Cottonwood Lakes Trail

Cottonwood Lakes Trail

Located near Horseshoe Meadows, the Cottonwood Lakes Basin has many pristine alpine lakes and creeks located between Mount Langley and Cirque Peak. Side trails branch to Muir Lake, Hidden Lake, South Fork Lakes, Cirque Lake. Along the trail to New Army Pass are Long Lake and High Lake in the John Muir Wilderness. Climbing over New Army Pass the trail continues into Sequoia National Park and eventually joins the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Cottonwood Lakes are home to California's state fish, the Golden Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita).

Common Destinations: Cottonwood Lakes basin, New Army Pass, John Muir Trail, Mount Langley 

Download area map for trail names
To purchase more detailed maps or guidebooks of the area, visit

Cottonwood Lakes / New Army Pass Recreation Guide (pdf)

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Weather
Reservations: Reserve up to 6 months in advance at
Rentals & Guides: Cottonwood Pack Station, located at Horseshoe Meadows offers day rides and mule pack trips (760) 872-8331
Permit Info:
  • Wilderness permit required year round for overnight trips.
  • Day use does not require a permit.
  • May 1 through November 1 quota limits visitors to 60 people per day.
Closest Towns:
  •  Lone Pine, CA (full service, hospital)
Water: Water from creeks, lakes and springs should be treated before drinking.
Restroom: Vault toilet at trailhead. Along trails, bury human waste away from water sources.
Information Center:

General Information

General Notes:


  • USDA Forest Service: A Guide to the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness
  • USGS Quad: Cirque Peak; Mt. Langley
  • Tom Harrison: Mt. Whitney Zone
  • National Geographic: Mount Whitney

Traveling in Bear Country

Historically, there has been a high level of bear activity in the Cottonwood Lakes area. From Memorial Day weekend through October 31, all food, trash and scented items must be stored in bear-proof containers.

At the trailhead, all food, trash and scented items must be removed from vehicles and stored in the bear proof lockers that are located in parking areas. Dispose of trash in bear proof trash receptacles.

For more information about traveling in bear bear country, click here...

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking


Horse Riding

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Latitude : 

  Longitude : 

  Elevation : 
9,698 ft. at trailhead - 12,295 ft. at New Army Pass