Although the "big pine" of local namesake
has disappeared, a majestic lone sequoia stands as a
beacon just north of the business district at the intersections
of Highways 395 and 168. The area around Big Pine, and
indeed the entire Owens Valley, was once a green, agriculturally
rich farming region. This changed in the early 1900's
when the Los Angeles water department began purchasing
riparian rights and developed a system of lakes and
aqueducts that slowly drained the area of its water
supply. Remnants of former irrigation canals and once
cleared lands are evident when traveling the vast network
of back roads throughout the area.
Well known to the thousands of skiers making the Los
Angeles to Mammoth drive (Big Pine is just about the
right distance from Mammoth to stop for one more cup
of coffee which will wear off just about the
time you arrive at Mammoth so you can go to sleep),
it's a place with a lot to offer beyond coffee and lunch.
To the south of Big Pine is the environmentally protected
Big Pine Volcanic Fields of Crater Mountain and numerous
red cinder cones and dark basaltic lava flows. Also
to the south, the steep, rocky cliffs of Sawmill Canyon
are a natural habitat of the Califomia Bighorn sheep,
a subspecies of the Rocky Mountain Sheep. Now a rare
and endangered species, the Bighorn population in the
Sierra Range is protected by the 41,000 acre Califomia
Bighorn Sheep Zoological Area established in 1972.
The Tinemaha Wildlife Viewpoint site overlooks an area
frequented by a herd of Tule Elk in the Owens Valley.
Black Rock and Fish Springs fish hatcheries both located
a short drive south of Big Pine distributes catchable
size trout throughout Inyo County. Just to the north
of Big Pine is Klondike Lake, great for swimming boating,
water skiing and wind surfing. Further to the north
halfway to Bishop is Keough Hot Springs, natural hot
pools named for an early pioneer family.
Above to the west is Palisade Glacier, the largest
in the Sierra and the most southern in the United States.
The paved road that heads in that direction ends at
Glacier Lodge, four USFS campgrounds and several hiker
parking areas. Trails and climbing routes are dispersed
through both the South Fork and North Fork of Big Pine
Canyon, connecting with the John Muir and Sierra Crest
Trails. Big Pine Canyon and Big Pine Creek boasts some
of the finest fishing in the Sierra. Big Pine lakes
in both the North and South Fork areas are brimming
with Brook, Brown, Rainbow and Golden trout.
||East of Big Pine, high in the
White Mountains, the ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
claims the world's oldest living things, the gnarled,
picturesque Bristlecone Pine. The oldest specimen
is estimated at 4,600 years. Cal Tech's Owen's Valley
Radio Telescopes can be observed in the distance
from Highway 395 north of Big Pine. The largest
of these measures 130 feet in diameter and can be
seen only a short distance into the park.