Hike or ski your way to this hidden gem tucked away in the John Muir Wilderness in the Eastern Sierra Nevada.

The Tuttle Creek Ashram is an abandoned stone building, "church" or place of enlightenment tucked away in the beautiful Eastern Sierra. Sitting at an elevation around 8000 feet, construction on the beautiful building was first started in 1928. The building took 20 years of hard manual labor to finish this amazing structure.

The story starts with philosopher Franklin Merrell-Wolf and his wife Sarah. The couple traveled to the lone pine area in the summer of 1926. The couple chose this area after speaking with an old Indian who's words resonated with Franklin. The Indian told Franklin the most spiritual place in a region is located at the highest point. Franklin being a very spiritual man, and Mt. Whitney being the highest point in the U.S. at the time, the couple decided to traveled to Owens Valley. During the time the very spiritual couple became inspired by the beautiful surrounding mountains and decided they wanted to create a place of worship and study for younger generations.

Initially Frankilin wanted to construct the building closer to the base of Mt.Whitney, but was granted approval further south in the Tuttle creek area. In 1928 Franklin started blasting away rock to create a foundation. As the rock pile grew, he had the idea to create his place of worship from the same mountainous material that inspired him. The couple made a road to haul up lumber, and today that is part of the modern trail.

The building sits between a split in Tuttle Creek surrounded by mountain vistas and a clear view of Owens Valley 4,000 feet below. Even the structure itself was built with spiritual meaning in mind. The building is orientated towards the four cardinal directions and in the shape of a balanced cross. The structure which took 20 summers to complete was never completely finished with glass windows or doors, but it does have a beautiful fireplace, alter and breath taking views.

The hike up can be as short as 2 miles round trip in summer, if you can drive the unimproved dirt road to the trail head. If you don't have four wheel drive or snow is covering the road, the hike could be as lone as 5 miles. A two wheel drive vehicle can make it decently far, but once the road starts to gain some elevation, I would park and start walking. The road only gets more narrow and difficult to navigate. I was able to make it up to around 6,800 feet about 1/4 from the end of the road with 4 wheel drive.

Once you are on the trail, it is very well marked as it follows Tuttle Creek west towards the mountains. You will initially be able to see the Ashram about a 1/2 mile into the trail. The stone structure blends right into the mountain side. Just a couple hundred yards from the Ashram, the trail turns right and crosses a small wooden bridge over the creek. If you stop at the bridge and look left/south, following the creek up the mountain, you will see a waterfall. Finish the short hike up and enjoy lunch in this hidden mountain sanctuary. The trail is also a starting point for much more hiking and skiing.

Directions: From Lone Pine, Ca, head west on Whitney Portal Rd for 3.1 miles until you reach Horseshoe Meadows Rd. Turn Left/South on Horseshoe Meadows rd. drive 2.1 miles (passing the Tuttle Creek Campground) to Granite View Dr. Turn right/west on Granite View Dr. and take Granite View for 2.5 miles to the Tuttle Creek Trail Road. There is a small brown sign for the Tuttle Creek trail. I was able to take this road for 2 more miles to a small turnout on the road, before snow blocked the rest of the way. 

Pack List

  • Backpack
  • Hiking Boots
  • AT Skis
  • Water
  • Cold Weather Gear in Winter
  • Sunscreen and Hat in Summer
  • Camera
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RT Distance 3 Miles
Elevation Gain 1500 Feet
Activities Skiing, Snowshoeing, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

A hike to a little Shangri La in the Sierras

We stayed at Tuttle Creek Campground and I was curious what was up the little dirt road I could see going into the mountains. I drove our Jeep to the upper parking area. The hike was very steep but the entire area is stunning. My GPS showed about a 4 mile round trip.


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