Cottonwood Pass and Cottonwood Lakes trails provide great portals into Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park. Hiking begins at an elevation of 10,000 feet, providing a launch pad into the high sierra. Because you start so high up, acclimating is a key to avoiding altitude sickness. For this reason, a pair of first-come first-serve campgrounds offer a valuable resource for hikers. If you have time to spend the night in one of these sites, you will go a long way toward avoiding the headaches and nausea that altitude sickness can bestow on hikers as they climb to higher passes and peaks.
There are eighteen sites set just off the road near the Cottonwood Pass trailhead and twelve at the adjacent Cottonwood Lakes trailhead. Both are $6 per night with fire rings, picnic tables, potable water, and vault toilets. These sites are classified as “walk-ins” because campers do not actually set up their tents right by their vehicles. Instead, campers must walk in a couple hundred feet from the road. Additionally, there are ten equestrian sites designed for human and horse that go for $12 a night. The campgrounds (and the road) close during the winter. When in doubt, call 877-444-6777 to see which Inyo National Forest campground camping are open. Bear lockers are provided to keep food away from those dangerous paw. Make sure your vehicle is bear-safe before leaving the parking lot.
Camping at Horseshoe Meadow
To get to Horseshoe Meadow: From the city of Lone Pine, it takes half an hour to ascend to the trailhead campgrounds. From Route 395 in Lone Pine, turn west at the traffic light on to Whitney Portal Road. After three miles, turn left on Horseshoe Meadow Road. Drive twenty miles up mountain switchbacks to road’s end at Horseshoe Meadow. The Cottonwood Pass trailhead is straight ahead and the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead is at the end of the paved road to the right.
Campground address: Horseshoe Meadows Road, Inyo National Forest, Lone Pine, CA 93545
Campground coordinates: 36.447765, -118.169596 (36° 26′ 51.95″N 118° 10′ 10.54″W)
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This scenic trail through a lake-filled basin provides a 10-mile round trip day hike to Long Lake and a 7.5-miles one-way trek to New Army Pass on the border of Sequoia National Park near Mount Langley.
This 22-mile trek travels past Cottonwood Lakes Trail over New Army Pass to a 14,042-foot summit with towering views of the Sierra.
This 12,900-foot summit can be reached via off-trail ascents from New Army Pass, Cirque Lake, and Chicken Spring Lake.
|Old Cottonwood Creek Trail|
This 8 to 9-mile day hike follows a secluded trail through mountain meadows to the South Fork Lakes and Cirque Lake.
This 7-mile round trip trail ascends 1,200 feet to an 11,200-foot pass and a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, with access to Golden Trout Wilderness and Sequoia National Park.
|Lower Soldier Lake|
This 19.2-mile loop crosses Cottonwood Pass and New Army Pass to visit a beautiful lake that is an ideal camping spot for backpackers heading higher and deeper into the sierra.
|Sky Blue Lake|
This hike extends beyond Lower Soldier Lake up Miter Basin to a deep blue lake surrounded by towering peaks.
This side trek visits a lake between Miter Basin and Mount Pickering en route to Sky Blue Lake.
This 13,485-foot summit rises above Sky Blue Lake to offer sweeping views of the sierra.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains|
Explore other destinations in Sequoia National Park and the rest of the range.