John Muir Wilderness
Looking to explore the Sierra Nevada? The John Muir Wilderness (Bishop, CA) features the best that the Sierra Nevada area has to offer along with sweeping views of glacier carved canyons and snow-peaked mountains.
The John Muir Wilderness is nestled south of Mammoth Lakes, east of Sierra National Forest, north of Kings Canyon National Park (not dog friendly), and west of Inyo National Forest. The John Muir Trail is managed by both the Sierra National Forest and Inyo National Forest, so planning your trip may take a bit of time. Follow our tips below to save you some time, so you have more time to play!
See our full list of Dog Friendly Outdoor Adventure Guides made just for dog owners. We give you everything you need to plan your next adventure outing with your dog right at your fingertips. We also pick the best dog friendly trails for you! These destination guides are invaluable one-stop source of information if you have a dog!
BRINGING YOUR DOG
Dogs are allowed in the John Muir Wilderness except where adjacent to national parks and in the Mt. Whitney Zone. They may be off-leash if they obey commands, otherwise keep them on-leash. Dogs need to be leashed at campgrounds at all times.
Permits should be obtained from where you originate your hike. Many trails actually start outside the John Muir Wilderness area but cross into it or trails connect to other trails. Daily quotas are placed on trails from May 1 to November 1. Groups are limited to 15 people.
Wilderness permits are required for all overnight use. They can be obtained in advance at Recreation.gov – Search for Inyo National Forest – WildernessPermits, CA.
Fishing in the area requires a permit obtainable from many California outfitters and fishing stores. Biking is not allowed on any trail. More information about permits and reservations can be found here.
HIKING – DOG FRIENDLY TRAILS
Hiking Trails in the John Muir Wilderness can be found marked on this online map provided by the USDA. Some trails require reservations that can be made online up to 6 months in advance use Recreation.gov – Search for Inyo National Forest – Wilderness Permits. Others are on a first-come, first-serve basis which can be obtained at a ranger station.
We hand-selected a few trails for you below for a great day-hike:
John Muir Trail – As part of the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Yosemite Trail, the John Muir Trail is the most popular trail in the area. The entire length of the John Muir Trail is 212 miles starting at Yosemite and ending at Mt. Whitney. Dogs are allowed on certain sections of the trail. We recommend starting at Duck Pass Trailhead if you are in the John Muir Wilderness. Most hike between July and September months. If you need to exit the John Muir Trail at any time, here is a good resource to help you plan where to exit from Sierra Hikes.
Duck Pass Trailhead – If you are up near the Mammoth Lakes area, we recommend hiking down Duck Pass Trailhead just south of Lake Mary (GPS Coordinates 37.59126294, -118.9892716 Map near Coldwater Campground) which joins up just beyond Duck Lake to the John Muir Trail in the John Muir Wilderness. You can park your car at Coldwater Campground. Then, do an out and back hike or overnight hike of your choosing and desired length until you get to Kings Canyon National Park where dogs are not allowed on trails.
Piute Pass Trail / North Lake Trailhead – This is a great 21mi RT hike if you want to see mountain views, waterfalls, and lakes. Consider camping overnight at the North Lake Campground and fishing for trout (Piute and Summit Lakes) in the area. Drive down the 168 and turn right on N. Lake Rd. Parking is available near the trailhead (GPS Coordinates 37.227592, -118.627166 Map). A great map of the area is available here. Please note that the elevation at Piute Lake is about 9,000-12,000 feet. The Lamarck Lakes Trail also starts from the trailhead, but you’ll need a separate permit to hike that trail.
Tuttle Creek Trail / Mt. Langley – This is a steep 4.5 mile climb but comes with a rewarding view and descent. Check out the USDA’s recreation guide on Tuttle Creek. Some also hike to Mt Langley vs Army Pass / Cottonwood Lakes Trail. You’ll join the 14er club if you get to Mt. Langley, but don’t go if you and your dog are not used to hiking at higher elevations.
Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail – Some dogs and humans are prone to altitude sickness, so a lower elevation trail you may want to try at 7,824 feet is the Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail. You’ll see a great mixture of forests, glacier carved canyons, lakes, and waterfalls.
Little Lakes Trail – An easy, flat option is the Little Lakes Trail. The trail does start at 10,272 feet, but a great choice for the beginner backpacker or someone who wants to stop and fish or see the wildflowers among awe-inspiring scenery.
CAMPING WITH YOUR DOG
John Muir Wilderness has a lot of established campgrounds in the area. Wilderness permits are required for all overnight use (see above). Some of the best campgrounds in the area for camping (and nearby hiking) are below:
Coldwater Campground (GPS Coordinates 37.599506, -118.996691 Map) – This campground is near the Duck Pass Trailhead mentioned in our hiking pawtivity. The campground can be reserved in advance from recreation.gov. A map of the area is available here.
North Lake Campground (GPS Coordinates 37.227419, -118.627310 Map) – If you are making a trip to go hiking and fishing (Piute and Summit Lakes) by Piute Pass Trail / North Lake Trailhead. Registration is only allowed at the campsite. Dogs are required to be on leash at the campground at all times. A great map of the area is available here.
Of course, you could always go backcountry camping! There are so many spots and many have noted areas near the John Muir Trail. We love Bearfoot Theory’s recommended campsites on the John Muir Trail. In the John Muir Wilderness, you would stay at Lake Virginia and Bear Creek.
Camping is not allowed within 300 ft of Duck Lake and Purple Lake or within 500 ft of Golden Trout Lake (Sierra National Forest). You may also not camp at Mirror Lake, Trailside Meadow, and on the Main Mt. Whitney Trail. There are further restrictions on campfires, but generally fires are allowed below “tree line” or 9,000-10,000 feet.
How was your trip? What trail or campground did you go to? Do you have any tips that you want to pass on to fellow dog owners?
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