Owens River Road Dispersed Camping Guide

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Owens River Road is a popular dispersed camping area in Inyo National Forest near Mammoth Lakes, CA. Although camping here is a relatively straightforward affair, there are some key considerations to keep in mind.

This includes where camping is permitted, some of the nearby amenities, and the rules and regulations that come with dispersed camping along Owens River Road.

We break down all of that info and more in the following guide.

Owens River Road Dispersed Camping Guide

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Location & Overview

Owens River Road is located in Inyo National Forest, just off of Highway 375. Dispersed camping is permitted almost immediately off the highway, with numerous sites available on both sides of the road. The map below gives a general location for Owens River Road dispersed camping:

As you can see from the satellite map above, there are dozens of small pullouts off the main road that lead to small and secluded campsites. Most of these can be easily accessed by a variety of vehicles, including some sites for larger rigs.

The main road leads back to the developed Big Springs Campground, but you won’t want to head that far back. Inyo National Forest has defined area within its boundaries that specifically prohibit dispersed camping, and once you have reached the Big Springs Campground, dispersed camping is no longer permitted.

The best resource for checking if dispersed camping is permitted is the interactive online map provided by the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership. You can see the areas where dispersed camping is prohibited in red below, with Owens River Road highlighted yellow:

Map of dispersed camping along Owens River Road
Map of dispersed camping along Owens River Road. Map credit Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership.

As you can see on the map above, there are tons of small offshoots from Owens River Road. This is where the best campsites can be found.

Many sites are tucked back deep in the trees, giving a bit of privacy in an area that is very popular with dispersed campers. To get a sense of what camping here is like, check out some of the videos below:

Owens River Road Dispersed Camping – Rules & Regulations

Owens River Road is within Inyo National Forest, so the USFS regulations regarding dispersed camping apply. You can find a full list of them on the Inyo NF website, but we’ve outlined the key rules & regulations to be aware of below:

Other helpful dispersed camping rules that broadly apply include:

  • Keep your campsite small.
  • Use existing sites and fire rings when available.
  • Pick a site where vegetation is absent.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles – more on that below!

If you’re looking for additional information on dispersed camping in the region, check out our complete guide to dispersed camping in California. We also have several guides for dispersed camping in the Eastern Sierra, including:

Leave No Trace Dispersed Camping

One of the most important considerations when dispersed camping is to follow Leave No Trace principles. The wilderness here is fragile and it is our responsibility to minimize our impact and keep these areas open to future campers.

Here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping:

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare: Have an idea of where you’d like to camp and always be sure you are camping in an area that permits dispersed camping.
  • Travel & Camp on Durable Surfaces: Never camp on fragile ground or create a new campsite.
  • Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all of your trash and bury human waste away from water sources. Ideally, carry out human waste or use a portable toilet.
  • Leave what you find: Never take anything from your campsite. Other than trash of course!
  • Minimize campfire impacts: Never create new fire rings and only have fires if permitted.
  • Respect Wildlife: Properly store food at all times and be aware of the area’s wildlife.
  • Be considerate of Other Visitors: Pack out your trash, don’t be loud, and leave your campsite in better condition than you found it.

You can read more about the seven principles of Leave No Trace camping here.

Cell Service, Amenities, & More

Owens River Road is true dispersed camping, so you won’t find any amenities at your campsite. This means no water, no toilets, and no other services. Please plan accordingly and come prepared to be self-sufficient.

The closest town with services that are likely to suit campers is Mammoth Lakes, which is about a 20 minute drive from the camping area. You should find everything you may need there, including gas stations, grocery stores, and a couple of good outdoor stores.

You’ll find decent cell phone service along most of Owens River Road with most campers reporting between two and three bars for most carriers. As always, your mileage may vary.

What to Bring

You shouldn’t expect any amenities when dispersed camping on Owens River Road so you’ll need to come prepared to be self-sufficient.

While we’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs,  below are some of our essential items :

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – There isn’t a great water source on Owners River Road, so a good portable water container is a must.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is critical when camping. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Map – We prefer downloadable GPS maps via the Gaia GPS app. You can get 20% off your annual membership here.
Dispersed Camping Checklist

Our dispersed camping checklist has everything you need.

Want to know the essentials for your next camping trip?

Our dispersed camping checklist has all the camping essentials plus specific items for dispersed camping.

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Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan a great dispersed camping trip on Owens River Road in Inyo National Forest.

Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!

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