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Piper Mountain Wilderness
IUCN Category Ib (Wilderness Area)
Map of the United States
Location Inyo County, California
Nearest city Bishop, California
Coordinates 37°19′22″N 117°55′37″W / 37.32278°N 117.92694°W / 37.32278; -117.92694Coordinates: 37°19′22″N 117°55′37″W / 37.32278°N 117.92694°W / 37.32278; -117.92694
Area 72,575 acres
Established 1994
Governing body Department of the Interior / Bureau of Land Management

The Piper Mountain Wilderness is a federally designated wilderness area located 20 miles (32 km)
northeast of Big Pine, California. It was created by the 1994 California Desert Protection Act and encompasses 72,575 acres (293.70 km2)[1] of Great Basin wildlands. Because the Piper Mountain area received federal protection so recently, the 19 miles (31 km) of trail are actually closed four-wheel drive roads. There are three separate units of the wilderness, separated by vehicle corridors, with elevations from 3,430 feet (1,050 m) to 8,805 feet (2,684 m). The landscape is characterized by steep mountains, narrow canyons, sloping alluvial fans and level floodplains. It includes a subrange of the Inyo Mountains called the Chocolate Mountains, a northwestern section of the Last Chance Range and the upper end of Eureka Valley which is immediately north of Death Valley National Park.

Recreational opportunities are day-hiking and backpacking with solitude almost guaranteed as the wilderness is very lightly used. The Bureau of Land Management oversees the Piper Wilderness and does not require any permits for visitors.



The vehicle corridors that break the Piper Wilderness into three parts were a concession made when the area was added to the California Desert Protection Act.
The western section is the largest of the three and includes the east side, the steep west side and the crest of the Chocolate Mountains subrange.
The central section is separated from the western portion by a road linking State Route 168 to Death Valley Road. A colorful and deeply dissected bahada rising to a subrange of the Last Chance Mountains characterize the central section.
The last and smallest section of the wilderness is separated from the central portion by Loretto Mine Road and Horse Thief Canyon and is a continuation of the Last Chance subrange with its border being the Eureka Valley Road and Death Valley National Park.

The highest peaks of the wilderness are in the Chocolate Mountains and include Mount Nunn (7,815 feet[2]) and Lime Hill (6,532 feet[3]). The wilderness's namesake Piper Mountain (labeled 'Chocolate Mountain' on topo maps) rises to an elevation of 7,546 feet (2,300 m)[4].

Flora and fauna

Desert vegetation include coarse shrubs of cresote in the valleys and shadscale, littleleaf horsebrush, cliffrose, desert-olive and Mormon tea on the higher elevations. North-facing high elevation slopes are studded with pinyon pine and juniper. Within the wilderness grows one of the northernmost stands of Joshua tree, at the base of the Inyo Mountains. Rare wildflowers include black milkvetch (Astragalus funereus), and the cactus redspined fishhook cactus or Mojave fish hook cactus (Sclerocactus polyancistrus), which grows in Joshua tree "woodland" communities.

There are three areas within the wilderness that are habitat for the bighorn sheep.

Water and recreation

Water is the single most limiting factor when exploring this desert wilderness. Caching water is possible in many locations because of the road corridors through the area. The majority of visitors are students from Deep Springs College in Deep Springs Valley, located between highway 168 and the western edge of the wilderness. Most often hiked is the deep notch of the Soldier Pass Canyon which extends east to west in the Chocolate Mountains. ( Maps dating to 1879 show a "Soldier Pass" label.) [5] The eastern face of the Chocolate Mountains rise 2,000 feet (610 m) above the canyon mouth with the canyon narrowing as it rises in elevation. The broad saddle of Soldier Pass is gained after 3.2 miles (5.1 km) and is at an elevation of 5,500 feet (1,700 m).

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) encourages the practice of Leave No Trace principles of wilderness travel to help protect the fragile desert environment.

See also


Environmental ethics


  1. ^ Text of bill from Library of Congress website accessed 9-4-08
  2. ^ United States Geological Survey(USGS) Feature Detail Report
  3. ^ 9 USGS Feature Detail Report0
  4. ^ USGS Feature Deatail Report}
  5. ^ Adkinson, Ron p.102


External links



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