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ActivitiesCottonwood Lakes

COTTONWOOD LAKES

Inyo National Forest, The Woods The Cottonwood Lakes Trail provides access to the southern portion of the John Muir Wilderness and Sequoia National Park. The Cottonwood Lakes are home to the beautiful Golden Trout, California's state fish. The trail marks the beginning of a longer but much less traveled route to the peak of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states, than the Mount Whitney Trail.

THE COTTONWOOD PASS TRAIL also provides access to the Pacific Crest Trail and the northern portion of the Golden Trout Wilderness and Kern Plateau. This area is characterized by rolling terrain with lovely sub alpine meadows. The trailhead for Cottonwood Lakes and the exit point at Whitney Portal are more than 30 miles apart, so arrange a car shuttle before lighting out if you chose that route.

TRAIL SUMMARY
TRAILHEAD ELEVATION - 10,040 feet
HIGHEST ELEVATION - LAKE BASIN - 11,008 ft. at Cottonwood Lake #1
HIGHEST ELEVATION - NEW ARMY PASS - 12,385 ft.
TRAIL DIFFICULTY: Moderate to the lake basin; strenuous over New Army Pass Trail. Especially to those not acclimated to high altitude, as altitude sickness can be a problem.
SEASON: Normally, the trail is free of snow from early July to early October

HORSESHOE MEADOW TRAILHEAD

The trailhead is located 24 miles from Lone Pine. To reach the trailhead from Lone Pine, drive three miles west on Whitney Portal Road to Horseshoe Meadow Road and turn left. Continue about 20 miles up this precipitous two-lane to the signed parking area for the section of Cottonwood Lakes Trail leading to New Army Pass. The hike begins at 10,090 feet, so expect a headache if you haven't acclimated properly. The paved road is usually open late May to late October. To reach Horseshoe Meadow Road, turn west on Whitney Portal Road at the traffic signal in the center of Lone Pine. Drive 3.5 miles and turn south (left) on Horseshoe Meadow Road. Continue 20 miles to the road end.

WEATHER - Unpredictable!
Summer days may be quite warm, but night temperatures often drop to freezing or below even in summer. Afternoon thunderstorms are common. Snowstorms may occur at anytime.

EQUIPMENT
Rain-gear, good boots, and warm clothes are essential. Sunglasses, and sunscreen (factor 10 or more), a hat and mosquito repellent are advisable.

WATER
Water is available near the trail as far as High Lake. Carry water if you will be traveling over New Army Pass, as there is no consistent source of water. Giardia is a serious problem. Boil or filter all drinking water.

TRAILHEAD FACILITIES
PARKING: Hiker and equestrian parking facilities are provided. Follow the road signs. Toilets and piped water available.

  Elevation Miles
Trailhead 10,090
Cottonwood Lake # 1 11,005 4.5
Cottonwood Lake # 5 11,185 5.8
Long Lake 11,135 5.5
New Army Pass 11,475 7.2
Rock Creek 9,525 14.5
Crabtree Meadow 10,320 21.3
Trail Crest 13,590 27.5
Whitney Portal Trailhead 8,365 42.0

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mt. Whitney Ranger District
P.O. Box 8,
Lone Pine, CA 93545
760-876-6200

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