Directions to Swansee - Cerro Gordo Trail: Difficulty Rating 2
Travel North on Interstate 15 then Hwy 395 approximately 300 miles to Lone Pine CA.
The trail is suitable for near stock vehicles but will be a challenge for those vehicles and/or novice drivers. You will be in very remote territory with a harsh climate so be prepared for both cold and hot weather at any season. There is little or no water available on the mountain so bring plenty. This trail should not be tried alone. I would recommend at least 31” tires.
The trail begins about 10 miles east of Lone Pine CA on Hwy 136 at N36 31.462 W117 54.324. Look for a Historical Marker on the south side of the road describing the steamship that once carried oar across Owens Lake. Nearby are the ruins of an old log building. On the other side of the road is an occupied house with a dirt road beside it. Take the dirt road. A few hundred yards up the road you will see the Swansea to Cerro Gordo Trail sign. Follow the trail to the top of the mountain. At any intersections stay on the most well traveled trail. The trail will climb steeply from about 5,000 ft to the top of the Inyo Mountains at over 9,000 ft. As you go up you will pass through several different zones of vegetation as well as begin to see large towers built of wood that were the supports for the Salt Tram that operated in the area in the early 1900’s. The trail will travel in a northerly direction with many switchbacks and rocky, steep climbs. As you reach the top of the mountain there will be a large open meadow. You will come to an intersection @ N36 37.569 W117 54.863 with a road turning sharply to the right as well as one continuing more or less straight heading further to the north. The trail to the north ends about a mile further at an old cabin and the Burgess Mine @ N36 37.932 W117 55.032 which is worth visiting. The trail back south is the main trail. Follow that trail for several miles until you reach the Salt Tram Transfer Station @ N36 36.474 W117 51.211. Along the way there are many scenic vistas to both the east (Saline and Death Valley) and to the west (Owens Valley and the Sierras). I highly recommend camping at the Salt Tram Station. The sunrise from there is spectacular!
Continue to the south stopping at scenic areas along the way. Along the way you will see ruins of mines on the sides of the mountains. At one point you will descend a couple of thousand feet into a valley before climbing back to your level. This is probably the most challenging part of the trail.
Just before sighting the ghost town of Cerro Gordo you will come to a section of the road that is very narrow with steep cliffs on the sides. There are very few places to pass. If you are traveling in a large group I suggest sending a point man ahead to see the road is clear. This section is perhaps a mile long and it would be difficult to back up a group for a mile if you were to encounter someone going the opposite direction.
As you come to the end of the narrow section you will soon sight the town of Cerro Gordo several hundred feet below your road.
After visiting Cerro Gordo you can easily descend the mountain down a well graded county road to the community of Keeler which is on Hwy 136 @ N36 29.347 W117 52.237.