Inyo County is in California extending from the Eastern Sierra region east into the Desert. Known as "the Other Side of California," the county is a vast expanse along the eastern edge of California that covers 10,000 square miles (16,000 km2), an area greater than six U.S. states (VT, NH, NJ, CT, DL and RI).
The following Inyo County cities are in the Eastern Sierra region:
- 1 Big Pine - This small town is a portal to exploring both the Sierra Nevada and White Mountains.
- 2 Bishop - The most populated town in Inyo County, Bishop also has the most number of accommodations and services.
- 3 Independence - The county seat since 1866, Independence is the center of regional history and home to the Eastern California Museum.
- 4 Lone Pine - The area surrounding this town has been the backdrop for countless Hollywood films from Gunga Din, to Gladiator, to Rawhide, to How the West Was Won.
- 5 Pearsonville - You've arrived in Inyo County, if traveling north on US 395 in a town often called the "Hub Cap Capitol of the World," thanks to Lucy Pearson who for years collected a large collection of hubcaps and cataloging and storing each in a large warehouse. In Pearsonville, you'll find gas, food, a towing service, wrecking yard and a ton of hubcaps!
The following Inyo County cities are in the California Desert Region.
- 6 Darwin - Stop in Darwin and you won't find any services, just a rich history and Darwin Falls which begins as an underground spring that rises to the surface, spills over the falls and travels for a few hundred feet before disappearing again. Poke around Darwin and you'll find old mines off dirt roads leading from CA-190.
- 7 Death Valley Junction - Marta Becket was an accomplished, touring 42-year-old dancer when she and her husband stopped in Death Valley Junction in 1967 to repair their car. While waiting for the work to be completed, she strolled down the street and came upon an abandoned adobe theater with interesting architectural bones. She rented the theater, began painting its walls and ceilings with fantastic, fanciful murals and performed at the Armargosa Opera House for appreciative audiences into her late 80s. She says, "I am grateful to have found the place where I can fulfill my dreams and share them with the passing scene...for as long as I can." This authentic and artistic slice of American life is worth going out of the way to experience.
- 8 Furnace Creek - the commercial center of Death Valley National Park, Furnace Creek has campgrounds, RV parks, lodging, gas, food, stores, an airport and the lowest elevation golf course on Earth (217 ft/65 m below sea level).
- 9 Keeler – This was once the southern terminus of the Carson & Colorado Railroad. When service ended in the 1960s, most of Keeler's residents moved away. The streets are mostly quiet and no services exist. However, if you have a 4WD vehicle, follow a dirt road east to Cerro Gordo, a ghost town with several well-maintained silver mine buildings and a small museum.
- 10 Olancha - This little ranching town has been a waystation since its inception in the 1860s. Cooling cottonwood trees and an inviting café attract travelers along US 395. Hikers and backpackers will often set off into the South Sierra Wilderness and onto the Pacific Crest Trail from nearby trailheads.
- 11 Panamint Springs - They really mean it, when they say "Last Gas" at Panamint Springs at the national park's western boundary. You'll drive 30 miles before you find the next gas or water. Remember, you're in Death Valley! Continue east on CA-190 to cross Towne's Pass into Death Valley, south on CA-178 to Trona and west on CA-190 to Olancha and Lone Pine (CA-136).
- 12 Shoshone - This desert town to the southeast of the national park was once a railroad center and rest area for local miners. It still serves as a service hub with food, gas, lodging, supplies and RV sites.
- 13 Stovepipe Wells - A motel, restaurant, pool, campground with RV sites and convenience store and gas station are located here. Old charcoal kilns and the ghost town of Leadfield are worth visiting.
- 14 Tecopa - Named after a Paiute-Shoshone Indian chief, Tecopa was a hard-rock mining camp in the late 1800s. Today, it is best known for its hot springs. Natural hot water is contained in separate bath houses for men and women, operated by a concessionaire with RV sites and a small store. A surprising sight in this desert is Grimshaw Lake, a favorite of water skiers. Nearby marshes attract migratory birds and were a stopping point along the Old Spanish Trail, a National Historic Trail that passes through Tecopa. A treat five miles south of Tecopa is China Ranch where you can buy all kinds of treats made from dates... date shakes, date baked goods and take your date on a hike beside the federally recognized Wild and Scenic Armargosa River. At Dumont Dunes, 4-wheelers, dune buggies and dirt bikes get airborne in the dunes and take more terrestrial tours through scenic canyons.
- 1 Death Valley National Park - The national park is the largest in the lower 48 states at 3.3 million acres/1.3 million hectares, and with the southeastern corner of Inyo County, comprises more than half the landmass of the county. The Badwater Basin salt pan is the lowest point in North America (282 ft/86 m) below sea level, and the highest point in the national park is Telescope Peak at 11,049 ft./3,315 m.
- 2 Mt. Whitney – On the east side of the Great Western Divide, Mt. Whitney stands 14,496 ft/4,418m, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. Hikers reach the summit through Whitney Portal, 13 miles west of Lone Pine. It's a 10.7 mile hike and requires planning and careful attention to advisories regarding the precautions of hiking at high altitudes. The trek typically takes two days of fairly strenuous hiking, but no technical climbing. Permits but can be difficult to obtain; a yearly lottery is the best option, but climbers can also try obtaining a permit at the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor's Center, south of Lone Pine.
- 3 Manzanar National Historic Site – During World War II, people of Japanese ancestry, including American citizens, were brought here to the Manzanar War Relocation Center. An interpretive center is in the camp's former auditorium. Audio tours are offered.
- 4 White Mountains - Home to the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, which is located thirty-six miles east of Big Pine. These trees are among the earth's oldest living things, with one of the oldest, Methuselah, estimated to be nearly 4,800 years old. Several groves of the venerable trees can be seen.
Inyo County is a land of extremes. It claims the highest and lowest points in the 48-contiguous states. You'll find hot and cold, wet and dry, barren and lush, refined and common at different times and in different parts of the county.
The two most distinct aspects of Inyo County are Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra. Within these destinations are such natural wonders as Death Valley National Park, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, the Palisade Glacier, Mt. Whitney, Rock Creek Canyon, the High Sierra and a classic western landscape that has been seen in countless motion pictures. With six million acres (2.4 million hectares) of public land, Inyo County offers numerous opportunities to explore, recreate and be amazed.
US 395 is known as "California's back road". The highway traverses 100 miles of Inyo County from north-to-south and provides non-stop views of the scenic side of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Inyo National Forest and the John Muir Wilderness – For complete retreat, backpack or take a mule pack trip to the high country; to dozens upon dozens of remote glassine lakes with romantic names like Lake Helen of Troy, Elinore Lake, Moonlight Lake and the Treasure Lakes. You will understand why John Muir wrote, "Climb the mountains, and get their good tidings." Few experiences are as emotionally satiating as being in the rarefied air of the Eastern High Sierra in settings whose beauty defy description.
- Palisade Glacier – The southernmost glacier in the U.S. and the largest in the Sierra Nevada is located west of Big Pine and is visible from U.S. 395. The glacier sits at the base of Palisade Crest in the North Fork Basin. The scenery attracts hikers to trails that follow the ancient glacier.
- California Bighorn Sheep – Flocks of endangered Sierra Bighorn and threatened Desert Bighorn can be seen within minutes of one another, north of Bishop. The Sierra Bighorn are seen in at the end of roads leading up into Sierra Canyons west of U.S. 395. The Desert Bighorn are seen near the end of roads leading up into the White Mountains, east of U.S. 395. Bring binoculars and look for duff-colored coats.
- Rock Creek Canyon – Between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes is picture-perfect Rock Creek Canyon. Rugged Eastern Sierra sawtooth peaks rise above emerald meadows, populated with fluttering aspens and cut my meandering clear streams.
- The Backcountry – Follow CA-168 west from Bishop, 23 miles to trails that lead to the Green Lakes, Treasure Lakes and Bishop Pass. The pass is an 11-mile hike beyond the end of the road at 11,980 ft/3,651 m. Bring a fishing rod for entertainment along the way.
- Fall color - The Weather Channel picked the Inyo National Forest as having the second best fall color in America.
- The Buttermilks - One of the most diverse, renowned and accessible bouldering areas in the county.
- The Happy and Sad Boulders - Located in the Volcanic Tablelands Area north of Bishop, and contain hundreds of routes and problems.
- Baxter Pass Trailhead—John Muir Wilderness - This trailhead is located at the end of a good Forest Service road out of Independence that is steep but doesn't require 4WD.
- San Bernardino County - Inyo County's southern neighbor, massive San Bernardino County covers 20,000 miles of the California Desert, an area larger than nine of the US states. The Mojave National Preserve is a centerpiece of the region, spanning portions of the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran deserts. Fans of Americana will enjoy cruising historic Route 66, which bisects the county across its southern half and includes the ghost town of Amboy. The western side of the county spans both the outskirts of Los Angeles and the San Bernardino mountains, including popular destinations such as Big Bear and Lake Arrowhead.
- Kern County - Bordering Inyo County to the southwest, Kern County extends across a number of geographic regions: the western portion is in the San Joaquin Valley, the northeastern portion is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the southeastern part is in the Desert. Visitors to the county are most likely to be heading to Bakersfield, one of California's largest cities, or traveling along Interstate 5 past oil fields and agricultural areas.
- Tulare County - Neighboring Inyo County to the west, Tulare County has two distinct personalities. The western half of the county lies within the agricultural Central Valley, offering rural landscapes as well as plenty of hotels and other amenities for travelers. The eastern portion of the county features the wilderness and high elevation of the Sierra Nevada range, including the largest trees on earth in Sequoia National Park, and the western slopes of Mount Whitney.
- Fresno County - Inyo County's neighbor to the northwest, sprawling Fresno County is home to Fresno, California's fifth-largest city, and vast agricultural areas. The eastern side of the county is mountainous, featuring the remote wilderness of Kings Canyon National Park, which attracts visitors to its giant sequoias and unspoiled meadows that lie at the crest of the Sierra Nevada range.
- Mono County - Located north of Inyo County, remote and expansive Mono County is a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It is the eastern gateway to Yosemite National Park, home to the Old West ghost town of Bodie, and Mammoth Lakes is a favorite winter skiing getaway. The gigantic Mono Lake is perhaps the county's premier attraction, a stopover for millions of migratory birds and thousands of tourists who explore its alkaline waters and bizarre tufa formations.
- Southern Nevada