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.
MAXIMUM GROUP SIZE
No more than 15 people and 25 head of stock are allowed on overnight trips. Why?
BEARS AND FOOD STORAGE
The Inyo National Forest has a forest order regarding food storage that was signed into effect for the South Sierra Wilderness. It prohibits 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. Similar measures should be used in the Sequoia portion of the wilderness as well. The National Forests recommend bear-resistant canisters and panniers as the best methods of food storage in the South Sierra Wilderness. Check out the bear section on this site for more info.
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.
For those areas open to dogs here are a few good reasons to leash your dog
- 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
351 Pacu Lane, Suite 200
Bishop, CA 93514
TDD (760) 873-2538
Sequoia National Forest
900 West Grand Avenue
Porterville, CA 93257
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