Big Pine Creek Campground, surrounded by sprawling meadows and towering trees, is perfectly situated in the scenic Big Pine Canyon. Campsites are perched along the cool, fish-filled waters of Big Pine Creek. Big Pine Canyon is heralded for having both the largest and southern most glaciers in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The campground sits at 7,700 feet elevation among vegetation like Jeffrey pine, sagebrush, aspen and cottonwood trees.
The creek and nearby Big Pine Lakes are great for fishing. Both water spots have rainbow, brown and brook trout.
The North Fork Trail gives hikers access to Big Pine Lakes and the Palisade Glacier. The trail climbs past waterfalls and zigzags through Jeffrey pine, manzanita and sage before it reaches Big Pine Lakes.
This is a family-friendly and pet-friendly campground. Some campsites boast creek-front access, and each site accommodates a maximum of six campers. Vault toilets are provided for basic conveniences. Firewood is sold on-site.
Big Pine Canyon is heralded for having both the largest and southern most glaciers in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Palisade Glacier, the largest, sits above Big Pine Lakes. These impressive glacial lakes at around 10,000 feet elevation are the source of the North Fork of Big Pine Creek. The South Fork is bordered by the Palisade Crest with peaks over 14,000 feet and Middle Palisade Glacier, the southernmost glacier.
Glaciers in the nearby John Muir Wilderness make an exciting hiking destination. A commercial pack station is within close proximity for horse enthusiasts looking for an outdoor adventure. A general store, pay showers and pond fishing can be found at a nearby resort.
ADA Access: N
Try to get a spot along the creek! Nice and quiet. Great fishing and hiking! Don’t miss hiking up the North Fork of Big Pine Creek to the upper lakes! Beautiful!!!!
For what this campground lacks in bathhouses it makes up for in one of the most spectacular hikes I have ever been on. This is a pretty remote campground tucked away in the Muir Wilderness, you will not have service and will want to bring in all the supplies you will need. Aside from that it is a great little oasis. Campsites vary with privacy and you will notice that the ones that have the most privacy are usually reserved for as long as possible. They only have pit toilets and a water spigot. There is a little camp shop where you can buy a hot shower for $6, a bit steep and not all that great but if you are in need of a shower that’s the place to go. The deer roam all around the camp ground so be on the lookup for them strolling through your camp. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, tent pad, and bear box.
The Big Pine Lakes or as the locals call them “Lake 1, Lake 2, Emerald Lake, Lake 4 etc.” But these lakes deserve a name because they are absolutely breath taking. While we stopped at Lake 2 believing this was actually “Emerald Lake”, we were still not disappointed with the unreal colors that these glacier lakes have. The hike up was a bit strenuous and you are in the open hot sun for a while so wear sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself but take this hike because it is 100% worth it.
CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Big Pine Creek Campground, CA
As we traveled up Rt 395, along the Eastern Sierras, we searched for a campground offering trails into the wilderness…but also one with a shower, as they seem to be a rare commodity…and our last campground was primitive.
Reviews stated Big Pine Creek had showers and modern restrooms, so we drove through the night arriving at 7:00 Sunday morning…hoping for an available site. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
Turns out, the camper at site 2, beside the Host site, was packing up…so we claim jumped the site. Also turns out…after we paid $22 for the night…Big Pine Creek Campground does not have showers, nor modern restrooms.
So, to set the record straight…there are vault latrines and a river of cold glacier runoff of roughly 40F degrees. However, next to Big Pine Creek Campground is Glacier Lodge (they share the same entrance road and is privately owned)…and they will rent you a shower for $5/5 minutes. For that $5 shower, you can use the modern toilet.
Don’t let that run you off, though. We loved Big Pine Creek Campground. The sites are spacious and the backdrop is gorgeous. Not many campgrounds offer stellar trails into the Inyo John Muir Wilderness…more on that later. Mule deer roam between campsites, ground squirrels and magpies are everywhere. We also noted a resident lizard.
Most sites are somewhat tiered because of the sloped terrain. Site 2 parking pad was large enough for our SUV, but little else. You have a large bear resistant locker in front of a large fixed picnic table, situated on a large, raised, leveled pad that also has the fire pit. Up a few steps is the raised timber tent pad. Numerous large pines and smaller hardwoods populate the sites. Our neighboring site was visible with little obstruction, but was occupied by a delightful French family on holiday, that we enjoyed.
Big Pine Creek Campground is often filled with campers from all over the world and makes for interesting conversations.
Drinking water was a little walk. Last year’s winter had an avalanche destroy their water lines, so others were rerouted. No electric. Also, no cell service. Perfect for unplugging, relaxing and meeting your fellow campers.
There is a trout pond near the entrance that folks were capitalizing on. They were also fishing the creek. The glacier fed creek is cold…like 38 degrees cold. The trails…in a word…Epic!
The North Trail was incredible. We started late and only went to the first and second of seven alpine glacier lakes. The water is so emerald green, it’s surreal. We hiked out and back in 6.5 hours, taking an hour respite for a polar bear plunge in the near freezing lake. I was advised we missed the most beautiful third lake…also referred to as Emerald Lake. The North Fork Trail into The John Muir Wilderness does require permits for backcountry camping…an easy process and well worth it…https://www.recreation.gov/permits/JohnMuirTrailNorthOfDevilsPostpile_Aa10/r/entranceEntryExitDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72203&entranceId=315543&permitTypeId=1009473747&entryType=1
Of note, along the way is Lon Chaney’s (of Frankenstein, Werewolf and Hunchback of Notre Dame movie fame) backcountry cabin. Lon Chaney would bring guests back by horse and mule train. Upon his passing, it was gifted to the parks.
One horse/mule train passed us on the trail, returning after they deposited their riders and goods out into the wilderness.
The host couple were very helpful and a joy to glean local and trail information from.
A wonderful campground to visit.
primitive sites, no drinking water, terrible roads…good fishing, great views, teeming with deer, birds small animals
We stayed at Big Pine Creek Campground the second weekend of August. Weather was great, not nearly as hot as we'd expected. Arrived at the campgrounds on Saturday in the late afternoon about 2 hours after the check in time with no issues.
The campground is very well kept. Bathrooms are in good condition, plenty of toilet paper, no horrible smells or messes. The site we stayed in (9) was really unique with a huge stone fireplace in the middle. There is one designated area for tents which we fit one 2 person and one 4 person tent in. A third tent could have gone in the stone area and/or by the parking spot. Not much room for a second car in the site. Only major downside was minimal trees on this particular site for setting up hammocks.
Everyone was super friendly. The guy who runs the campgrounds invited us over to the main campfire area where they had bbq, karaoke and smores. We came by for some smores and it was a fun time. Oh also there is a small trout pond where a lot of people were fishing during the day so plenty to do on the campgrounds.
BPC is a classic spot that has access to some amazing hikes with stunning views. The bathrooms are solid, but unfortunately running water was knocked out by an avalanche last winter. They are working on repairs but there was no timeline for when that will be fixed. Be sure to bring bug spray as this spot does get quite a few mosquitoes. There’s a small store nearby that offers the essentials and some tasty tri-tip sandwiches if you’re lucky to snag one. There’s also a fun fishing pond for the kids!
Great spot to start out for Big Pine Lakes. Wasn't too noisy, parking was easy and roads were easy to follow. Rangers were helpful.
Basic campsites. Try to get a site along the creek.
This was our first time at BPCC and it was a great experience. The facilities were very well kept, clean bathrooms and excellent service from the hosts Steve and Annie. Our campsite (017) was well taken care of and we really appreciated the compact, unique feel of the site. Even more so because it felt separate from other sites. We could see that there was room for additional sites, but appreciated that it was kept more private. Wood was about $1-2 per bundle more expensive than other National Forest sites we've been in & the nearby town. The adjacent camp/rv park Glacier Lodge wasn't quite as well cared for really helped set the quality of BPCC apart.
There was a trout stream/river running right through the camp (and a trout pond in Glacier Lodge at the entrance of the park. The water was continually rushing and made for some great sleeping noise. The campsite is literally teeming with wildlife. We had deer, birds, small animals and fish all around us. It is bear country but according to the hosts no bear have been spotted this season much less in camp causing a ruckus.
The draw to Big Pine Creek Campground is the hike to glacial lakes 1-7. We hiked to lakes 1 & 2 and it was EPIC. The hike is uphill and hardish but the trail very well maintained and worth it. We were advised that it would take about an hour per mile (4.5 miles to the 1st two lakes) on the way there and about half that on the way back, but we made it out in about 2.5 hours of consistent hiking. The estimates were fairly conservative assuming you'd be stopping often. The hike back was accurate.
You can also apply for a backcountry camping overnight pass which we plan to do next time. They only offer 25 per night so definitely check into it, but you can camp near the first lakes and hike further. The entire loop (all 7 lakes) hike is estimated at 12 hours. We will be visiting again soon.