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DesertMud - Hiking, Mountain Biking, Pine Trees, Southern California
Hiking Mountain Biking Pine Trees Jul 7, 2022
Special Instructions
Wilderness Permit Req'd
Mt.Whitney Ranger Station
P.O. Box 8
Lone Pine, CA 93545
(760) 876-6200

Related Hikes (2)
Mount Whitney via Main Mount Whitney Trail
Horseshoe Meadow to Mount Langley Backpacking at Cottonwood Lakes

DeparmentofGoods - Outdoor Gear Without the Gouge

You are here: Home : Hiking Last Updated on 09/14/2002    
Diff: Rating 8/10
Scenic: Rating 5/10
Tech: Rating 4/10
Horseshoe Meadow to Mount Langley
         Backpacking at Cottonwood Lakes
Location: Sierra Nevadas, Inyo National Forest, California
Region: Sierras - Lone Pine
Wilderness: John Muir & Golden Trout Wilderness
Total Distance: 26 Mi
Elevation Gain: 5,500 Ft
Season: April-Nov
Type: Out & Back
Start Elev: 10,000 Ft
Peak Elev: 14,026 Ft

Peak List Peak List
Peak Name Elevation
Mount Langley 14,042 Ft

Hike added by
on 07/15/2001
Driving Directions
From southern California, drive north on Hwy 395 to Lone Pine, CA. Make a left on Whitney Portal Rd. (signal) and go a few miles to Horseshoe Meadow Rd. Make a left here and go up the mountain to the end of the road at the parking lot (quite a few miles on this switchbacking road).
Look on a map and take the trail that heads towards Cottonwood Lakes. The section before you reach a meadow (about 4 miles in) is steeper and has switchbacks.
We (Jerry, Eden, Brian, Matt) planned to camp near Hidden Lake or Muir Lake the first night, but it got dark on us and we were tired so we stopped at the beginning of a large meadow just shy of all the lakes maybe 50 ft beyond where the trail spilts for Muir & Cottonwood Lakes. We camped that night on a large flat rock just off the trail. It got kind of cold and a little windy that night, ~40°F. Didn't sleep to well. It was colder than we had prepared for (t-shirts). Next day (7/14), me and Jerry went to hike Mt Langley from our camp site while Eden and Brian stayed behind. We did not hike on a trail to get to Mt Langley. We cut up a steep canyon in the corner of the flat valley. This is the "canyon" that is north of Old Army Pass, which is north of New Army Pass. There is one "canyon" north of the "canyon" we took. We named this "canyon" or gully the "butt rock" way. Pretty much near the base of it there is a large flat rock that looks like a saggy ol' butt. We took the way that appeared to be the easiest way, not realizing at the time that any trails existed to Mt. Langley. We only knew the name of the mountain from another backpacker. We had no plans of doing this hike until we did it. I started getting dizzy near the top of this canyon (called "cliff" above). We kept going but I had pressure building up in my lungs, was dizzy, and very short of breath & since we were camping at 11,000+ ft that night I figured I better stop. I know I could have made it because overall, I was feeling a lot better than I did when I hiked San Gorgonio. So I stopped there at 12,815 ft, about 0.8 miles from the peak. Jerry went on to the peak. I decided to drop some elevation rather than just sit around and wait, so I went back to the top of the "cliff" to knock off a few feet & I was feeling okay now. I sat on the cliff for 50 min until Jerry showed up. We slid down the steep canyon and took a trail that winds around the Cottonwood Lakes back to camp. We had lunch and then the four of us went to Muir lake to camp that night. We camped on a beach-like area on the backside of the lake. I set up my tent this night to try to stay a little warmer. Brian and Jerry had a rock fight; Brian's bad aim caused rocks to hit my tent a few times, then I attacked him. Earlier, we (Jerry, Brian, Matt) jumped in Muir lake it was refreshingly cool. The outside temp was about 58-62°F with wind and that was cold getting out & drying off. Always fun though. We left the next morning around 8 am and were back at the truck at 10:30 am. It was a real good time out there and very beautiful. There are quite a few people that use the trails out there and that camp and backpack near the lakes. It is very scenic near the lakes. Above timberline is like it is anywhere I guess, cold, windy, wasteland appearance. I saw a spider at about 12,500 ft. Although the area has a secluded feeling, other people are common sights out here. Most of the other people are backpackers, some day-hikers, and some fisherman. On our hike to Mt Langley, we saw lots of cool rocks, lots of giant boulders to climb over, under, between. In one boulder field, there was a rapidly running stream maybe 15 feet under the boulders which even had small waterfalls. From our meadow campsite, Mt. Langley looks deceivingly small and close. Snow patches on Mt Langley varied in thickness from about 1 ft thick to what appeared to be more than 8 ft thick. The snow that I saw had large step-like divits in it. Nearer the peak, Jerry saw snow patches that had sharp conical jagged peaks all over it. The highest elevation I reached on this trip was 12,850 feet.
Trail Condition
Very good where present. The trail from the parking lot to the Cottonwood Lakes area is heavily used by horses, so it doesn't always smell so great along there.
Forest Details
Mostly lodgepole pine (in fact, that is the only tree I remember seeing). Many interesting types of flowers, and other unusual looking plants. A few ferns. One plant had a tropical appearance. The water is beautiful and clear. It is like paradise out there.
Additional Elevation & Distance Information
Parking elev: 10,000 ft
Meadow camp elev: 11,028 ft
Muir Lake camp elev: 11,140 ft
Lowest elev: 9900 ft

Distance from parking lot to camp in meadow: 6 miles.
Distance from parking lot to camp at Muir Lake: 7.5 miles.
Distance from Muir Lake camp to Mount Langley: 5 miles.
Coordinates (WGS 84)
Truck: N 36°26.875'; W 118°10.229'
Camp in meadow: N 36°29.567'; W 118°12.189'
Where I stopped on Mount Langley: N 36°30.823'; W 118°14.313'
Cliff I sat on on Mount Langley: N 36°30.508'; W 118°14.345'
Added on 09/14/2002 by TractorUp
We (Eden, Jerry, Raymond, Becki, Matt) went back to the Horseshoe Meadow, Cottonwood Lakes, Mount Langley area for another 3 nights this year. The first night we camped in the parking lot. The next morning we drove back down to Lone Pine to pick up the wilderness permit (we never saw a ranger out there). I got to Muir Lake about 2.5 hours after we finally started hiking, leaving the Horseshoe Meadow parking lot behind. For some strange reason we seem to always park at the equestrian parking lot instead of turning off and going to the hikers parking lot. This adds maybe 3/4 of a mile or so to the trail each way. Got to Muir Lake around noon and set up camp on the far beach sand end of the lake. Did some walking around and what not after that. The next day Jerry and I wanted to climb Mount Langley, so we left Eden, Becki, and Raymond behind. I took the trail up Old Army pass, but Jerry had to get a picture of the "Butt rock" so he took the northeastern approach up the last gully. The way he went is a more direct route, but there are a lot of large boulders to climb over and there is no trail to speak of. We never really decided if we would meet up before we headed to the peak. Old Army pass is a bunch of switchbacks up the mountain. At the top of the pass is gently sloping topography and maybe a 2 mile walk to the base of Mount Langley. After I started climbing up the rocks on the side of Mount Langley I looked back at the area where Jerry should have come up from and saw someone standing there. It looked like he was waiting around. But I was way to far away to see if it was him or not. I tried yelling but it was too far anyway. So I figured he must have decided to wait down there. Up to this point I was keeping a pretty good pace, and I though that I might have beat him up there because he had to climb through all those rocks. After about 20 minutes of standing around and watching the people who I had passed on the trail now pass me, I ran back down so I could yell some more. Then sure enough I hear my call answered but it's from the wrong direction. He beat me up there and now I had been standing around for a half hour for nothing. So I ran back up to where I was, passed everyone that I had passed once again and quickly headed to the top. Took a few pictures and headed back down. I got off the main path going down and ended up climbing around on some rocks to get off of there. I took Old Army pass back down and walked back to camp arriving about an hour after Jerry got back. But it was okay because they had some lunch ready for me and that was pretty good. Later that day, we hiked up the cliffs behind Muir Lake there was a nice view from up there. There was also a couple ton rock teetering on a ledge near the top of the cliffs. Damn, that thing was loud. On the way up the cliffs I had spotted some large quartz crystals in a vein and on the way back down I spent maybe an hour there trying to get one of them but it was really stuck good and all I had in the way of tools were rocks. Hiked out of there the next day and drove home. In Olancha we stopped at this Pizza and Subs place thanks to a suggestion by Jerry. The place was rank and so were to two guys working there. The pizza had a fly on it, that grossed them out. I had already said I wasn't eating there before we opened the door. So don't go there because they have some major raw meat / mayonaise health violations going on.
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