The eastern face of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California is the location of the Bureau of Land Management’s Owen Peak Wilderness. This wilderness area was designated in 1994 and contains 73,868 acres of rugged mountainous terrain, deep, open, and winding canyons, and natural springs. The highest point, at more than 8400 feet is Owens Peak. This area presents a “triple threat” of landscape where the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert meet. The diverse ecosystems and the springs create riparian areas that support native vegetation and in turn provide water, shelter, and food for area wildlife.
The wide variety of habitats supports a wide variety of plant life. Yuccas, cactuses, cottonwoods, and oaks thrive in the canyons and valleys, creosote scrub brush crown bajadas, and juniper, sagebrush, pinon, and pine thrive at upper elevations. Sensitive plants can also be found in the unique ecosystem including Nine Mile Canyon phacelia and monkey flower. Wildlife in the area includes mule deer, mountain lions, black bear, golden eagles, and prairie falcons. The area has seen human activity dating back thousands of years and evidence of prehistoric human settlement remains in the area. Do not disturb or collect artifacts if found.
A portion of the Pacific Crest Trail passes through the wilderness, making it an excellent area for hiking. Horseback riding, hunting, and backcountry camping are also popular activities in the region. No permit is required for camping in the backcountry.
Many beautiful natural areas are a short drive away and worth visiting while in the area on your next RV trip. Explore nearby Sequoia National Forest, Red Rock Canyon State Park, and Death Valley National Park.
Owen Peak Wilderness is located just northwest of Indian Wells, California where services and amenities can be easily accessed.
To get to the Owen Peaks Wilderness from the south, take Canebrake Road off State Highway 178. If approaching from the east use US Highway 395 then take the four-wheel-drive routes north of Inyokern into the Indian Wells Canyon, Short Canyon, Sand Canyon, and No Name Canyon. Travelers from the north can approach via US Highway 395 and use the Ninemile Canyon Road.
Access roads are naturally surfaced dirt roads and are subject to weather conditions, they can be dusty in dry weather and muddy after precipitation. Ruts and rough terrain on access roads are best suited to four-wheel-drive vehicles. RV units are best left at designated campgrounds in the area while exploring the Owens Peak Wilderness with 4 wheel drive vehicles with high clearance. OHV are not permitted in the BLM lands. The rough terrain and high temperatures in the region present challenges to transportation in the region. Take extra water and spare tires for vehicles and ensure your vehicle is in good condition. Campgrounds in the area are accessible by paved highways that are appropriate for RV travel.
Walker Pass Campground is a Bureau of Land Management campground located just off California State Highway 178 where the Owens Peak and Cache Peak segments of the Pacific Crest Trail meet, and adjacent to the Owens Peak Wilderness area. There are 11 walk-in sites, and two vehicle accessible sites for car camping located here with no services. Sites have picnic tables and fire rings. There are facilities to support equestrian campers with corrals and hitching racks. There is no drinking water available on site.
Fossil Falls Campground is located 30 miles north of the Owen Peak Wilderness and is another BLM managed campground in the area with 11 walk-in sites. The campground has a vault toilet and water pump and is situated in scenic surroundings in a mountainous area. There is a gravel turnaround area where medium-sized RVs can park. Sites have picnic tables and firepits. You will need to pack out your trash from the BLM campgrounds. The campsites are not shaded and can be very hot in the summer months.
Red Rock Canyon State Park's Ricardo Campground is located at the base of desert cliffs and has 50 primitive sites. Amenities include pit toilets, potable water, fire rings, and picnic tables. Firewood can be purchased from the visitor center. There are no RV hookups but campsites can accommodate RVs up to 30 feet in length.
Backcountry camping is permitted in the Owens Peak Wilderness for up to 14 day stays. Camping is limited to no more than 15 people at a time. Although the area is not known for black bears, an occasional bear can make their way through the wilderness area and food should be stored to avoid attracting these large predators. Campfires are permitted but a permit is required and gathering of wood is limited to deadfall. Pets are permitted but must be kept under control so they do not disturb the local wildlife.
Utilize previously used campsites whenever possible, and choose campsites on hard ground at least 200 yards away from water sources and trails. There are no amenities or services in the area so you will need to pack in adequate water and food and pack any trash out. Be familiar with “Leave No Trace” principles and be respectful of other users and local wildlife.
Hiking in Owen Peak Wilderness is the most frequent recreational activity. The Pacific Crest Trail, PCT, crosses through the wilderness area running north-south through the region. The trail is 2653 miles long in its entirety, passing through 25 national forests, and seven national parks.
Side trails diverge off the PCT, descending off the crest of the high terrain and intersecting at trailheads with access roads outside the wilderness area. Be prepared for rough terrain, steep elevation changes, and beautiful scenery when hiking the Owens Peak Wilderness.
The southern section of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range is situated in the Owen Peak Wilderness, the highest point being the 8400 foot Owens Peak. Other mountain peaks in the wilderness region include Backus Peak, Five Fingers, Mount Jenkins, Morris Peak, and Russell Peak.
Climbing in the area can be facilitated by local outfitters as the area is best suited to experienced mountaineers. Ensure you have appropriate safety and climbing equipment to tackle the rock faces in the Owen Peak Wilderness area. Spectacular vistas await the adventurous!
The 2653 mile long Pacific Crest Trail can also accommodate equestrians and their mounts. Horseback riding along the trail and through the Owens Peak Wilderness is also a popular activity in the region. BLM wilderness areas limit groups of stock to 25 or less and a maximum of 15 people.
Horseback users are required to use weed-free feed to prevent contamination and harm to native vegetation. Local equine campgrounds cater to horseback riders and their mounts in the area and local outfitters can facilitate rides in the Owen Peak Wilderness region. Off-season is a better time to ride in the area as summer temperatures can be extreme and hard on horses.
During the winter, snowmobile enthusiasts can enjoy some winter fun in the region at Sequoia National Forest. Designated snowmobile trails are located at the Greenhorn summit by Lake Isabella where there are approximately 90 miles of trails and the Quail Flat Winter Trailhead staging area provides access to additional snowmobile areas.
The Big Meadow Winter Trailhead also has miles of trails or snowmobile trails to enjoy. Hook up your RV and your sled trailer to visit the area and enjoy the excellent winter trails.
Love to glide along a winter trail and enjoy the pristine wilderness while your breath frosts in the air? Then visit near Sequoia National Forest in the offseason which has over 800 miles of trails for cross country skiing.
Wuksachi Lodge and Grant Grove Market provide facilities for learning and renting cross country ski equipment in the park. Some trails have set tracks that make nordic ski sports easier and more enjoyable but there are backcountry trails where fresh snowfall will mean setting your own tracks. More work, but less trail traffic! Watch out for snowmobilers and snowshoers that also share the trail.
Nearby Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park present opportunities for cave exploration, or spelunking. The Boyden Cavern is located in Kings Canyon at the base of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. This is a magnificent marble cave with stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, pendants, and shields.
You can arrange to take the 50-minute cave tour which is accessible for all ability levels, including young and old and those with limited mobility. The cavern access is closed during the winter months from mid-November to April. Walking tours are available every hour during the summer months and you can book tickets ahead of time.