South Sierra Wilderness
Map showing the location of South Sierra Wilderness
Map showing the location of South Sierra Wilderness
LocationTulare and Inyo counties, California, United States
Nearest cityRidgecrest, California
Coordinates36°11′01″N 118°06′03″W / 36.18361°N 118.10083°W / 36.18361; -118.10083
Area62,700 acres (254 km2)
Governing bodyUnited States Forest Service

The South Sierra Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area in the Southern Sierra Nevada, in eastern California. It is located 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Bakersfield, and is southwest of Owens Lake and Olancha.


Created with the passage of the California Wilderness Act of 1984 by the U.S. Congress, the South Sierra Wilderness is 62,700 acres (254 km2)[1] in size. It is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and within Sequoia National Forest and Inyo National Forest.

The South Sierra Wilderness is the southernmost Forest Service-managed section of a continuous chain of wilderness areas protecting the Sierra Nevada crest from Walker Pass to Lake Tahoe.

Elevations range from about 6,100 feet (1,900 m) near Kennedy Meadows, up to 12,132 feet (3,698 m) at Olancha Peak.[2] The Wild and Scenic South Fork of the Kern River bisects the wilderness on the east side, in a north–south direction.


Wildlife includes the large Monache mule deer herd, the sensitive Sierra Nevada red fox, pine martens, mountain lions, and American black bears.


See also: List of plants of the Sierra Nevada (U.S.)

Two very different landscapes with distinct habitats are protected within the South Sierra Wilderness:

Rare California native plants observed in the area are Kern ceanothus (Ceanothus pinetorum), a locally endemic shrub found on slopes in pine and red fir forests, at elevations between 5,000 and 9,000 feet (1,500 and 2,700 m). Ceanothus pinetorum is not currently state or federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, but is considered by the California Native Plant Society as "uncommon enough that their status should be monitored regularly".[3]

Rare wildflowers include Kern Canyon clarkia (Clarkia xantiana ssp. parviflora) and goosefoot yellow violet (Viola pinetorum ssp. grisea), both are also endemic to California.

Recreational activities

Recreational activities include backpacking, day hiking, fishing, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing and snowshoeing. The majority of trail users are summer grazing allotment permittees, and autumn hunters.

Hiking trails

There are six trailheads leading into the wilderness, and one campground, Kennedy Meadows, providing access to:

See also


  1. ^ acreage data
  2. ^ "Olancha". NGS Data Sheet. National Geodetic Survey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce. Retrieved 2009-07-02.
  3. ^ "List 4: A Watch List". The CNPS Ranking System. California Native Plant Society (CNPS). Retrieved 2009-07-09.


Adkinson, Ron Wild Northern California, The Globe Pequot Press, 2001