Russell is located on the Sierra Crest, which in this area marks the boundary between the John Muir Wilderness, the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park; and the boundary between Inyo County and Tulare County. It rises just southwest of Tulainyo Lake, one of the highest and largest of the high alpine lakes of the southern Sierra.
Mount Russell sees far less traffic than its much more famous neighbor Mount Whitney. However, since its southern and eastern slopes fall in the Mount Whitney Zone of the Inyo National Forest, these approaches are governed by stricter access limits. From May to October, only ten people per day are permitted to enter the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek for overnight use. Day-use climbers are grouped with the Whitney Main Trail day-use quota. This puts climbers on Russell's most common approaches in competition with climbers on Whitney's popular Mountaineer's Route, and also with the Main Trail users