suggestions for overnight locations in the sierras relatively near los angeles

1:18 a.m. on June 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Like many of you, I am burdened by a day job.  The 9 to 5 grind is tough.. and with free weekends a rarity due to various modern life complications.. I am looking for any suggestions for overnights in the Sierras that are relatively close to Los Angeles (preferably drive times less than 4-5 hours if possible) with either no permit restrictions or areas easy to obtain same day permits.  I recently went for an overnight in San Jacinto, and would have considered San Gorgonio.. but I would really like a quick weekend escape in the Sierras.  I was looking into Jennie Lakes Wilderness... as it would be easy to hike to for a quick overnight and there are no permit quotas.  However, at 5+ hours of driving, coupled with potential overcrowding due to a Saturday arrival.. I was hoping to gain some other suggestions.  I'd like to do the trip on June 29-30th.  Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!  Thank you all in advance.

5:20 p.m. on June 19, 2013 (EDT)
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From LA, the eastern Sierra (US-395) give you another set of options and spectacular scenery with less effort - ok, that's all relative.

You need to have wilderness permits for any over night stay in the Sierra. You might get lucky on an early walk up.  Be ready for any alternatives. All of following are in the 4-5 hour drive range with another hour drive up to the trail head.  Fishing is barb less and release after July 4.  Early start will get you to lakes for a late lunch (dayhike) and an early camp.  You can leave Friday evening after work and be well on your way by the time you stop for the night.  A 4AM start from home on all of these will get you a day hike and a drive back to a nice bed at home, arriving before midnight... for the serious dayhiker.

Lone Pine (US 395), access to Horseshoe Meadows and Cottonwood lakes is the closest Sierra Hiking.  Leaving La Canada at 4AM over Angeles Mountain to Pear Blossom/Lancaster on state 14, will get you to Mojave for breakfast at Dennys. (Be sure you take the right turn toward Mammoth as you leave the north end of Mojave)  You can make the trailhead (at 10,500') for a 6 mile walk to 11,000' and Cottonwood Lakes.  Plan to stay at Muir Lake (it is signed) and make that your base camp for Army Pass and Mt Langley later in the weekend.  No water above 11,300 feet tho.

Up the road a bit is Independence.  Onion Valley is just west of town.  Get there EARLY to find a parking place, then up hill over Kearsarge Pass to Kearsarge Lakes as a destination.  Day hike up to Glen Pass or down to Vidette Meadows - both on the JMT...or just hang out at he lakes.

Up the road a bit more is Big Pine.  You can go east to Bristle Cone and 14,000 White Mountain, or west to Glacier Lodge and the trail head to Big Pine Lakes.  It is a bit heavy on the up hill for a few miles, but plan on taking the tour of the lakes the next day and perhaps up to Palisade Glacier.

Farther North an hour is Bishop.  West of Bishop is South Lake. 3 mile walk to Long Lake for early lunch and another 4 to Bishop Pass overnight at Dusy Basin.  A nice cross country jaunt up to Knap Sack Pass for look see at the big ridge of 14er's on the other side of Pine Lakes.

While in the vicinity, check out North Lake thence up to Piute Pass and the beautiful Humphrys Basin.

Hiking out of Sabrina Lake is worthwhile as well.

These all work as day hikes to where you would usually spend the night and back down for a 12-13 mile day.  Then stay in a motel for shower and bed and nice restaurant and do another hike the next day.  Lots of state/federal camp grounds, but might be full early in the day.   Day hikes don't require permits - over nights do.  But hitting those spots for a looksee are worthwhile to make a decision to spend more time there next time.

9:38 p.m. on June 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for such great and detailed explanations!  I am a procrastinator and did not register for wilderness permits which puts me definitely in a bind for the last June weekend.  I've literally copy and pasted your suggestions on a word document for future reference.  Thank you once again!!!

8:35 p.m. on June 20, 2013 (EDT)
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You might still catch a walk up.  Be there in line EARLY in the morning. They retain a few of the trail quota for just that purpose.  I've usually been lucky.   Check on latest location to pick up permits.  If over night in most places you will be required to have a personal bear canister.  Check to see if they rent them where you pick up your permit.  All food and smelly stuff goes in there. 

The west side trips are usually a 6 hour drive (if you want into the National Parks). Mineral King has scenery starting from the parking lot 26 miles up a snake road from Three Rivers.  First day/single day trips are steep and get you up high quickly. Usually start of multiday trips to some of the most spectacular sights in the Sierra.

Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon have roads that only skirt along the west side.  The other 99% of the park is available only by foot or hoof.  Crescent Meadow, Wolverton,  Lodgepole are possible trail heads for a long approach to higher altitude.  The trails to Mosquito, Pear, Heather Lakes and Alta are the exceptions.  Kings Canyon only has a spear of a road thrust into a few trail heads.  One is a killer up to Granite Basin.  The other along the Bubbs and Kings are good mellow long trips that will take you over to near Kearsarge Pass on the east side or the very popular Ray Lakes loop.

Email me if you are interested in more detail on any of the Sierra trips. Don't let a permit slow you down.  Just have an alternative or two that are less than a hour's drive.  Its all good.

Early starts are necessary other than just for parking places at the trail head.  You would best be close to a tent in the afternoons (and down from high places like passes or summits by 1:00ish) as thunderstorms are frequent, noisy and violent at times.

Just get out there.  Keep a bucket list on your computer of where you want to go with a link to maps from Acme like this one of Cottonwood Lakes with the trail head east and south of the lakes at Horseshoe Meadows,-118.20808&z=14&t=T

Post a big map on the back of a door and keep track/score of your trips with a date and a trip report back to here.

2:09 p.m. on June 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Once again, your suggestions have widened my horizons in regards to trip planning for the Sierras this summer.  I've usually gone through mainly the western side and I'm looking forward to discover more of the eastern side of the Sierras.  Thank you for offering your expertise on the topic.  I should be a better planner in regards to applying for permits much earlier in the season.. but it definitely sounds promising knowing that people have had decent luck in obtaining "day-of" permits.  Thank you once again.. and I'll be sure to put up a trip report!

4:40 p.m. on June 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Sierra South Backcountry Trips in California's Sierra Nevada 8th edition

Wilderness Press; ASIN: B00CB207TE

Winnett was responsible for most of the early editions.

I'm sure REI (south 1/4 mile from I-210 on Santa Anita) has it as well as Tom Harrison Maps (.com).   Mt Whitney High Country, Kings Canyon High Country, Mono Divide High Country show all the trails mentioned in this thread. North on Santa Anita is some great hikes, one of which gets you up to Mt Wilson for a 14mi break in training round trip.

In LA, west side is A-26.

And if you can't get the trip you had your heart set on, any of those others would make your disappointment go away.  About the same effort the first day and spectacular stuff to play in the second.

Lone Pine's Mt Whitney Cafe is a good hangout to see others in unwashed, tattered clothes and faces burned and drawn by fatigue.  Clean tourist will usually stare tho.  I've only had one hiking buddy refused service.

Take DEET (Jungle Juice - use sparingly), 200 equivalent fleece, hooded top for rain (and skeeters at night/dawn) something on the order of a Precip (with room inside for the fleece), brimmed hat, high SPF UV screen (something for lips too), sun glasses. Plan on no open fires in the Sierra. Bring your favorite gas (not liquid) stove, pot, a Lexan cup and spoon.  A couple gallon collapsible water bag is handy to get away from the mosquitoes at the water source quickly.  20F down bag for those 20's temps that sometimes happens in the summer. You will lay on top of it most of the time. More than likely HOT days (shorts/T type long pants and sleeves for the blood suckers).  Don't forget duct tape for the blisters (best to treat hot spots first) and trek poles (get cheapest/lightest weight you can - Komperdell Sierra Trading ) when used properly will take around 40,000 pounds off your feet per mile. Learn how to use them (

8:52 p.m. on July 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Hey Speacock!  Just posted a trip report.. thanks once again for all your advice!

4:53 p.m. on July 15, 2013 (EDT)
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Backcountry near Lake Isabella.

5:47 p.m. on July 16, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the suggestion ppine!  I've always driven near on my way up to the Sequoias but have never backpacked around there.  I'll have to check it out!

June 19, 2018
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