South Sierra Wilderness

The South Sierra Wilderness’s 62,700 acres span both the east and western slopes of the southern Sierra. Protected as wilderness in 1984 by the California Wilderness Act, the Wild and Scenic South Fork of the Kern River bisects this wilderness. The craggy peaks and forested ridges (ranging from 6,100 feet near Kennedy Meadows to 12,123 feet at Olancha Peak) of this wilderness combine ancient granite features with volcanic rock formations and boulders. Basalt lava flows from a million years go can be observed on the banks of the South Fork of the Kern. During the late 1800’s the large Monache/Beck Meadow complexes were heavily used as pasture for cattle, sheep, and goat. Permit-based grazing still continues under the supervision of the Forest Service. The Owens Valley Paiute and the Panamint Shoshone both inhabited and harvested the fruits of this rugged land less than a 150 years ago. Signs of human presence have been discovered in the South Sierra that are at least 6,000 years old.


The South Sierra is managed by both the Inyo and Sequoia National Forests. No wilderness permit is required for entry from the west side of the Wilderness (trailheads leaving from the Sequoia National Forest), however a campfire permit is required for gas lanterns, stoves, and campfires. If entering the South Sierra from the east side through Inyo National Forest, a wilderness permit is required.


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 in certain areas within Inyo National Forest. 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 discouraged anywhere above 9,000 feet. If leaving from the west side of the wilderness (Sequoia National Forest) a campfire permit is required for for gas lanterns, stoves, and campfires. In places where fires are allowed, make sure to always use smart campfire methods.


  • Dogs are allowed in the South Sierra 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 900 West Grand Avenue Porterville, CA 93257 (559) 784-1500

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