heading up trail wheeler ridge

Planning a trip to the Eastern Sierra? Check out this write up on the difficult Wheeler Ridge Trail then TAP into Adventure!

GPS N 37 29.255  W118 42.577
Elevation gain  9,802 to 10,934
Season  Late July-Sept. check for snow
Terrain  Steep rock sections, ledge road significantly off-camber and very narrow
Difficulty  Difficult
Required Vehicle 4×4 with high clearance.
Time  3 hours round trip
Length  6.3 miles one way

Current Road conditions: Inyo N.F., White Mountain R.D. 760-873-2500

boreas campers

Directions: This trail is signposted as Wheeler Ridge Mine Trail off of Sandstone trail. Getting to Sandstone Trail: From Highway 395, between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop, take Lower Rock Creek Road south 4.3 miles or Gorge Road/Old Sherwin Grade Road north 6.8 miles to Swall Meadow Road.  Head west on Swall Meadow Road .7 miles and turn right on Sky Meadows Road.  Follow Sky Meadows Road northwest .5 miles to one-lane dirt road on the right soon after the pavement ends at GPS coordinates: N 37 30.891  W118 38.295.

Wheeler Ridge trail head

Site Location and Description:  Wheeler Ridge Trail follows an old mining road across a jagged ridge near 11,000 feet.  It is located in the John Muir wilderness in the Inyo National Forest. Take notice of the trail description sign (most difficult) as front and rear lockers were required and the 4.5 lift and 35 inch tires were needed.  The trail is composed of several wilderness corridors as it is located  in the John Muir Wilderness reserve, straying off the road is illegal and you could end up with a $5,000 fine or a 6 month jail sentence.  According to Tread Lightly principles we suggest that you don’t stray off any trail, anywhere.  Wheeler Ridge trail takes you up a rocky climb to a steep downhill section over to a lake bed which was dry when we travelled but would be beautiful after a snow melt.  Go past the lake bed and bear left to a primitive campsite with a beautiful overlook into Round Valley and Bishop.

Squeeze wheeler ridge trail

Just past the camp area is a shelf road.  This is potentially very dangerous as it is very narrow (just wide enough for our Rubi), off camber sloping toward a dangerous drop and is topped by soft, crumbly sand.  Once you are on it, there is no room to turn around and go back.  You are committed.  We don’t recommended driving this portion of the trail if you are venturing out with one rig or have a fear of close, exposed drops. Walk ahead and scope it out for oncoming vehicles.  If a vehicle is coming in the other direction, there is NO ROOM for passing, which could make this treacherous ledge road even more dangerous. Do not attempt this part of the trail if there is snow.  After the shelf road, you pass through a little valley then climb a steep, sandy, rocky incline to an area that has great views and primitive camping.

Lake bed at top wheeler ridge
Approaching the lake bed

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New York born to SoCal via Puerto Rico and San Francisco, partner in crime and co-founder of The Adventure Portal, Lori has over 15 years experience in partaking of adventures in the American southwest, primitive camping, hiking and exploring in her Rubi. She welcomes new challenges and is always pushing the envelope of adventure in her Jeep.