Lone Pine Lake Hike

Lone Pine Lake Hike

In This Guide
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions & Hike Video
  • Lone Pine Like Hike Trail Maps
  • How to Get to the Lone Pine Like Hike
  • Permits, Parking, and Fees
Distance5.6 miles (9 km)
Hike Time3-4 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,900 feet (579m)
Highest Elevation10,050 feet (3063m)
Fees & PermitsNone
Dog FriendlyNo
Park WebsiteEastern Sierra Visitor Center
Park Phone760-876-6200
Stay In Touch - - -

For a taste of the big mountains around Mt Whitney without the massive effort or hard-to-get permit, try the very doable Lone Pine Lake hike which follows the Mt Whitney Trail. It’s a moderate effort but very doable by most people as a half-day adventure. When you finish the climb to Lone Pine Lake, you’re rewarded with a pristine mountain lake, a scenic picnic area, and a backdrop of the high peaks in the Eastern Sierra.

Where Is Lone Pine Lake?

Lone Pine Lake sits about 2.8 miles above Whitney Portal, CA, where the trailhead is. From Lone Pine, CA you drive up Whitney Portal Road for about 11.5 miles until you reach the dead-end at Whitney Portal. The trail to Lone Pine Lake uses the same trailhead as the Mt Whitney Trail.

Use this trailhead address:
Mt. Whitney Trailhead, Whitney Portal Rd, Lone Pine, CA 93545

You don’t need a parking permit as long as you only park between 6am and 8pm. Otherwise you’ll need a National Parks Pass.

As you drive into Whitney Portal there are a few parking areas. As long as you don’t park in front of a no-parking sign or in one of the store spots, you’ll be fine. Ideally you’ll find a spot in the day-use parking area, but if not, you can park in the hiker parking too.

Whitney Parking

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There are numerous parking areas around Whitney Portal. Sometimes when it’s full people park down along the Whitney Portal road where there is parking allowed.

The actual trailhead is just before the Whitney Portal Store on the loop at the end of Whitney Portal Road.

Whitney Portal Parking

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The Mt Whitney trailhead is right across from the bathrooms here. Aside from the bathrooms at the trailhead there are no other places to go to the bathroom on the hike.

If you want to grab a snack or souvenir, I highly recommend the Whitney Portal Store (open May-October weather permitting). And if you haven’t visited the Eastern Sierra Visitor’s Center in Lone Pine on your way in, that’s worth a stop as well.

The Whitney Portal Road is generally closed in the winter. Call the ranger’s office for confirmation. And in the spring there can be snow on the trail. The hike is best done in summer.

Bears at Whitney Portal

When you park, make sure that you don’t leave any food or scented items in your car, even if in a cooler. Bears know that visitors often have food and lurk around for the right moment to snatch it. I’ve seen cars torn apart by bears, I’ve been woken up at the campground by bears, and I’ve seen a bear snatch a backpack while a hiker was in the bathroom. They’re not interested in eating you, but they will take your Clif Bars, soda cups, or McDonald’s wrappers on your floor. Again, it’s not a safety issue for you, generally bears will run away, but don’t leave any food in your car. Use the bear boxes around the parking areas to store any food.

Gear for the Hike

As long as you don’t hike past Lone Pine Lake or stay overnight, you do not need any permit to do this hike.

Although this isn’t a long hike, I do recommend hiking gear if you have it, and fitness gear if you don’t. You are in the mountains and conditions can change quickly, so bring a layer or two and rain shell. You can get away with 1L of water, and if you decide to drink from the streams or lakes, you should treat the water with a good filter. There are a few stream crossings. If you have trekking poles they will help you keep balanced as you cross the rocks.

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La Sportiva Spire

The La Sportiva Spire boots feel like comfortable sneakers but offer the protection of hiking boots. They’re great on everything from short hikes to longer hikes of 10+ miles. You don’t want to skimp on your feet.
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Opsrey Stratos 24

I test a lot of gear, and for short to medium day hikes, travel, and everyday use, the Osprey Stratos (men) and Osprey Sirrus (women) are consistently the best. They’re lightweight, hold a hydration bladder to make drinking water easy, have lots of pockets to organize gear, and most importantly, are incredibly comfortable. Check out the reviews; they are impressive.
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Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Mini fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing. Read my review and see the lowest prices and reviews at REI.

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Lone Pine Lake Hike Trail Maps

Click To View Map

Lone Pine Lake Hike Map Downloads

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

Fenix 6 Pro

I’m a big fan of GPS watches to follow my GPX track (which I also use as a sleep, wellness, and fitness tracker) and my current watch is the Fenix 6 Pro Solar (full review here). I load my GPX tracks onto the watch to make sure I’m in the right place, and if not, the onboard topo maps allow me to navigate on the fly. It’s pricey but it has a great battery, accurate GPS, and tons of functionality. If you want something similar without the maps and big price tag, check out the Garmin Instinct which is a great buy and does a lot of the same things.

Hike Landmarks

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Carillon Creek0.68620ft
North Fork Lone Pine Creek0.98730ft
Log Crossing2.610020ft
Junction To Lake Trail2.810100ft
Lake2.910050ft

Elevation Profile

Lone Pine Lake Hike Elevation
The bad news is that the trail goes uphill almost all the way. The good news is that the gradient is gradual with some flat sections to catch your breath.
Lone Pine Lake Hike 3d Map
The hike starts in Whitney Portal and winds its way up the north side of the canyon formed by Lone Pine Creek.

Lone Pine Like Hike Directions

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Lone Pine Like Hike Video

FYI I have a version of this video in 360/VR format. Not familiar with the benefits of 360 video? Then watch this.

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Turn by Turn Directions

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Look for the Mt Whitney Trail sign for the beginning of the hike. It’s right across the street from the bathrooms, just before your reach the store.
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Hike through the wooden structure and read any notices and trail information. Most of the time they’re just warning people not to underestimate the hike to Mt Whitney, but sometimes there are other helpful notices up as well.
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Once you’re through the wooden part, the trail winds its way around some boulders. Look for the footprints and well-worn path.
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After a minute or two of the boulders you emerge onto a “trail trail” and start climbing up above Whitney Portal.
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You’re first creek crossing is Carillon Creek. Stay to the left and cross the creek. Sometimes this will be a small trickle, other times you might have to hop across some rocks to get to the other side.
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Soon after you’ll reach the crossing of the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek. Keep to the left and cross the creek to continue. The more primitive trail to the right leads to the Mountaineers Route to the summit of Mt Whitney, a trail best left for the very experienced hiker.
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Here’s a closeup of the creek and the rocks laid across it. Trekking poles come in handy to balance but you can certainly hop across without them too.
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After the creek crossing you enter the John Muir Wilderness. The sign makes a popular photo prop.
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From here you have a mile or so of climbing to the lake. The flat section up to the left is where Lone Pine Lake is, so you can gauge your progress as you hike along.
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As you get closer to the lake, the trail gets rocky and levels out a bit.
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Almost there! Cross over the logs to keep going. The logs are big and easy to walk across.
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Don’t forget to look down when you cross the creek. I always see trout in here.
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Shortly after the creek crossing you’ll see a sign for Lone Pine Lake pointing the left. Leave the Mt Whitney trail and head down to the lake.
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The trail heads downhill and you pass a sign telling you not to start any open fires.
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The trail breaks apart a bit as you reach the lake, any trail will do, head down to the water.
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Here you are! Check out the crystal clear water at the beach. In the spring the lake can be frozen over.
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There’s often snow on the shady parts of the mountains surrounding Lone Pine Lake. You can walk around the lake on the boulders and rocks.
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To the west you’ll be surrounded by walls of granite that mark the approach to Mt Whitney.
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Soak in the incredible scenery around the lake and then head back down the way you came up.
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The views on the way down are as spectacular as the way up. Enjoy the downhill, you earned it!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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