Onion Valley TH camping?

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Onion Valley TH camping?

Post by jtmann » Wed Jun 24, 2020 8:14 pm

Hi all,

Can I camp at the Onion Valley Trailhead and start my trip the next morning? Want to get acclimated and the developed campground is full. Thinking of going to Grays Meadow for a night, then up to Onion Valley and start hiking the next day.



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Re: Onion Valley TH camping?

Post by SSSdave » Thu Jun 25, 2020 10:29 am


Same question comes up for trailheads along the Eastern Sierra every year. Short answer in no it is verbotten. Is there a way online to understand where one can legally park overnight or camp within Inyo National Forest? No as Inyo has pushed a lot of that map stuff over to recreation dot gov that will only show such after receiving a permit. Instead the information is only on their official INF forest service map that I've taken a quick image of above. On that map the trailhead area has been obscured by the red icons so it is difficult to see where boundaries are though obviously cover that whole area. On that map area restricted areas are within the pink boundary.

Anyone dispersed camping about the Eastern Sierra needs to invest in that INF map that will show "restricted use areas” where one cannot disperse camp. Generally links on NF sites are annoyingly continually changing year to year and it is difficult to find information on current dispersed camping policy. Phoning the NF, one is not likely to connect with someone that can answer questions while visiting a NF Office will. So the NF doesn't seem to care enough to do anything about the situation as numbers that do so are minor and they have much larger issues to focus on with myriad other car campers. Generally these restricted use areas” are anywhere there are public campgrounds, residential areas, towns, infrastructure which is almost all the paved trailhead roads above sagebrush elevations. A gray area I recommend is instead tenting a ways up a trail well out of view, before reaching whatever wilderness boundary. To understand where current wilderness boundaries are use the caltopo dot com "Forest Service 2016 map" and not the 7.5' USGS topos that tend to be out of date.

Reality is one will frequently see a few people doing exactly what you are asking with tents set up beside their vehicles in trailhead parking lots and almost all are clueless as to policy. More often seen are those tossing down sleeping bags sans tents on the pavement. If FS personnel happens upon such they are sure to tell people to move on and unlikely will ticket unless someone has a foul vibe. However such is rare late at night or early in the morning. There are usually signs along trailhead paved roads relating camping is only allowed in public campgrounds. Otherwise all manner of RV's and others would be parking roadside for free avoiding the $35 camping fees, trashing, and causing problems.
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