Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail in Inyo National Forest, California has it all: from spectacular views of 14+ lakes, 14,000 ft. mountain peaks, and access to the southernmost glacier in the United States and the largest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Palisade Glacier. There are flowing rivers and waterfalls, rocky switchbacks, Golden Trout, Jeffrey and Lodgepole pines, Aspens, a gorgeous rock cabin built by Lon Chaney Sr. and glacier-fed lakes. This trail is truly a nature lover’s paradise.
John Muir once said, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” Big Pine Creek North Fork Trail gives life to these words. From the moment your car leaves the 395 at Big Pine, California and heads into Big Pine Canyon, it’s clear another world awaits; the further into the canyon, the clearer the vision. The road ends at the parking area for Inyo National Forest, and the trail head for accessing Big Pine Creek North and South Fork trails.
The trail is well-defined throughout its about 19 miles, except one mile in from starting at the Glacier Lodge trail head where signage is missing (Read more on Finding the Trail). As the trail winds up Big Pine Canyon glimpses of a possible destination, Palisade Glacier, are seen through the trees and past the overlooks. The trail to the glacier gains more than 4,000 feet in elevation with intervals of steep narrow rocky switchbacks and sharp drop-offs, yet the destination beckons an enticement of wonder and untouched natural landscape. Many hikers do not reach Palisade Glacier as it requires extensive hiking and possibly an overnight stay in this rugged wilderness. Regardless of whether the hiker follows the loop past seven lakes on a day excursion or ventures further overnight to the glacier, the scenery will not disappoint in this hiker’s promised land.