The Tungsten Hills are the low, reddish hills immediately west of Bishop. While they may be somewhat dwarfed compared to their much larger neighbors in the Sierras, they are highly worthwhile to visit and explore.
The name of the Tungsten Hills comes from the tungsten that was mined here, mainly starting during the First World War and continuing until the early Fifties. Tungsten here is found as scheelite, a translucent, gray, green, brown, or white mineral. Garnets have also been mined here. Both of these may still readily be found.
There are a great many minor peaks to bag, but only two have summit registers. Those are Tungsten Point and the unnamed Tungsten Hills high point, both of which are easily accessed over class 1 terrain. On the USGS 7.5' map they are marked as "Tungsten 5951" and "6361", respectively. Survey markers may be found on several of the peaks.
There are a variety of ways to get to the Tungsten Hills. Which one you use depends on where you're coming from and where you're going.
From the North:
From US 395, turn onto Sawmill Road, and then almost immediately right onto South Round Valley Road. After about two miles, turn left onto a dirt road. This road gets rougher after about three quarters of a mile, but there are plenty of places to park.
From the East
From either US 395 or from US 168 (East Line St), take Ed Powers Road. About a mile from 395 or one and a quarter mile from 168, turn west onto Tungsten City Road. Follow this, taking the most traveled road should a fork present itself, for just under two and a half miles. There is a large area to park here. The road does continue, but a four wheel drive vehicle past this point is recommended.
From the South
Take Buttermilk Road off of US 168 (East Line St). Several unpaved roads lead north from here. Immediately after the Buttermilks, a road continues past the parking area for the Buttermilks, through a gate, and toward the southwest side of the Tungsten Hills. This may be the easiest way to reach the high point (but I haven't tried it myself).
The Tungsten Hills are mostly BLM land, although the western part is located in the Inyo National Forest. There is no entry fee. According to the numerous signs, OHV travel is allowed on established roads (there are many), but not off of them.
For further information, both the Inyo National Forest and the BLM may be contacted at:
White Mountain Ranger Station
798 N. Main St.
Bishop, CA 93514
The station is open from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM all year, but only open Monday through Friday during the winter.
Both the BLM
and the Inyo National Forest
have websites with a good deal of useful information, though little of it pertains specifically to the Tungsten Hills.
When To Go
Summer is a bit hot, and there may be snow in the winter, but these hills are a year round destination.
Current ConditionsA weather forecast
is available for the Bishop area, and this will apply to the Tungsten Hills.
CalTrans provides up to date road information for US 395