Mount Pinos

Mt. Pinos

Sierra Views from Pinos
Originally uploaded by danamight

Mount Pinos Recreation Area

The Mt Pinos Recreation Area is located on the border of Southern and Central California, inside Los Padres National Forest. After passing Frazier Park, the winding, paved, mountain road starts atop Cuddy Valley and is approximately 12 miles from Interstate 5 @ Tejon Pass. The 8831′ peak is the tallest in Kern County and is a popular spot for both summer and winter recreation: cross country skiing, snow shoeing, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking. The snow gates often close during heavy snow.

Mount Pinos Road starts atop Cuddy Valley Rd, at the “Y” – where it intersects with Mil Potrero Highway, which heads out to Pine Mountain Club, California. One mile up the Mount Pinos route, you will find McGill trailhead on the right side (it is popular w/ mountain bikers) and then the first snow gate at Burbank Rd. Another 4 miles up hill, you come to the only set of dirt roads accessible on this range. A left turn will take you winding thru pine forest to the valley below. 4×4 is not required, but a National Forest map is very handy. Unfortunately all the private properties at the bottom have locked gates & no thru access to Cuddy Valley is allowed, but it is an awesome drive to just go exploring in the woods.

Back on the main route, shortly after the dirt roads is McGill Campground on the right side & another snow gate. In another mile and a half you will reach Mt Pinos Campground on the left side; the entrance is easy to miss. From here you are less than 2 miles from the end of the main road.

Mountain Bike, Hike, Backpack, Camp, XC Ski, Snow Sled

Darkest Skies for Stargazing in Southern California

The huge paved parking lot is the dead end (2 miles from the peak of Pinos) – very popular with astronomers, mountain bikers, plus the families and snow sledders in winter (if the gates are open). A National Ski Patrol’s Nordic Base, the only building you will see up this way. At 8300′ elevation, the large parking area is perfect overnight spot for amateur astronomers, so be considerate when visiting night. New moon (no moon) weekends APR-OCT are optimal viewing months. In busy summer months you can often find motorhome campers all set up with expensive equipment tracking the heavens all night long. Please be respectful of their hobby & eyes; Turn off headlights when you approach the parking area at night.

There is also a hike-in, freebie camp ground called Chula Vista; an easy quarter mile walk from the parking lot to 12 camp sites & a pit toilet. Mountain bikes dig this area too. A large meadow here blooms with wild irises in summer, only sometimes.



Trail 21W03 Mt Pinos

Originally uploaded by danamight

ROAD CONDITIONS to Mount Pinos, call the rangers 661-245-3731

Pinos – Peak to Peak Hike

The trailhead for Pinos Summit starts at this parking lot. It is a 2 mile moderate, but steep hike on an old fire road. The neighboring peak to the west is called Mount Abel @ 8286′ elevation (aka Cerro Noroeste). The infamous peak to peak hike along the ridge line from Mt Pinos to Mt Abel is 6.5 miles one way – and very popular in summer months. This hike requires 4-6 hours & a car shuttle should be arranged in advance. The Chumash Wilderness sits between Mount Pinos and the tiny community of Pine Mountain, which can be seen below on many places along the hike.

There are 3 developed campgrounds in the Mount Pinos Recreation Area:

CAMPGROUND RESERVATIONS

McGill Campground accepts reservations online. Campgrounds are often closed during winter months, due to snow. (Oct-April)

DARK NIGHT SKIES: Amateur Astronomers Info

MAPS: Los Padres National Forest Map

NEAREST TOWNS:

Chumash Wilderness

Mt Abel trailhead looking East to the Mount Pinos range. Pine Mountain Club, and the Sierra Nevada mountains can both be seen from this vantage point

Hiking Mount Whitney

Mt Whitney Trail / Mount Whitney Map

mt whitney mapWhen the snow melts in the High Sierra, the rush is on! This is one of the most popular backpacking trips in the Eastern Sierra, as Mt Whitney is the highest peak (14505′ elevation) in the contiguous United States of America.

Day hikes to the summit should only be attempted if you are in excellent physical shape & used to high altitude hiking. There are so many folks trying to hike this sought-after peak in the warmer summer months (MAY-OCT) that the National Forest has put tight restrictions on these Mount Whitney trails. You must obtain a Wilderness hiking permit for this hike & that requires waiting in a long line of outdoor enthusiasts that also seek this prime destination.

The Lone Pine Ranger station holds an annual Whitney trail LOTTERY, where you must apply a year in advance & be granted a permit before you can set foot on this popular hiking route.

An alternate backpacking route to Mt Whitney is the southern ridge line from the Cottonwood Lakes trailhead, but you still must verify with local authorities for permits & Wilderness passes.

The Alabama Hills, between US Hwy 395 @ Lone Pine CA and the Whitney Portal offers camping and mountain biking trails with excellent views of Mount Whitney from below. A short drive up to the portal & you can stand in the waterfall mist & then do a day hike up to Lone Pine Lake.

Now that we have you salivating for this epic adventure, you can start your dreaming & real planning by ordering hiking topo maps of the region. Then after you have thoroughly reviewed the maps, the terrain (as well as your own physical condition), you can contact the Inyo National Forest / Lone Pine ranger office for more specifics on dates & details. This may take years of planning to make it happen.

lone pine roads

The Alabama Hills sit at the base of Mt Whitney, California