Mt Whitney is a real wonder. As the highest mountain in the lower 48 states it has a lot to live up to, and by golly it sure does. Pardon the platitudes that are I am about to use, but this mountain has one of the most epic entrances you will find on the West Coast. To get to the campground you have to pass about 4 different ecosystems. Once you’ve driven through the high desert wasteland that is the Mojave Desert, you will enter into Owens Valley. A place that is highlighted by the enormous lake, that has not had water since the 1920s when the city of Los Angeles decided it wanted it all to keep all the city slickers’ thirsts quenched. Then you pass the beauty of the BLM Park the Alabama Hills. All the while, you can see the massive Eastern Sierras shooting up to the West.
What Makes It Great
This is where the real excitement begins. You weave your way up a steep and winding road to get you into the base camp for the famous Mt. Whitney hike. The climb is unbelievable, and the road is as scary as it is beautiful. As you wind your way up, little pieces of rock pepper the roadway, paying homage to its bigger brethren. When you finally reach the top of the mountain, you will not be disappointed.
Once you get to the campground, the temperature drops dramatically (remember you are almost 8,000 feet above the Mojave). The campground lies right on Lone Pine Creek, which surprisingly has water flowing for most of the year. All of the tent sites are sprinkled within old growth forests and you really cant go wrong with any of them. If you can choose your site, and you like to camp without being too close to your neighbors, pick a spot in the front loop. This will put you a little farther away from the water, but the independence is worth it.
This whole ecosystem is made even more amazing by the fact that while this is the highest place in the Continental United States, it due west by only about 100 miles from the lowest place in North America (Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park).
You will remember the huge old growth forests, the insane sunsets over Whitney, and if you are lucky enough to get a pass to go up the mountain, the unbelievable views you will get at the highest place in the lower 48.
The place is special because it is so unique to southern California. You can’t go during the winter, because there is snow. It may seem crazy to those that never leave LA, but there is snow close by, you just need to explore a bit to see it.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who likes to camp will love this, really. It isn’t too hot; it is not too cold (at least during the only times when it is open).
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Highway 395, the campground is 13 miles west of the town of Lone Pine, on Whitney Portal Road.
Note: In 2016, there is major construction planned for Whitney Portal Road, and there will be daily closures/limited parking.