Cottonwood Lakes, John Muir Wilderness, CA

  Cottonwood Lakes

Cottonwood Lakes and Mount Langley

Cottonwood Lakes Backpacking Trip Resources

Books and Maps

Sierra South is the leading resource for backpacking in the southern Sierra. Reliable maps facilitate trip planning and are invaluable in the back country.


Cottonwood Pack Station

For an extended stay at Cottonwood Lakes, consider having yourself packed into a base camp by Cottonwood Pack Station. They are located next door to the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead Campground. Contact owner Dennis Winchester at (760) 878-2015.

Wilderness Permits

A Wilderness Permit is required for each party camping overnight in the John Muir Wilderness. Since the Cottonwood Lakes area of the John Muir Wilderness is in the Inyo National Forest, obtain your permit from them. There are daily quotas for each trailhead, so obtaining a wilderness permit reservation is recommended.

The Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead is designated for 60 overnight backpackers per day. Thirty-six of those slots may be reserved ahead of time. The other 24 are set aside as walk-up permits, available after 11 AM the day before your departure. This is a popular trailhead in the summer and on weekends.

Permits can be reserved from 2 days up to 6 months prior to your departure. The permit reservation costs $5 per person in your party and $10 for a transaction fee. Wilderness permit reservations are handled by Obtain your permit at their website: - Inyo National Forest Wilderness Permits.
Arrange to pick your permit at one of these locations, no later than 10 AM the day of your departure (or call 1-2 weeks ahead of time to arrange late pickup).

  • Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center, Hwy. 395, 2 miles south of Lone Pine, CA
  • Mammoth Lakes Visitor Center, 2500 Main St., Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • White Mountain Ranger Station, 798 N. Main St., Bishop, CA
  • Mono Basin Scenic Area Visitor Center, Hwy. 395, North of Lee Vining

Backcountry Regulations for Cottonwood Lakes

  1. Bear canisters are required in Cottonwood Lakes area of the John Muir Wilderness.
  2. Campfires are not permitted around the Cottonwood Lakes or anywhere above 10,400 feet.