Big Pine North Fork, Inyo National Forest | California Hike






Move over Big Sur! The Golden State reaps lakes, beaches and mountains… but the best of California hikes are those undisturbed.. and undiscovered. I packed up my backpack for a weekend camping (meh… somewhere between camping and glamping) in the Eastern Nevadas. We hit Alabama Hills before taking on Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail to unplug — a much needed digital detox. The Inyo National Forest, just a drive from Mammoth or Sequoia National park was well worth the four hour drive from Los Angeles.

In this post:

– Directions to Big Pine North Fork.
– John Muir Wilderness Printable Map.
– Inyo National Park rules.
– Where to stay.
– Day Hike packing list.
– Pictures of everywhere we stopped.
– Similar hikes you might like.

Directions to Big Pine Fork in Inyo National Park

The closes town in the Eastern Sierra Nevada is Big Pine. Data and phone reception is inconsistent. If you’re afraid to lose access to your network, I suggest getting directions to Big Pine ahead of time:

From Big Pine, go west on Crocker Avenue which becomes Glacier Lodge Road. Follow until the end of the road. There’s an alternate trail start point at the pack station and parking lot with cabin restrooms (the only ones available). Parking is for day use.

Route distance:

The North Fork of Big Pine Creek is said to be a 9 mile hike. However, between all of the wandering in Inyo National Forest, my friends’ step-o-meter recorded over twelve miles of walking.

Big Pine Creek North Fork Rules:

  • Dogs are okay (yay).
  • Bring in what you bring out.
  • Treat the water before drinking it.
  • Day parking only.
  • Camping okay with permit from Inyo National Park visitor’s center.
  • If you see an animal, leave it alone. Store food and trash properly.
  • No campfires (on the trail, campground fires are okay).
  • John Muir Regulations apply.

Where to stay:

  • Nearest Campground: Big Pine Creek Campground
  • Closest Lodge: Glacier Lodge
  • Other: We camped at the nearby Tuttle Creek Campground and caught sunrise before heading over to the foot of the hike.

En route to the lakes, pause at the first falls.

If there was ever a hike worth nine miles, it’s the Big Pine Creek North Fork. 

View of first lake.

Big Pine North Fork at Inyo National Park, Eastern Nevadas, California | Hike packing list and travel tips via

Inyo National Forest gets hot. The aspens provide shade to and from the glacier lakes, but there are several stretches throughout the hike that don’t provide any shade.

Big Pine North Fork at Inyo National Park, Eastern Nevadas, California | Hike packing list and travel tips via

Shore at second lake.

View at second lake. 

Day-Hike Packing List + Tips

The sun is hot! Most of the trail has shade, but you will get sunburnt. I packed my Maui Jim sunglasses, not just because they’re one of my sponsors, but because they’re the most light-weight pair of sunglasses I own and they have a polarizing lens which enhances colors (and provides UV protection).  This means that your eyes aren’t only safer, but you get a better view. Think of it as walking around with your favorite Instagram filter veiled across your eyes. This is particularly important in such a bright, exhausting hike.

Chapstick is also crucial to combating chapped lips from dehydration and a hat will protect your face despite the many times you re-apply sunscreen.

Big Pine North Fork at Inyo National Park, Eastern Nevadas, California | Hike packing list and travel tips via

There didn’t seem to be any mosquitoes that were biting us, but there were a plethora of bugs (and mice) I’d never seen. We wore inspect repellant just in case.

Unless you want to hike the first 5 miles with a gallon of water, you should consider a compact water filter. There are plenty of creeks along the way to the main lake. My friend packed the Sawyer water filtration system. The Sawyer is not as fast as the pump or gravity assisted ones, but it’s the most compact — and with longer hikes, the less you carry, the better.

Big Pine North Fork at Inyo National Park, Eastern Nevadas, California | Hike packing list and travel tips via

Reminder: there aren’t any porta-potties or cabin-style restrooms on the trail. Please do your business away from natural water sources and carry all of your trash outside of the park upon departure.

  • Snacks / Lunch
  • Shoes for water and hiking

Important note: I took my regularly running shoes and they fell a part. Seriously, they tore.

Men’s Hiking Shoes: (light), (heavy)
Women’s Hiking Shoes: (light), (heavy)

The United States Department of Agriculture has set out a warning that there is an “increase in bear activity.” Inyo National Forest is no exception.

I find it convenient to have my iPhone in a fanny pack, so that I don’t have to take off my entire backpack for a photo or Snapchat. Don’t judge me, it’s a part of my job and I do love photos.

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