Inyo National Forest - Frequently Asked Questions
On this page you'll find some of the most commonly asked questions about the Inyo National Forest. Each question is a link which can be followed to view the answer.
- Can I camp outside a designated campground?
- How Can I Get a Camping Space?
- Can I have my dog in the campground or on a trail?
- Do I need a permit to hike in the wilderness?
- How do I get a permit to hike/climb Mt. Whitney?
- When can I visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest?
- How can I see Bristlecone Pines?
- How can I purchase maps or books of your area?
- What does "Inyo" mean?
- What are the fishing, hunting and firearm regulations on the Inyo National Forest?
- How do I keep my food safe from bears and other wildlife?
Camping is allowed outside of designated campgrounds in some areas on the Inyo National Forest. In areas designated as "Developed Recreation Areas," camping is restricted to developed campgrounds only. These areas include the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, Lundy Canyon, Lee Vining Canyon, June Lake Loop, Mammoth Lakes Basin, Reds Meadow Valley, Convict Lake, McGee Creek Canyon, Rock Creek Canyon, Bishop Creek Canyon, Big Pine Canyon, Onion Valley, Whitney Portal, Horseshoe Meadows, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, and any Research Natural Area. A map showing where dispersed camping is allowed is available at the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP) Website.
For areas where dispersed camping is allowed, you need to obtain a California Campfire Permit for the use of any open flame (including gas stoves, lanterns, wood fires, charcoal fires, or smoking). These permits can be obtained at no cost from any Inyo National Forest Ranger Station or Visitor Center. Open flame of any kind may be restricted during times of high fire danger; check on our Forest Order page for current fire restriction orders.
Some family campgrounds are first-come/first-served, but many do accept reservations. Weekends and some weekdays between July 1 and Labor Day will be very busy and it is recommended that campers arrive at their campgrounds by Friday afternoons for the best chance of getting a site. Group campsites are available by reservation at many places throughout the Inyo National Forest.
To make a reservation at either a family campground or a group campsite, contact Recreation.gov at 1-877-444-6777 or on the internet at http://www.recreation.gov.
Traditionally, National Forests have welcomed dogs. However there are a few rules that apply to assure that you and other National Forest visitors have an enjoyable outdoor recreation experience. If you are camping with your pet, please practice the following:
- Leave vicious or unusually noisy dogs at home.
- During the day keep your dog on a leash no more than 6 feet long, or otherwise restrict its freedom to roam at will.
- At night keep your dogs and other pets inside an enclosed vehicle or in a tent.
- Developed campgrounds are for people, not animals. Please do not bring more than two dogs or other pet to any one campsite.
Wilderness Permits are required, year-round for day use entering the Mt. Whitney Zone and all overnight trips into the John Muir, Ansel Adams, Hoover and Golden Trout Wildernesses. May 1 through November 1 a daily entry quota applies to the John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses. For the Golden Trout, Hoover and South Sierra wildernesses, there is a combination of quota periods and non-quota trails. Wilderness permit reservations are required. For more information, please see the Wilderness Permit Page.
Because of the popularity of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States, wilderness permits are required year round for ALL trips, including day hikes. The number of visitors is limited during the quota period from May 1 through November 1. A lottery held in February is the first opportunity to reserve these permits. Rental bear cans and waste disposal kits are available at the visitor center.
The Ancient Bristlecone Visitor Center is open during the summer and fall months (usually late May through October), but the road may be accessible earlier and later. If the road is passable, you may visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest at any time. The road does not close in the winter. However, Inyo County neither maintains or plow the road in the winter months, typically November through mid- to late April and travel is at own risk. Visitors should anticipate that the road may be impassable due to snow depth. For current road closure information, please contact the White Mountain Ranger Station at 760-873-2500+1
It is possible to ski or snowshoe along White Mountain Road to access the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest if the road is snow covered, but conditions can vary and visitors do so at their own risk.
The Inyo National Forest is home to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, home to the oldest living trees in the world. Some of our bristlecone pines are nearly 5,000 years old and still living. The Forest is located to the east of Bishop and Big Pine in the White Mountains, close to the California/Nevada border. Visiting the area is a relatively easy day trip, but there are some things you should know:
Most visitors travel along CA State Highway 168 east from Big Pine, 13 miles to White Mountain Road. Ten miles north along White Mountain Road is the Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center, at Schulman Grove. Trails leaving from the Visitor Center will take you past the 4,000 year old trees. While the oldest trees are not identified, for their own protection, the oldest trees can be seen from either the Methuselah Trail or the Discovery Trail. Ten miles further along a graded dirt road takes you to the Patriarch Grove, where the largest bristlecone has been found. Travel time from Bishop to Schulman Grove is approximately one hour each way; to continue to Patriarch Grove will take another 45 minutes each direction. The road to Schulman Grove is a paved, two-lane road, but it is a winding mountain road and visitors should be aware of common mountain driving conditions.
The bristlecone pines can generally be visited from mid May to mid November, but road accessibility is weather dependent and could vary. The road does not close in the winter. However, Inyo County neither maintains or plow the road in the winter months, typically November through mid- to late April and travel is at own risk. Visitors should anticipate that the road may be impassable due to snow depth.. For current road closure information, please call the White Mountain Ranger Station at 760-873-2500.
Our partner, the Eastern Sierra Interperative Association has an online store where you can purchase topo maps, forest maps, guide books, history books, CD-ROMs, bear canisters, bandanas, and many other interesting and educational items. To look at our inventory, please click on "Maps & Brochures" to the left. You can also call for more information at 760-873-2411.
During your visit, you can stop at any of our Visitor Centers to find books and maps of the local area.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates hunting and fishing on Inyo National Forest lands. Check with their office in Bishop at 760-872-1171 or look on the CA DFW website at https://wildlife.ca.gov/.
Most streams and lakes on the Inyo National Forest are open for fishing from the last weekend in April through the end of October each year. Some waters in southern Inyo County open in early March. The Owens River from Pleasant Valley Reservoir south is open to fishing year-round, although some special regulations apply in some areas. Contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for more information.
Hunting regulations vary depending on area and species. Contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife for open hunting seasons.
The Inyo National Forest does restrict the use of firearms in some areas. Discharging a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life, causing injury or damaging property is prohibited:
- In or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation area or occupied area;
- across or on a Forest Development road, hiking trail or body of water adjacent therto, or in any manner or place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge;
- Within the wilderness, firearm use is not allowed except for emergencies and lawful hunting (as allowed by State law).
In Inyo National Forest, visitors must store food in a manner that prevents bears or other animals from gaining access. Bears that become accustomed to human food can become more aggressive and endanger humans and property. Items that must be secured include food sealed in jars, cans, or foil packs. Non food items such as plastic bottles, water bottles, coffee mugs, pet food, empty cans, trash, wrappers, cosmetics, grocery bags, boxes, and ice chests must also be secured. Do not leave these items in your car or tent. Bears will break in to obtain them. Our Traveling in Bear Country page has complete information about proper food storage.