Big Pine is located in the Owens Valley of California between the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountains, just west of the Owens River upstream of its diversion into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. It lies on U.S. Route 395, the main north-south artery through the Owens Valley, connecting the Inland Empire to Reno, Nevada. US 395 also connects Big Pine to Los Angeles via State Route 14 through Palmdale.
Although the "big pine" of local namesake has disappeared, a majestic lone sequoia stands as a beacon just north of the business district at the intersections of Highways 395 and 168. The area around Big Pine, and indeed the entire Owens Valley, was once a green, agriculturally rich farming region. This changed in the early 1900's when the Los Angeles water department began purchasing riparian rights and developed a system of lakes and aqueducts that slowly drained the area of its water supply. Remnants of former irrigation canals and once cleared lands are evident when traveling the vast network of back roads throughout the area. The Big Pine Band of Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Indians of the Big Pine Reservation operates their tribal headquarters from here.
Norman Clyde (April 8, 1885 – December 23, 1972) was a famous mountaineer, nature photographer, and self-trained naturalist. He is well known for achieving over 100 first ascents, many in California's Sierra Nevada and Montana. He also set a speed climbing record on Mount Shasta in 1923. In the 1950s and 1960s, he lived by himself at the old Baker ranch-house on Baker Creek near Big Pine. He also served as a caretaker of Glacier Lodge on Big Pine Creek and a fishing cabin owned by Lon Chaney Sr. in the Palisades above Big Pine.
Clyde spent many summers traveling about in the Sierra Nevada, bagging first ascents. He served as climbing leader at Sierra Club base camps where he became known as "the pack that walks like a man" because of the huge backpacks he carried. In addition to as many as five cameras, he carried a hammer and cobbler's anvil in order to make field repairs to client's boots.
To the West, Big Pine Canyon is heralded for having both the largest and southern most glaciers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Glacier Lodge Road leads high up Big Pine Creek into the Sierra, to lakes, hiking trails, fishing, and rock climbing underneath the Palisades Range and the Palisade Glacier. The Palisade Glacier, the largest in the Sierra and the most southern in the United States. The paved road that heads in that direction ends at Glacier Lodge, four USFS campgrounds and several hiker parking areas. Trails and climbing routes are dispersed through both the South Fork and North Fork of Big Pine Canyon, connecting with the John Muir and Sierra Crest Trails. Big Pine Canyon and Big Pine Creek boasts some of the finest fishing in the Sierra. Big Pine lakes in both the North and South Fork areas are brimming with Brook, Brown, Rainbow and Golden trout.
To the East, CA route 168 crosses the White Mountains over Westgard Pass to the basin and range province of Nevada, while Death Valley Road leads to Death Valley. The plaque beneath the young giant sequoia (pictured) at the road junction says it was planted in 1913 to commemorate the opening of Westgaard Pass to auto traffic. East of Big Pine, high in the White Mountains, the ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest claims the world's oldest living things, the gnarled, picturesque Bristlecone Pine. The oldest specimen is estimated at 4,600 years. Cal Tech's Owen's Valley Radio Telescopes can be observed in the distance from Highway 395 north of Big Pine. The largest of these measures 130 feet in diameter and can be seen only a short distance into the park. To the South East of Big Pine are the Eureka Sand Dunes.
To the south of Big Pine is the environmentally protected Big Pine Volcanic Fields of Crater Mountain and numerous red cinder cones and dark basaltic lava flows. Also to the south, the steep, rocky cliffs of Sawmill Canyon are a natural habitat of the California Bighorn sheep, a subspecies of the Rocky Mountain sheep. Now a rare and endangered species, the Bighorn population in the Sierra Range is protected by the 41,000 acre California Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area established in 1972.
The Tinemaha Wildlife Viewpoint site overlooks an area frequented by a herd of Tule Elk in the Owens Valley. Black Rock and Fish Springs fish hatcheries both located a short drive south of Big Pine distributes catchable size trout throughout Inyo County. Just to the north of Big Pine is Klondike Lake, great for swimming boating, water skiing and wind surfing. Further to the north halfway to Bishop is Keough Hot Springs, natural hot pools named for an early pioneer family.
By RV PARK
To the West, Big Pine Canyon is heralded for having both the largest and southern most glaciers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains