Inyo Creek Fire Closes Whitney Portal, Hikers Evacuated

Hikers are being evacuated from Whitney Portal trailhead near the community of Lone Pine due to a wildfire in the area. The Inyo Creek Fire was discovered southeast of the trailhead on Saturday. Authorities believe it was started by lightning.

The fire was 97 acres and 0% contained on Monday but ballooned to 640 acres by Tuesday afternoon. Inyo National Forest and Cal Fire will coordinate under a Unified Command to fight the fire, which threatens both state and National Forest lands.

The National Forest is also working with Inyo County Sherriff’s office on road closures and evacuation efforts. On Monday, the Inyo County Sherriff’s Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for Olivas Ranch, Portal Preserve, and all residences on Whitney Portal Road north of Horseshoe Meadows Road. The order includes the Whitney Portal trailhead, Whitney Portal Campground, Meysan Lake Trailhead, and Lone Pine Campground. Whitney Portal Road at Horseshoe Meadows Road is closed.

Hikers who were evacuated from the Portal were allowed to drive away. However, according to Inyo National Forest, “people that have vehicles at the Portal and are getting a ride back to their vehicles will not be allowed up the road.” Those hikers had to abandon their vehicles at the trailhead. A vehicle retrieval operation had been planned for Tuesday morning, but the opportunity was canceled due to unsafe conditions.

Authorities are warning hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, John Muir Trail, and other Sierra footpaths not to attempt to exit the backcountry at Whitney Portal. According to InciWeb, “at this time through hikers that have planned to exit the Mt Whitney Trailhead should use a different exit point such as the Cottonwood Lakes Trailhead or Onion Valley. Hikers that have vehicles up at Whitney Portal should plan on another exit point.”

Emergency responders will continue to evacuate hikers who do exit the trail at Whitney Portal.

Mt. Whitney Permits Canceled Through 6/27

Mount Whitney is the tallest peak in the continental United States and is a popular hiking destination. It is the official southern terminus of the John Muir Trail and a popular side trip for PCT thru-hikers. Due to the popularity of the trail, foot traffic is tightly controlled by a quota system. Hikers must obtain a highly sought-after permit to make the trip.

Facebook users who were scheduled to summit Whitney through June 27th reported their permits being canceled and refunded due to the Inyo Creek Fire. The PCT remains open at this time.

The Inyo Creek Fire comes on the heels of the Alabama Fire, which ignited near Whitney Portal Road and Hogback Road on Friday. That fire forced the evacuation of Alabama Hills National Scenic Area near Lone Pine before being declared contained on Monday.

Featured image via Sandra and Dominic Martinez.

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