Whitney Backcountry

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Whitney Backcountry Photo of Upper Golden Trout Lakes Photo from Whitney Peak towards Portal Photo of Guitar Lake at Sunset Photo of Wallace Creek just above confluence of Wright Creek Photo of Tyndall Creek towards Forester Pass Photo from Forester Pass towards Tyndall Creek Photo of Bubbs Creek toward Forester Pass

Suggested Flies for Whitney Backcountry
Southern Sierra Hatch Selection

Other Local Favorites:

Dry Flies:
Parachute Adams #16-18
Olive Elk Hair Caddis #16-18
Royal Wulff #16-18
Griffith's Gnat #16-18
Henrys Fork Hopper
Chernobyl Ant

Nymph Flies:
Hare's Ear #16-18
Prince Nymph #16-18
Pheasant Tail Nymph #16-18

Directions:Access is from two trailheads. The Onion Valley Trailhead (elevation 9,200 feet) is out of Independence by way of Hwy 395. The Whitney Portal Trailhead (elevation 8,200 feet) is out of Lone Pine, also be way of Hwy 395. The trail between the two trailheads is about 45 miles. Shepard's Trail is another trailhead which can take you directly south of Forester Pass but is seldomly used since it starts a a much lower elevation at 6000 feet. If you wish to go directly to this central area of Tyndall Creek, Shepard's Trail will be about 7 miles less than the other two routes but you miss a lot of good fishing.

Notes:
This region has a number of excellent lakes and streams to fish for Goldens, Rainbows, Brookies, and Browns. Generally, the fish are small but healthy and active. Most of the Rainbows and Brooks reside in the lakes below 11,000 feet. There are three passes to climb traversing this area. Keasarge Pass (11,200), Forester Pass (13,200) and Trail Crest (13,480) and there is always the mandatory stop at the top of Mt Whitney (14,496), so the trip will result in about a 13,000 feet gain/loss of hiking if you take the entire 45 mile trek. A shuttle can be arranged to pick you up at either trailhead and back to your origin. In 1996, Mt. Randy Morgenson (13,927') was named in honor of the USFS Backcountry Ranger who was believed to have died falling through a snow bridge in July, 1996. His remains were found 5 years later.

Trailhead from Onion Valley will take you to the following:
Golden Trout Lakes: About 1.5 to 2 miles from trailhead with a 2100 feet gain. There are 4 lakes within the system, the trail branches off at 1.35 miles to two of the lakes to the north, #1 and #2. Sometimes, these two lakes are referred to as Dragon Peak Lakes or Upper Golden Trout Lakes. The first lake is #1 (11,264' elevation) which is the only lake known to hold some Golden Trout. About 1/4 mile further, 2 miles from the trailhead, is Golden Trout Lake #2, the largest of the four lakes. This lake holds Brookies. Taking the trail fork to the southwest are Golden Trout Lakes #3 and #4 (11,374' elevation). Both of these lakes are known to hold Brookies. However, recent reports are that no fish are evident in Golden Trout Lake #3.
Gilbert Lake: About 1.5 miles from trailhead with a 1200 feet gain. Lake is 5 acres at an elevation of 10,450 feet and flows into Independence Creek.Consists of Brookies and some Browns.
Flower Lake: Covering 4 acres at 10,550 feet. About 1.8 miles from trailhead and consists of Brookies, 8-9 inches, and some Browns.
Heart Lake: 6.5 acres lake at 10,850 feet consisting of Rainbows and Brookies.
Big Pothole Lake: 7.5 acres lake at 11,341 feet consisting of Brookies. 4.2 miles from trailhead and must go off-trail the last 1/4 mile.
Bullfrog Lake: 8 acre lake at 10,660 feet. Consists of small Brookies. About 5 miles from Trailhead.
Kearsarge Lakes: Three lakes with the larger two about 6 acres each. Consists of Brookies in the 9" class. Follow the creek from Bullfrog Lake, the largest lake is about 1 mile upstream from Bullfrog at 10,900 feet.
Charlotte Lake: 9 acre lake at 10,400 feet, about 6 miles from trailhead. Consists of Rainbows and Brookies. Rainbows were planted in the 1950's and have a sustained population with sizes up to 12". A ranger station is on site with camping areas.
Bubbs Creek: Consists of Rainbows and Browns below Vidette Meadow and Goldens upstream. The trail out of Onion Valley hooks up with the Pacific Crest Trail just past Bullfrog Leg at 5.5 miles. Bubbs Creek is another 1.5 miles past that point. Bubbs headwaters are just below Forester Pass and it flows into a large northwesterly arc to the South Fork of the Kings River.
Golden Bear Lake: Consists of Rainbows and Goldens. About 12.5 miles from Onion Valley Trailhead at 11,200 feet.
Lake South America: Consists of Goldens. About 21 miles from either trailhead at Portal or Onion Valley. Elevation is 11,940 feet.
Tyndall Creek: Consists of Brooks and Goldens. The larger fish are downstream of the trailside camp at PCT. This freestone stream feeds into the Kern River and has a trail that follows it for two miles before it drops steeply into the Kern. Tyndall Creek is about 19 miles from either Onion Valley or Whitney Portal Trailhead.

Trailhead from Whitney Portal will take you to the following:
Lone Pine Lake: Consists of Rainbows and Brookies. About 2.5 miles from trailhead at 9,925 feet.
Guitar Lake: Consists of Goldens. About 8.5 miles from trailhead at 11,480 feet.
Hitchcock Lakes: Consists of Goldens. About 9.5 miles from trailhead at 11,600 feet
Timberline Lake: Consists of Goldens. About 9.5 miles from trailhead at 11,100 feet.
Crabtree Lakes: Consists of Goldens. About 11.5 miles from trailhead at 11,300 feet. Renowned for large Goldens, the lakes were a favorite of test pilot, Chuck Yeager. One of his Goldens are on display at Lone Pine Outfitters.
Whitney Creek: Flows down from Guitar Lake to the Kern River below Crabtree Ranger Station at 10.5 miles from trailhead. Generally a freestone stream with pocket waters and deep pools except around Crabtree Meadow where it slows down for some good dry fly action. Consists of Goldens, up to 10 inches.
Wallace Creek: The Sierra Club planted Goldens in Wallace Creek in 1909. Most of these fish are in the 6-8 inch class. Wallace is about 15 miles from Whitney Portal Trailhead. It flows from Wallace Lake to the Kern River. The High Sierra Trail meets up with PCT at Wallace and can provide good access to the creek for 2 miles before entering the Kern.
Wright Creek: About 1/2 miles past Wallace Creek on the Pacific Crest Trail. Wright flows into Wallace below the trail. There is about 2 miles of fishable water from the trail up to Wright Lakes with an elevation gain of 330 feet up to 11,120 feet. Consists of Goldens.
Wright Lakes: Elevation is 11,120 feet to 11,500. Follow Wright Creek from the Pacific Crest Trail for about 2 miles up to the lakes. The total mileage is about 17.5 miles from Whitney Portal Trailhead. Consists of Goldens and Rainbows.
Kern River: Best reached from the High Sierra Trail off of PCT at Wallace Creek. It is 18 miles to the Kern River from Whitney Portal. The elevation of the Kern River at this point is 8,800 feet, with a 5,700 feet vertical drop from the top of Whitney. There is about 12 miles of Kern River accessible from a trail alongside the Kern from the headwaters at 10,000 feet to the confluence of Rock Creek at 7,000 feet. Survey results from the State of California show that most of the fish are Rainbows in the 6-8 inch class with some larger ones up to 14 inches.Consists of Kern River Rainbows.

Trailhead from Cottonwood Lakes will take you to the following:
Rock Creek: Consists of Rainbows. About 9 miles from Cottonwood Trailhead over New Army Pass. The trail follows the creek for 3 miles. The creek goes another 4 miles to the Kern River, although the last mile is too steep to fish.
Sky Blue Lakes: Consists of Goldens. Follow Rock Creek upstream about 2.5 miles from the trail over New Army Pass. The lakes are at 11,600 feet.

© 2013 Steve Schalla
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