Inyo Mountains and Nelson Range
(Pleasant Point, New York Butte, Mt Inyo)
(Keynot Pk, Nelson Range Highpoint)

Revised 22 Apr 2012 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > Mojave Desert for context and how to get here.
info view GPS waypoints: simple Waypoint+ format, download GPX file, or overlay on interactive map.
For details on Pleasant, New York, Keynot, and Inyo, see this 2009 Inyo Traverse report.
For details on Nelson Range's high point, see this 2009 Nelson Range report.

The Inyo Mountains dominates the eastern view from much of the Owens Valley, rising 8000' in 4 miles near Lone Pine. Further east, behind the Inyos, is the tiny bump called Nelson Range, with its un-named high point on The List.

Area Map: see below for detailed maps of the trailheads.
(Union Wash, Long John Canyon, Cerro Gordo, and Nelson Range)


Union Wash - GPS Route UNION WASH - access to Inyo and Keynot

Lone Pine Narrow Guage Road leaves Hwy 395 (at waypoint NGR395) immediately north of the propane tank place on the northern outskirts of Lone Pine, 3/4 mile from the center of town (waypoint LONPIN), and has a large yellow intersection sign. Drive across a cattle guard and go east past the radio tower with flashing lights.

The paved road dog-legs around a farm (waypoint NGRDL1-2, about 1.5 miles from Hwy 395) and continues east. There are many forks in the road 2.5 miles from Hwy 395 (waypoint NGRFRK), so just stay on the paved road as you approach the high-voltage transmission towers. Immediately after crossing the power lines, Narrow Guage Road intersects the signed Owenyo Lone Pine Road (waypoint NGROWN, 3 mi from Hwy 395).

If you're headed for Long John Canyon or Cerro Gordo, go southeast at waypoint NGROWN (toward OWENYS). If you're headed for Union Wash go north here (toward OWENYN). Owenyo Road is often mostly dirt, but used to be paved, and seems to angle toward the power lines at the intersection with the Narrow Guage Road.

Travelling north on Owenyo Road, you'll encounter a small dogleg (waypoint OWENYD, 4.7 mi from Hwy 395) where the map shows an intersection and a crossing of an old railroad grade. Stay on the obvious main road and continue north-northwest.

The Union Wash turnoff (waypoint UNWARD, 7.9 mi from Hwy 395) is supposed to be marked by some old tires, but I didn't see them until AFTER I turned! This road quickly turns into high clearance, so passenger cars will want to park about a tenth of a mile from Owenyo Rd, before the road crosses a draw and starts climbing.

From Lone Pine:

Trailhead Detail:

2WD vehicles with good clearance can make it, but will probably spin occasionally. There's a faint junction (waypoint UNWJCT) 9.6 miles from Hwy 395, and above this the road on the map is the 4WD route. 4WD vehicles can turn left here and climb higher, 2WDs should stay right on the main track and continue almost to where the map shows a stream fork.

The 2WD trailhead is at 4800' (waypoint UNWA2W, 9.9 mi from Hwy 395). The road ends here, about 50 yards beyond a dark band of rock that makes a good visual landmark when descending to the trailhead. You will not be able to see the vehicles at all when walking downhill! It's best to aim at a spot a few yards up-canyon from the parking area, so you can drop down into the wash above the gravel wall you're parked next to. Climbers parking at the 2WD trailhead should walk north until they hit the 4WD road (near waypoint UNWA24) then follow it northeast to the 4WD trailhead (waypoint UNWA4W).

The 4WD trailhead is 600' higher and 2/3 mile closer to the peaks (at waypoint UNWA4W). Stay left at the UNWJCT junction, following a dirt road to its end at a turnaround loop with wilderness stakes. It doesn't seem like a bad road, but I didn't walk the lowest quarter mile of it. There are washouts that have been filled in with stacked rocks, so the road may now be in better shape than other reports indicate.

From the 4WD trailhead, drop into the wash to the north and head up in streambed talus. On the way down, keep an eye out for the old mine on the north side of the wash - it's across from the use trail that takes you out of the wash (at waypoint UNION1) to the 4WD trailhead (waypoint UNWA4W). If you miss this exit and continue too far down the wash, you'll never see your vehicles.


Long John Canyon - GPS Route LONG JOHN - access to New York Butte

WARNING: I haven't been to this trailhead, so the waypoints are just picked off the map.
Please send details if you've been there recently!

Follow the directions for Union Wash until you reach Owenyo Road (waypoint NGROWN). Turn right on Owenyo Road, going east-southeast to waypoint OWENYS, then turn uphill (east-northeast) following the waypoints up Long John Canyon. It's not clear how far up the canyon you can drive, and my 4500' trailhead may be optimistic.


Cerro Gordo (Fat Hill) - GPS Routes KEELER and CERRO GORDO - access to Pleasant Point

NOTE: Cerro Gordo is a private mine, and you need to get permission from the mine caretake before parking or camping there. Matt Hengst adds, in 2011: No clue about how to get a hold of the caretaker short of driving past the town at 10 pm like we did. There is an email address at the official mine site, but it doesn't say who checks it. The caretaker sent us out to the saddle below 8288T (waypoint CG4WD3). It does mean you have to slog up a steep slope to get to Pleasant but it wasn't that bad. Nothing like Keynot where we never did find that trail you mentioned in your 2009 report and ended up slogging up a rather horrid slope before jumping on the ridge and just rock scrambling. The road from the 2WD trailhead (waypoint CERROG) to where we stayed (waypoint CG4WD3) was passable in a Rav4 but passenger cars would have some issues. There was also apparently someone recently cited for following the ridge up to that radio facility on their way to Pleasant. It's private and after someone mouthed off to a technician who caught them up there they were apparently ticketed.

Drive to Keeler. You can get there by going 1.8 miles south of Lone Pine on Hwy 395 and turning east on Hwy 136 (at waypoint 395136). Drive a third of the way around Owens Lake to Keeler (waypoint KEELER, 12.7 mi from Hwy 395), which is the only settlement in the area. No services! You can also get to Keeler by leaving Hwy 395 in Olancha, going east on Hwy 190 (waypoint OLANCH). About 15 miles northeast of Olancha, Hwy 190 makes a sharp right turn but you'll go left on Hwy 136 (at waypoint 190136) about 5 more miles to Keeler.

Leave Hwy 136 in Keeler on a dirt road (waypoint KEELER). There are no junctions or turns to keep track of, and it's a 2WD road the whole way. 4.4 miles from Hwy 136 (waypoint CERRO4) there are some nice flat shoulders to camp on. There were minor crowds when we were there in May 2009, so be prepared not to have solitude. Go on up the dirt road, through a small mining town (waypoint CERRO9, 7.5 mi from Hwy 136) turning left to a parking area on a saddle just before a heavy steel gate (waypoint CERROG, 7.7 mi from Hwy 136).

Climbers will walk around that big steel gate, going uphill and west until the road bends northwest at waypoint PLEAS1, keeping in mind the note above (about contacting the caretaker and staying off private land).

It is possible to drive all the way around the west side of Pleasant Point, using this trailhead for easy access between Pleasant Point and New York Butte. Those with 4WD who want to drive around Pleasant Point (waypoint PLEASP) to New York Butte (waypoint NYORKB) will take a slightly lower route (waypoint CG4WD1-CG4WD2) and follow a 4WD track over a saddle were Matt parked (CG4WD3), then down about 800' before starting to climb to the saddle north of Pleasant Point. Waypoint PLEAS3 is where you would start climbing to Pleasant Point from the road, and waypoint NYB4WD is where you would start climbing New York Butte. Apparently there is only one difficult spot on this 4WD road, and I've been told it's not as dangerous as some descriptions would imply (except when wet or snowy). Once you're around Pleasant Point, the 4WD road is easy and you can drive past Burgess Mine (waypoint BURGES) all the way to the saddle SE of New York Butte (waypoint NYB4WD).

All vehicles approach on the green line, climbers take the red line, 4WDs take the blue line.


Nelson Range High Point - GPS Routes KEELER and NELSON RANGE

Drive to the intersection of Hwy 190 and Hwy 136, on the east side of Owens Lake. You can get there by going 1.8 miles south of Lone Pine on Hwy 395 and going 18 miles east on Hwy 136 (waypoint 395136 to 190136), or by leaving Hwy 395 in Olancha and going 15 miles east on Hwy 190 (waypoint OLANCH to 190136). Either way, you'll drive to the far side of Owens Lake where Hwy 190 makes a sharp right turn and Hwy 136 ends (waypoint 190136). Follow Hwy 190 south, then east past the Darwin turnoff (waypoint 190DAR), then north as Hwy 190 goes around the southern end of the Inyo Mountains.

17 miles from Hwy 136 there's a marked north turn for Saline Valley Road (waypoint 190SAL). Just after you turn north there's another BLM sign confirming you're on the Saline Valley Road, which you can take all the way to Big Pine if you wish! Go north 8.2 miles on this good (mostly dirt) road, which doglegs east at SALIN1 and SALIN2 (intersections you won't even notice). Keep straight on White Mtn Talc Rd (waypoint SALTAL) where Saline Valley Rd curves to the right. You're now entering a Joshua Tree forest and you're already in Death Valley National Park.

12 miles from Hwy 190, turn right on an unmarked road (waypoint TALNEL), leaving White Mtn Talc for a rutted dirt track. Note that there was ANOTHER unmarked dirt road 11.9 miles from Hwy 190 (waypoint TALNOT) where you must NOT turn. They're close together, and if you didn't see them both you should drive back and forth until you do. You want the northern of the two intersections (TALNEL). There's an obvious campsite and fire ring right at this intersection, but even though the DPS Guide calls it a "rapidly deteriorating 4WD road", I continued in my sedan. No problem for passenger cars!

The road is not particularly bad, but if you don't have high clearance your undercarriage will get a good brooming. My car smelled of hot desert plants for a good week afterwards, so check the muffler for caught plants and don't stop driving where you might catch the rooted plants on fire! With some careful driving, I went 2.7 miles from White Mtn Talc Rd to a place where the road is in a wash that cuts through a low hill at 6000'. The bedrock here was daunting for a sedan, but would be trivial for anything with high clearance. I parked (and camped) in the wash at waypoint NEL2WD.

Those parking at the 2WD trailhead will walk directly toward the peak, using a combination of washes and ridges. It all works, no need to go to the 4WD trailhead. There is room for a few vehicles here, but be sure not to block the wash in case someone else wants to get by.

Those wishing to drive another mile and get 400' higher, which probably won't save any time, can drive through the wash at 6000' (waypoint NEL2WD) and stay on the road as it turns north. 0.6 miles from the 2WD trailhead turn east on an even smaller/fainter dirt track (waypoint NELJCT) which goes 0.4 miles to a mine and parking (waypoint NEL4WD). From here, climbers will contour southeast through a wash and onto the ridge the 2WD drivers are already climbing.


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