Golden Trout Wilderness

Split between the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests, the Golden Trout Wilderness covers over 300,000 acres. First protected in 1978, it is a land of diversity – from rolling forests and meadows up to high rugged granite summits.

The Golden Trout has supported native populations of golden trout (California’s state fish) for thousands of years in the drainages of the Upper Kern River. This wilderness contains all of the Little Kern River’s drainage as well as the North and South Fork of the Kern River plus 117 miles of streams; the Golden Trout Wilderness is a true trout haven.

However, golden trout populations have dwindled throughout the state and in the area due to predation and interbreeding from the non-native European brown trout. Pure populations of golden trout inhabit fewer than 10 miles of streams in the area. The local Little Kern golden trout and the Volcano Creek golden trout are classified as threatened while the endemic South Fork Kern golden trout, rainbow trout, from which golden trout evolved, and western sucker and squawfish are more abundant.


Reaching from the western foothills all the way to the eastern high desert, the Golden Trout Wilderness is accessible from both sides of the Sierra Nevada range. From the east, most visitors access the wilderness from along Hwy 395, often from near Lone Pine (near Mt Whitney). From the west, various access roads stem from Hwy 190 near Giant Sequoia National Monument.


Permits are required for all overnight trips into the Golden Trout. Why? Since the wilderness is split between the Sequoia and Inyo National Forests, you must get your permit from the National Forest through which you enter the wilderness.

For trails entering from the east, contact the Inyo. If you’re coming from the west, contact the Sequoia. See the sidebar for Forest Service links.

A quota is in effect for the Cottonwood Pass Trail in the Golden Trout Wilderness. This quota applies to all overnight visitors from the last Friday in June through September 15.


No more than 15 people and 25 head of stock are allowed on overnight trips. (Why?)


The Inyo and Sequoia National Forests each have a forest order regarding “proper food storage”. They prohibit possessing or storing any food or refuse unless stored in a bear-proof container or in another manner designed to keep bears from gaining access to the food or refuse

In addition to this, bear canisters are required from Horseshoe Meadow to Chicken Spring Lake.

All Inyo visitor centers rent backpacker bear canisters. Limited numbers are available. Visitor centers also have bear canisters available for sale, as do many local sporting goods stores.

More information about traveling in bear country in Inyo National Forest


Campfires are prohibited at Chicken Spring Lake and Rocky Basin Lakes.

Campfires are discouraged anywhere above 9,000 feet. Campfire permits are required. In places where fires are allowed, make sure to always use smart campfire methods.


  • Dogs are allowed in the Golden Trout Wilderness, but are not allowed in wilderness areas in adjacent national parks.
  • Pet food must be stored to the same standard as people food. In areas where use of a bear resistant food storage container is required, pet food must be stored in your container.
  • Leashes protect dogs from becoming lost and from wilderness hazards such as porcupines, mountain lions, and sick, injured or rabid animals.
  • Unleashed dogs may intimidate other hikers and their dogs, depriving them of a peaceful wilderness experience.
  • Unleashed dogs may harass, injure and sometimes kill wildlife.
  • A leashed dog’s keen senses can enhance your awareness of nearby wildlife or other visitors.


Inyo National Forest

Supervisor’s Office
351 Pacu Lane, Suite 200
Bishop, CA 93514
(760) 873-2400
TDD (760) 873-2538

Sequoia National Forest

Supervisor’s Office
1839 South Newcomb St.
Porterville, CA 93257
TTY 559-781-6650

Boasting 117 miles of streams, this wilderness is a true Golden Trout haven. It spans both sides of the Sierra crest, encompassing a vast diversity of terrain and numerous ecosystems.

External Links

Current Conditions
Inyo National Forest
Sequoia National Forest

Wilderness.Net: Golden Trout Info
Whitney Portal Store (Discussion Board)*

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