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Offroading Coyote Flat

For those not familiar with the area Coyote Flat is located due southwest from Bishop. It's a large open plateau located at about 10K feet, with a network of rough gravel tracks that snake their way through the hills in all directions. It's bordered by the Owens Valley on East, the Valley in which South Lake is located on the west, and Glacier Lodge Road is to the south. You get great views of the Palisades, Inconsolables and the Sierra Crest. There is an old air strip that was used by military in the 40's-60's to do high altitude testing away from the prying eyes of the general public. If you have a vehicle that is capable you can drive pretty much up to the top of the ridge north of Green Lake to make a nice short hike out of Vagabond Peak, Cloudripper & Sky Haven.

I'm taking a group of friends up to this area to dispersed camp and explore the roads, old mines and lakes over the 4th of July weekend. Having never been up to the Flat before I thought it best to do a recon run to scope out the best campsites and get some boots on the ground info about trail conditions. I met up with a fellow Land Rover owner in Bishop on Saturday and proceeded to escape the heat and head up Coyote Valley Road to the Flat. We started up the hill around 13:00, eager to leave the heat of the Owens Valley below.

On Saturday we concentrated on the north western part of the area, first driving up past the remains of the Salty Peterson Tungsten Mine and then checking out the area around Coyote Lake. From the ridgeline due south of the Dry Coyote Lake bed you can look down onto the basin where Rocky Bottom Lake is located and lived up to its name with no water present. You can also see the area near Funnel Lake from this vantage point, but due to the headwall on the north west shore of Funnel Lake you cant see the lake itself from this point. With that done we backtracked to the main road and headed north towards Lookout Mountain initially, driving on the established tracks through meadows and stands of pine trees then contouring around the north end of Coyote Ridge and heading south to where we explored Schober Mill and & Mine sites which are due east up the hill side from South Lake Road. All that remains at the mill site is an old tin cabin and the mine site itself had a bit of mining errata spread here and there. With that leg of the open trail checked out we proceeded back the way we came and at the next main junction in the track we proceeded to switchback up the west side of Coyote Ridge and then followed the meandering track south as it undulated over the tops of the ridglines and plunged down to the valleys below. Finally after a little bit more of a climb and pushing through some small patches of snow that remained in the shadows we finally crested the hill and came to where the road ends, due north of Green Lake. A few of us are planning on day hiking Vagabond and Cloudripper on Sunday the 3rd so I wanted to make sure the track was clear all the way to the end where we plan on parking and heading up and catching the trail that comes up from Green Lake across the plateau. We stopped here and let my friends dog out to run around for a bit, and braced ourselves against the stiff winds that were blowing. At this point it was now 18:00 and we needed to retrace the track back the way we came to make it to Funnel Lake where we planned to camp for the evening. It's funny how the first time you go somewhere new it seems to take forever, but on the way back it seems much shorter even though it's taken the same amount of time. I find this to be true whether i'm driving or hiking and such was the case here as the drive back down Coyote Ridge, past Coyote Lake, Salty Peterson's mine and the track next to Coyote Creek seemed to fly by. Now we were heading south on the main track onto the Flat proper. We got about midway down and then reached the northern track that leads to Funnel Lake. The track started fine, then slowly deteriorated to the point while still an obvious track it was littered with rocks the size of volley balls which made the final 2 miles into Funnel Lake very slow going. We finally arrived at Funnel lake to find we had the entire area all to ourselves right before Sunset. The high clouds which had lingered all day and promised to make an impressive sunset to photograph blew out within the last hour of daylight and left us with a clear sky as it got dark. We setup camp, ate dinner, and had some scotch and cigars around a small campfire in one of the established fire rings. My compatriot David was feeling the altitude and decided to call it a night at about 10:00 just as the moon was rising over the ridgline. I stayed up and started t read a book I picked up at the Visitor Center in Lone Pine and tended the fire until it burned down to a point it could be easily extinguished around midnight. When I finally retired to my tent I checked the temp and at that point it was 38 degrees.

We awoke at 6:00 to bluebird skies, a little wind and the temp already up to 50 degrees. We ate breakfast, packed up camp and gave the trucks a once over before heading out. My compatriot needed to replace the bolts that held his drive shaft to his rear diff so he sorted that and we were underway at by 8:30. We proceeded to exit Funnel Lake via the southern track which while rough, was a much easier drive out than the route we took in. Finally back onto the main flat and crossing the end of the old air strip I saw some movement in the scrub brush to my right. I stopped and spotted a Badger out and about. Was neat to see one in the wild. We continued south down the flat towards Baker Creek to check out possible campsites near there. My friend was still feeling a bit off due to the altitude so he stayed near where the track crosses a creek on a bridge and I went ahead by myself to scope out the campsites. The views at this point were stunning with Middle Pal and Norman Clyde Peak and the associated Glaciers peaking out from the south side of Mt. Alice and Mt. Sill popping up above the ridgeline of Sky Haven with Cloudripper and Vagabond Peak looming over the valley where Baker Creek ran. With the campsites checked out I headed back the way I came to meet back up with my friend and head north up the flat towards the exit down the hill  back to Bishop. Near the north end  of the flat there was one more possible campsite that I went and checked out which ended up being the perfect place, flat with plenty of room, surrounded by foxtail and lodgepole pines which ringed which at one time was a small pond, but now has turned into a meadow. With the last place checked off of our list we went back down the rough track of Coyote Valley Road switchbacking our way down the hill until we were back down to Bishop. We fueled up at Vons, grabbed a bite to eat and then headed back down the 395 and 14 home to the LA area.

All in all a great trip and a wonderful area to explore. Cant wait to get back up there to see some of the other areas that had to be bypassed due to time constraints.

A few pics:

Looking across the valleys where South Lake and Sabrina Lake are located, with the Sierra crest spreading as far as the eye can see..

Green lake with Vagabond peak being the highest peak to the left.

Looking south along Coyote Ridge

Funnel Lake

There be Badgers!!!

Long pano going from south to north with the Palisades, Inconsolable Range and Coyote Ridge visible.

Cloudripper on the Left and Vagabond Peak on the right.

View across the south end of the meadow to the Palisades and the Middle Pal & Norman Clyde Glaciers to the left and Mt. Sill sticking up from behind the ridgeline of Sky Haven.

Looking south across the meadow towards a nice campsite area nestled within the foxtail and lodgepole pines:

Coyote Flat

Really nice pictures! This board doesn't get many off-roading reports. Thanks for posting the different perspective.

Love that area. The badger is a great find and photo! He doesn't look too friendly, though. I didn't know you could drive all the way up to Coyote Flat. Good info for the future.

Thanks! I got my truck in order to get further off the beaten path and get access to trail heads and camping areas that arent frequented by people with normal cars. So far it has worked out great. We're going to bag Vagabond and Cloudripper on Sunday morning. Being able to drive to the end of the track above Green Lake cuts off a couple of miles of uphill climb and makes a short 7 mile day hike pretty painless.

The badger was neat to see in the wild. Funny little critter - he would turn towards the truck, flatten himself out, raise his rump and bare his teeth making a threat display. He would then turn walk about 5-10 feet and do it all over again.

Great Pictures! Nice tg see Cloud Ripper with snow!

So what is a suitable vehicle?  8" clearance and AWD do the trick?  Or full-on low gear transfer case?

I have a list of hikes that have to wait for my very next vehicle  Sad
Uncle Rico

Stunning pics.  Shocked Great report psykokid.

Thanks for the kind words everyone. We went back up with a group of 8 land rovers over the 4th of july weekend. We left the LA area around 7 on Friday morning and rendezvoused with the group at Vons in Bishop around 12:30.

A pretty uneventful drive up to the flat. An LR3 on the trip vapor locked at around 9K feet because it has a non return fuel system so we manually vented his fuel rail via the schrader valve and continued on.  Or original plan was to camp at a site that is pretty much in the middle of the flat, on a little rise that is ringed with foxtail and lodgepole pines. Turns out someone beat us to the site so we continued on to the south end of the flat and set up camp for the weekend at the end of the road at Baker Creek. The meadow and creek are due north of Sky Haven and east of Cloudripper and Vagabond.

Friday night my son started not feeling all that great. We werent sure if it was something he had eaten, the altitude, or a combination of both. Around 9 or so when I came to bed he started tossing his cookies. The next morning he was still feeling crappy so my wife and kids stayed at camp hoping some rest would sort my son out. I rode shotgun with one of the guys on the trip and explored an old tungsten mine, some side trails that went off here and there, and an old ranchers cabin. We stopped for lunch on the north end of Coyote Ridge at about 11K feet with a great view across to Table Mountain, Mt. Darwin, Mt. Humphreys, and Mt. Tom. With lunch sorted we made the drive back to camp. Upon returning to camp around 3 my son was still feeling pretty crappy. Nausea, lack of appetite, headache and just feeling generally crappy - hallmarks of altitude sickness. So with his condition not improving within 24 hours my wife and I made the call to pack up camp and head down the mountain. With everything packed up we said our goodbyes to the rest of the group and headed home. I was a bit bummed because we had planned to hike Vagabond and Cloudripper the next morning. Cest la vie, the mountains will be there next time.

I talked to my friends on the 4th after they broke camp and headed down the hill and got back on the grid. The rest of the trip went well. 2 of my friends from the group got up early and bagged Vagabond and Cloudripper. One guy who was up there with his wife day hiked from camp up to the bench above green lake, where they met the rest of the group that had taken the long way around on the track and where the two who were peak bagging that day had left their trucks.

Here's a few more pics:

Getting off the pavement and ready to head up the hill:

Looking west across the flat:

Headstock for the Salty Peterson Tungsten Mine:

Friends Heading up to the trailhead Sunday morning:

Looking back from the shoulder of Vagabond peak towards Green Lake:

From the summit of Cloudripper looking south over the Big Pine Lakes and the Palisades: Forum Index -> Sierra Nevadas
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