Valley, and wherever else. The Movie Museum is worth a visit too – all sorts of posters and props used in the over 100 movies which have been shot in and around the Alabama Hills. www.lonepinefilmhistorymuseum.org/content/
Diaz Lake (3 miles south of Lone Pine) is a lovely place to fish, have a picnic, or camp on the western shores. It’s a “grauben”, a drop-down area from the 1872 earthquake that hit Lone Pine and the Owens Valley. DWP adds water to it as needed. County Park, facilities. Fee.
If you camp there, close your tent doors at night or the skunks will come visit. 🙂
West from Lone Pine – the Alabama Hills are Sierra granite even though they look like they should be sandstone… Their weathered shapes show up in many, many old west movies – Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Glenn Ford all rode here. Every Columbus Day weekend in October Lone Pine stages their “movie festival” and they show many of the movies made here and invite the movie stars to come. Many dirt roads to explore, places to picnic. Try Lubkin Canyon to Tuttle Creek Road loop south, or Movie Road to Moffat Road north in the hills. No facilities in the hills at all. No water. Dispersed camping allowed.
Whitney Portal: (2 hrs from Ridgecrest) Road closed in winter due to snow!
*north on Hwy 395 to Lone Pine. West on Whitney Portal Road (the only signal in town) 13 miles to the end at the pond and picnic area. Day use only parking at the pond, overnight parking down in several lots. Active BEAR area – store ALL food in the bear boxes, even for the day!! **Road construction through Nov. 2016. May be delays!
Lovely area for a picnic in the summer under the Jeffrey Pines! Fish the little stocked trout pond here. Whitney Portal Campground (reservations required), backpackers camp at trail head parking lot, Lone Pine Creek Campground on the road up. Whitney Portal Store Grill is famous for huge pancakes and great hamburgers and fries (and beer, of course)- to get you up or reward you when you come down off the mountain (open until early October) ; toilets; drinking water
The trail to Mt. Whitney starts here – it’s “only”10.6 miles and 6000 feet elevation gain to the highest point in the continental United States, 14,500 ft. Get a hiking permit first! Ask at the Interagency Visitor Center in Lone Pine for the regulations and reservation system. Both overnight use and day use beyond Lone Pine Lake are now regulated – it’s not all that simple to try for the peak anymore- there is a daily quota for both day hikes and overnight hikes, for the main trail and the North Fork Trail, even moonlight hikes, and you gotta get a permit…Rangers DO check you and will ask you to leave if you don’t have a permit, and/or fine you. Then there’s the “wag bag” issue…..no toilets on the trail at all, gotta use a little bag which they will issue with your permit. Fishing (not stocked, but there are fish) and a lovely picnic spot at Lone Pine Lake, 2.5 miles up the trail.
If you want a nice hike, steeper, but way less crowded, try Meysan Canyon to Meysan Lake. Trailhead is down by the road into the summer cabins.
Don’t forget that to go hiking in the Sierra now requires permits and permits require reservations!! Virtually all trails have an overnight quota system, and you’ll even need a day hiking permit for Mt. Whitney trail above Lone Pine Lake!! (and even a special “full moon” stamp if you wish to hike it in one night.) Fees apply, Quota system for Whitney trail in effect from May 1 to Nov 1, for all other trails from last Friday in May to Sept. 15. Ask at Lone Pine Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center. http://www.mount-whitney.com/mt_whitney_permits.php WINTER CONDITIONS NOW! Can you still go climb it? Yes, BUT – you’ll have to hike up the road to the Portal, and snow and ice cover the ground making trail-finding interesting. Don’t go alone! Don’t even think about doing it in a day – snow will slow you down too much. Be safe!!
Horseshoe Meadows: (2 hrs from Ridgecrest) Road closed in winter., locked gate at bottom.
*north on Hwy 395 to Boulder Creek RV park – just before, turn left on Lubkin Canyon Road and go all the way west to Horseshoe Meadows Road, or continue on in to Lone Pine, take Whitney Portal Road 3 miles, turn south on Horseshoe Meadows road. Lubkin meets Horseshoe Rd- turn south and go uphill, up those spectacular switchbacks which afford wonderful views of Owens Lake and the Alabama Hills, over Wonoga Pass, and to the road’s end at a picnic area in Horseshoe Meadows, elev. 10,000 ft. There is a horse camp to the north.
The picnic area is a delightful place to enjoy cool summer weather when it’s over 100 degrees in the valley below. Explore the meadows and the creek. A road north leads to a parking area and the trails to Cottonwood Lakes. From the picnic area/walk-in campground, trails head west to Cottonwood Pass (11,208 and Chickenfoot Lake), and south to Trail Pass and Mulkey Pass and the Pacific Crest Trail. Get hiking information and maps from the Lone Pine Interagency Visitor Center. Restrooms at the picnic area and at the campground. http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/pacficsw/inyoinfo.htm
Manzanar National Historic Landmark: (1.5 hrs. north of Ridgecrest) follow signs – it’s tricker with the 4-lane road, backtrack to the south once off the 4 lane, down to the original entrance gate.
The Manzanar “Relocation Center,” Japanese-American internment camp used from 1942 to 1945. There are now three reconstructed barracks buildings and one guard tower. The gardens are being uncovered. This camp housed 10,000 people of Japanese decent (whether US citizens or not) who then managed to set up schools, farms, etc. Their story is told in several good books at the Eastern Sierra Museum and at the Gift Shop at Manzanar. The big green building, “the gym” has been restored as a Visitor Center and has very informative displays and videos – a must! Get a map of the drive tour; building foundations are labeled, 4 of the gardens have been uncovered, the road is graveled and well-marked. Be sure to visit the cemetery to the west where the big white pillar is. Within the site is former town of Manzanar. It was very active during the early farming days of the Owens Valley, 1890 – 1905, providing apples (Manna in Spanish) and other fruits to the farmers and miners of the area. Some apple trees are still producing fruit. Great views of Mt. Williamson and the Sierra from there. Water, restrooms http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm
East of Hwy 395, Manzanar Reward Road, opposite of the road leading to Manzanar cemetery is the site of the airport used to transport the guards and food for the camp. Also access to the rewatered Owens River. Internees were allowed to visit the area near the river to grow fruit and vegetable gardens using the river water. No facilities Very large fish have been put into the river from the Blackrock fish hatchery – this would be a good place to fish for them! Also prime spot to catch crawdads!
Eastern California Museum, in Independence: (2 hrs. from Ridgecrest)
*north on Hwy 395 to Independence, 100 miles north of Ridgecrest. In town, turn left (west) on Onion Valley road, and turn right when you reach the Museum grounds in about 3 blocks. 155 N. Grant St. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Inside: wonderful collection of Paiute Indian baskets and obsidian articles; historical photos of Owens Valley settlers; mining things from Cerro Gordo; Manzanar information and collections; mineral collection; Norman Clyde’s Sierra photo collection; printing press; music box (ask the attendant to play it for you!!); books; etc. They have added a huge new addition which features Manzanar photos and models and rotating exhibitsand shows off the extensive collection of Paiute woven baskets. Water, restrooms
Outside: farming equipment from early Owens Valley days; mining machinery; railroad items; school house and many buildings from the Owens Valley area, most with exhibits inside; Pelton wheel, etc. It’s a fun place to explore!!!!
Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery: (2.3 hrs. from Ridgecrest)
*north on Hwy 395 to Independence and north another 3 miles on the divided highway; turn left at the Fish Hatchery sign, (before the trees and the Indian Gas Station) go uphill 1.2 mi. to the hatchery.
An English Tudor style brick building, all covered with ivy, in the middle of the desert? Yup, and it was designed this way as a fish hatchery in 1916! A most delightful place for a picnic (or a wedding!) under the sycamore trees beside a large pond filled with huge rainbow trout and friendly mallard ducks. A huge fire in 2007 made a mess and the flood in 2008 made a HUGE mess and things are finally back to normal – fish are in the pond. The building hatchery area itself is open to the public, Th-Mon, 10a-4p and there are interesting displays in the lobby about how they gather Golden trout eggs. Grounds can be rented for special activities like weddings. Great gift shop in the lobby – staffed by volunteers who keep the building open.
NEW Rest rooms and drinking water in a separate building at the parking lot! http://www.independence-ca.com/fish-hatchery.shtml
And visit the 3 other State Fish and Game hatcheries up the road – Black Rock Springs 6 miles north of Independence on the east side of the road; Fish Springs just south of Big Pine on the west side of Hwy 395, and at Hot Creek fish hatchery near the Mammoth Airport.
Wildlife Viewing Area south of Big Pine – Tule Elk can often be seen on the alfalfa fields west of the highway, especially in August and September when their rutting season is. Stop and listen to the bulls bugle and watch the antics as they chase each other for the favor of the cow elk. They frequent Tinemaha Reservoir and can be seen from the top of the hill just south.
Bristlecone Pines: (3 hrs. from Ridgecrest)*north on Hwy 395 to Big Pine, 120 miles. North of town at the
big Sequoia tree, take Hwy 168 east up to Westgard Pass, and turn left, north, into the Bristlecone Pine,
White Mountain area. Well signed. No entrance fee. CLOSED IN WINTER, of course. Gate at 9200 ft.
Road is closed by winter snows from November until around Memorial Day. Visitor Center open June-Labor day.
Stop at the info kiosk at the Sequoia tree north of Big Pine for a map of the area. Continue on uphill. Grandview campground at 8400 ft. is the only official campground in the area, pit toilets, no water. Continue up to Sierra View, at 9500 ft. a grand view across the Owens Valley (best in morning light). Continue to Schulman Grove Visitor Center at 10,000 ft. The beautiful log building burned to the ground (arson) Sept. 2008, but a new really wonderful log building is now open, running on solar power!! There are 3 trails here. A one-mile loop takes you to Pine Alpha, the first bristlecone dated at over 4000 years old and some lovely views. A 4 mile loop takes you up to a view to the south to Telescope Peak and below you Deep Springs Valley, then down past the oldest trees in the world, including the unmarked Methuselah tree, dated at over 4600 years! A new trail leads from the Visitor Center south to the mining cabins you see from the road as you drive in. From there it connects to the 4 mile trail. Makes an interesting diversion.
The bristlecone pines are very slow growing because of the harsh conditions up so high and the poor dolomite soils, and because of the temperatures – the growing season is usually just 6 to 8 weeks each year. Because of this, their wood is very dense and hardy. The dates have been determined by counting the minute tree rings. When the wood was subjected to C14 dating, the tree ring age and the radiocarbon age didn’t match. It is because of these trees that scientists discovered that their assumptions about the formation rate of C14 in the air had been wrong; they recalibrated the C14 scale according to bristlecone data, which shifted dates in some parts of the world’s archaeology sites and chronology of who did what when. These trees “changed history” – or better, corrected it for the archaeologists. They are gnarly and twisted, and magnificent against the dark blue sky!! Keep an eye on the weather. You don’t really want to be this exposed in a thunderstorm!
The road continues beyond the Schulman Grove to the Patriarch grove, but it is a rough 13 miles of dirt road from there. If the weather looks good, head on up to see these trees. If thunderstorms threaten, don’t go!! Be sure your car is healthy and happy at these altitudes and has very good tires before you attempt this drive!! High clearance not necessary, but good tires are! The Patriarch Grove at 11,500 feet is where the gnarliest of the trees are. The Patriarch tree itself is 9 feet in diameter, and is really several trees (3? 5?) grown together, but it is impressive!
No gas!! No water. Toilets at both groves. Gas up and fill up and take food from Big Pine!!!!
CARMA – Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy..unfortunately it was defunded by NSF and all the dishes have been moved back down to the Radiotelescope facility in the Valley. Too bad – a lot of good science was done with these dishes! This was part of the Very Long Array and connected with the CalTech Radiotelescope facility in the Owens Valley, OVRO – Owens Valley Radiotelescope Observatory. These things are listening (as in radio waves) to very far distant galaxies…. See http://www.ovro.caltech.edu/
Paiute -Shoshone Cultural Center Museum, Bishop:
* north on Hwy 395 to Bishop, 135 miles. At the first signal, Line Street, turn left; go about a mile to the Museum on the right.
Inside: displays of Paiute Indian life – food gathering, housing, pine nut roasting pits, etc. Nicely done. Small gift shop with books and jewelry. Outside: village scene, reed house, etc. Hours TBD. Hasn’t been open for some time…
Laws Railroad Museum: (2.5 hrs. north of Ridgecrest)
*north on Hwy 395 to Bishop, 135 miles from Ridgecrest. Continue north on Hwy 6, 5 miles to Laws; turn right to the Railroad Museum. Follow signs on Hwy 6.
Like trains?? The “Slim Princess” was one of the many engines on the narrow gauge railroad which served the Owens Valley until 1960. The Carson and Colorado railroad ran from Keeler near Owens Lake to Roundhouse, near Carson City, NV. The station building has two model railroad layouts to play with (25c), the museum has many railroad books and other railroad goodies for the enthusiast, and the grounds have many buildings moved here from the Bishop area and are filled with displays of one sort or another- dentist, carriages, etc. Ring the bell in the engine or the bells near the church!! A new building filled with wonderful wagons of all sorts, including a Budweiser wagon! LOTS of huge mining equipment. Great collection of train books and calendars, train videos, plus books on the local area. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m in winter, 9:30-4:30 summer hours. Free. Picnic tables, water restroom. http://www.lawsmuseum.org/
Rock Creek – turn south at Tom’s Place, at the top of Sherwin Grade and head up this lovely canyon. In winter sometimes there are snowcat operations to the Rock Creek Resort. In summer the campgrounds provide shaded camping and fishing in Rock Creek is great! Rock Creek Lake is lovely, at 9000 ft. The road continues on to Mosquito Flats at 10,000 ft. and is the jumping off start for the trails within the Little Lakes Basin. All lakes have great fishing and the high country is amazing. In early October the aspens all turn yellows and golds.
Hilton Creek and McGee Creek roads lead to trails which follow these streams into the Sierra. Good fishing, great fall colors!
Crowley Lake – The Owens River was dammed in 1946 by Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power as a part of their reservoir system, this is the premier fishing lake of the Owens Valley. Last weekend in April to Nov. 15. Bring your own boat, but it must be inspected for Quagga mussels and other nasty snails that we don’t want introduced into the Owens River system.
Convict Lake – turn south off Hwy 395 across from the Mammoth Lakes Airport. This lovely glacial lake and valley has campgrounds, fishing in the lake, and a very fine restaurant. The trail around the lake makes a great hike, or one can go farther upstream by Mt. Morrison.
Mammoth Lakes (3 hrs. from Ridgecrst)
What an amazing place to visit! A huge ski area, many lakes to go boating and fishing on, many trails to hike, mining camps to explore, and the entrance to the Devils Post Pile and Reds Meadow area west of the Divide. During the winter only the ski area is open, of course, but it is world-class skiing on 26 lifts and a gondola to the top of the huge volcano that is Mammoth Mountain. You may snowmobile or cross-country ski into any of the backcountry. Dog sled rides are sometime available, as is a horse-drawn sleigh.
During the summer when everything is accessible, fishing hiking, golfing, mountain bike riding, etc. are all available. Wildflowers are great. The many lakes have good fishing. Trails lead up into the Sierra to Duck Pass, Treasure Lakes, etc. The old Mammoth Mine area is interesting, as some of the buildings are still there (end of the road at Cold Water Creek Campground). Shuttle Buses run from the Ski Area down into Reds Meadow area with access to trails to Devil’s Post Pile National Monument, and let passengers off and on at 10 locations – a great way to explore this deep valley! The John Muir Trail comes through here, as do many trails into high country lakes.
East from Lone Pine, Hwy 136 meets up with Hwy 190 to Death Valley on the southeast side of Owens Lake. Visit Keeler, south end of the narrow gauge railroad to Carson City (depot is still in good shape) and important during the silver boom days of Cerro Gordo; and Swansea, the terminus of the salt transport works from Saline Valley (with binoculars you can see well the tram towers near the ridge NE of town) and a smelter for the silver and lead ores of Cerro Gordo.
This is also a good place to view the workings of the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power who are charged with keeping dust from blowing from the Owens Lake bed.
Cerro Gordo Mine and mills – east of Lone Pine on Hwy 136.
High above Owens Lake in the saddle of the mountains lies the tiny mining town of Cerro Gordo, “fat hill”. Fat with silver mines. Some claims are still active. The road up there is rough, one lane, and hairy – best in SUV type vehicle as the slate is hard on city car tires. But it’s DOWN that causes trouble – it rises (or falls) 5000 ft. in 6 miles! Down really needs a 4x4 with LOW gears so you don’ have to ride the brakes. Do NOT attempt to go up there in a “city car”.
Cerro Gordo Townsite is PRIVATE PROPERTY. You must call first to make sure someone is up there, and can allow you to visit. $10 per person to visit the site. But worth every penny and effort to do so – the American Hotel has been restored and they have root beer for sale; the Belshaw house has been restored and can be visited. The old machine shop is now a store and museum with tons of artifacts. Many other buildings survive. But you may NOT wander around the site without permission. There is no water available on the mountain and there is no camping on Cerro Gordo property. The Cerro Gordo phone number-, 760-876-5030 and the answer machine is checked regularly. If you can’t get through, you can always contact Cecil at email@example.com. See http://www.cerrogordo.us
Bishop – 1.5 hrs.
Mammoth Lakes – 3 hrs.
Tioga Pass – 4 hrs.
Mono Lake, Lee Vining – 4 hrs.
Carson City – 5 hrs.
Reno 5.5 hrs.