A Hike Down the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail

Lone Pine, CA

Friends, Eric and Laurel (Raven and Chickadee), arrived in Lone Pine a few days ago.  They are avid hikers so we asked them to join us to do a hike down the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail.  The trail is four miles long and runs from the Whitney Portal (8,360 feet) to the Lone Pine Campground (5,640 feet).  With a change in elevation of 2,720 feet, we followed the rangers recommendation and left our Jeep at the campground and drove to the Whitney Portal in their truck.  That made for a nice, easy hike down along the Lone Pine Creek.  Once back at the campground we drove the Jeep back up and retrieved the truck.

Notice the gloves and jackets worn by the hikers.  It was only 47 degrees when we began the hike.  As we descended into the lower elevations the gloves and jackets were taken off and placed in backpacks.

Eric, Laurel, and Pam at the Whitney Portal trailhead

Early in the hike the trail goes through the Whitney Portal campground.  We had a little problem finding where the trail exited the campground.  John found what he thought was the trail we were seeking.  As he pointed and said he thought it was the trail someone pointed out the “trail →” sign above his head!

The pathfinder looks for a sign from above

Heading to a switchback

At numerous spots along the trail we were treated to a waterfall on Lone Pine Creek.

Lunch with a waterfall view

Looking across Owens Valley with the Inyo Mts. in the background and the Alabama Hills in the foreground

Laurel looks pretty confident crossing the Meysan Creek

The nimble hiker is a little more focused

Looking back at Mt. Whitney in the distance

The end of the trail

After reaching the end of the trail, we drove the Jeep back up to the Portal to retrieve the truck.  While there we wandered over to the trailhead for the Mt. Whitney trail.  There is a structure there (the Portal) that serves as a staging area for hikers heading up the mountain.

At the staging area we came upon four young men preparing to set off up the Mt. Whitney Trail.  We struck up a conversation and found that they just drove up from San Francisco (elevation 0′) and were headed for the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,505′).  When asked about hiking experience, they told us this was their first outing.  They all sported brand new hiking boots and packs!  Now this hike is about 22 miles round trip with an elevation gain of over 6,100 feet.  Our friend Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) hiked this trail ten years ago after training for two months and found it very difficult.  Congratulations to Lisa and her friend!  They completed the hike in 14.5 hours which is amazing!  It’s certainly not a hike for beginners!  Wish we had been there when the fellows returned!

Youthful enthusiasm heads up the mountain

After driving back down to the valley, we pulled off of Whitney Portal Road as we approached the Alabama Hills to search for the Whitney Portal Arch.  The directions to this arch are a bit vague but after some bushwhacking through the desert the arch came into view on top of a rocky hillside.

We climbed up to the arch and found the view of the mountains to be outstanding.

We really enjoy hiking with Eric and Laurel and hope to cross paths with them in the future.  But since they are heading to Florida from here it may be a while before that happens.    But you never know . . .

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43 Responses to A Hike Down the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail

  1. Pam says:

    Love it when the bloggers I follow meet up!

  2. Jim and Barb says:

    That arch is really cool. You’re right, it would be interesting to talk to those first timers and see how their adventure went!

  3. Laurel says:

    That was such a fun day and such a great variety of hiking, from the high mountains to the boulders of the Alabama Hills. The best part of all was the company. 🙂 Wish we were still there to hike the Lone Pine Lake and Ashram trails with you. Happy hiking, and we’ll plan on meeting up again in the spring!

  4. pmbweaver says:

    Oh brrrrrrrr.
    What a beautiful hike. I love the photo of Mt. Whitney.

    WOW…hope those newbies made it up and back safely. We would never attempt that. You must have to apply for a permit…at least I would hope so.

    Whitney Portal Arch is so cool. Love the photo looking through the arch to the mountains. Excellent day!

    • placestheygo says:

      It really wasn’t bad at all once we got hiking. And we slowly removed layers as we descended.

      Yes, you have to have a permit to go beyond Lone Pine Lake which is at 2.8 miles. They only issue so many for each day.

      Glad you enjoyed the Whitney Portal Arch:) It was another neat view of the mountains through the opening.

  5. I. Greenwald says:

    It looks like had a wonderful time. The waterfall is wonderful and that arch looks kind of like a donut. Love it!

  6. Jeff says:

    Great shot of Whitney thru the arch. Anxious to see what you do next.

  7. Trails always seem easier when you’re hiking with friends. Looks like a fun day.
    Can’t believe those guys were hiking to Mt. Whitney in new boots! Too bad you won’t find out if they were successful.

  8. libertatemamo says:

    Great hike with great folks! By the way the hike up Whitney Portal to Lone Pine Lake is a lovely little 5-miler (round trip) to an awesome lake…and you can do it without a wilderness pass. Another great, short hike is the one to the Ashram. Love the arch you found too! You guys are rocking it LOL.

    • placestheygo says:

      Lone Pine Lake is on the agenda for tomorrow!! And we are hoping to have time to get to Ashram, as well. There is so much left to do and we have extended a week already!

      We are loving our arch searches!! It has been so much fun wandering around the boulders with friends:)

  9. Ingrid says:

    Great photo showing the scale of that arch. Sounds like a fabulous time with wonderful people.

  10. I have to train to get up my driveway. Well done.

  11. Nancy says:

    WOW! WOW! WOW! You must stop! STOP RIGHT NOW! Because of you… I keep adding “these places you go” (sorry I had to do that!) to my bucket list which is getting longer because of you!

    • Nancy says:

      These photos are fabulous! And by the way… I can’t make a comment and not tell you how much I love your lunch photo. You do know… that is your trademark!

      • placestheygo says:

        Thanks so much, Nancy:) We feel the same way as we read blogs and keep adding to the future travel list. There are just so many neat places in this country! Glad you enjoy our “lunch with a view” photos:) I put a lunch view photo on facebook and a someone asked where the shoes were!!

      • Nancy says:

        See………… I told you…… YOUR TRADEMARK!!

  12. Gay says:

    What a fabulous day!
    And I thought Utah had all the arches! The Whitkey Portal Arch is quite a beauty!

  13. I’d like to be a fly on those young guys backpacks!

    It’s so neat you’ve gotten to hike with Eric and Laurel, we’ve yet to meet them. It would be cool if the 6 of us could hike together some day!

    Isn’t it wonderful to have cool hiking temps!

    • placestheygo says:

      I’d like to be the other fly!! We are off to hike to Lone Pine Lake today!! I just have to do a piece of the trail and the temps will be in the 70’s down here. The snow up to 10,000 ft has melted.

      You are missing Eric and Laurel by one day in Bluff!! They arrive the day you leave! One day we all meet up and get in some hiking:)

      The temps have been perfect for hiking. Love it!

  14. Janna says:

    Love the arch photos!

  15. Mary says:

    What a variety in terrain, very cool. I bet those guys were pretty tired and sad when they returned,

  16. Jodee Gravel says:

    That waterfall is gorgeous. Great pic of Pam standing beside it! Fortunate you had such an intuitive pathfinder with you – not everyone sees the signs 🙂 Post card beautiful pic of the peak through the arch.

  17. Sherry says:

    Nearly a 3000 foot climb would entice me to take the downward route too. Although I do love approaching waterfalls from below and “walking up them”. Love seeing you guys all bundled up. Smile Eric! Just love your “trail names”, the Pathfinder and the Nimble Hiker. You guys are meant for the AT. Nice stream crossing Laurel. My guess is your foolish hiker newbies will make it no further than half way up before the altitude or their feet do change them in. Hope it all turns out OK. Your pictures of the arch with the mountains in the background are the superior icing on the cake here. Simply gorgeous. We’re planning to see Laurel and Eric in Florida. Sure you don’t want to come too? I just love how many people you’ve met up with out there. Seems everyone I know is in the west. Move east young people!

    • placestheygo says:

      I’m glad we were hiking down, Sherry, since we all had so much catching up and the uphill climb would have made the conversation very difficult:) It’s neat that you are going to meet Eric and Laurel in Florida. They are such fun people! Sorry, the Florida doesn’t call my name anymore:)

  18. LuAnn says:

    It looks like a fabulous day with four of our very favorite friends. 🙂

  19. This was a great hike considering you’ve got great company to enjoy the scenery. We did this one but began from the campground and ascended up and looped back, we had not car waiting for us at the portal :(.
    That is a great way to frame Mt Whitney with the Whitney Portal Arch!

    • placestheygo says:

      I originally thought we should hike up and back down. But since the four of us had so much to talk about since we were just getting together, climbing up would have really cut into our conversation:) The hike down was so much easier, for sure. It was nice to have two vehicles for a change.

  20. Dawn Henderson says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing this. I think it’s interesting the ranger allowed you the use of his truck. After visiting family in Gardnerville NV (from our home in Orange County), we are stopping in Lone Pine this summer and taking our Samoyed, so I have been researching this for awhile. We want to go up to Whitney Portal. How is that road – really – to drive up? I am not real fond of mountain roads and that one looks interesting – but I still want to do it. Would be cool to hike down to Lone Pine Campground, but I don’t know how we’d get up to the Portal to do so. I hear also that the road is having major construction this summer and could experience frequent closures. Dawn

    • placestheygo says:

      Dawn, we didn’t use the ranger’s truck. A ranger suggested that we park one vehicle at the Portal and one at the campground. We were with friends so we had two cars. You can hike from the campground to the Portal and then hike back down. It is about eight miles. We didn’t have time to do the round trip so we just hiked one way. The road up to the Portal is a wide two lane road. No problems. I don’t know anything about the construction.

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