Last weekend I spent 4 days and 3 nights on a trip with a group to Saline Valley. It was hot and dry but inside the oasis that has been created by users over the years, temps were 10 degrees cooler than the surroundings plus shade. I blogged about it last year when I was out here before. It wasn’t so hot then. This time it was in the mid to upper 90s.

I was looking forward to 4 days with any need for clothing, along with the rest of my little group. It is one of those famous backwoods locations where the clothed and the nude mix without anxiety.

It is a six and a half-hour drive from where I live, N of Los Angeles. Straight up CA 14 to US 395, then a right onto CA190 at Olancha to Saline Valley Road. The last 3 hours are taken by the last 40 miles. It looks like a smooth gravel road in pictures but in reality, it is bone-jarring washboard interspersed with powdery road filled with sharp rocks. It behooves one to have high clearance, off road tires and at least one full-sized spare, to air one’s tires down to 20 psi, and to travel very slowly. In the winter, both the north and south pass entrances can be snowed in or mudded up. Then, 4WD and chains may be needed. And the road can be blocked at any time by rockfall.

Supposedly it is the most remote section of land in all of California.

Elevation of Saline Valley Road. Each line is another thousand feet above sea level. The passes can be cold while the valley bottom bakes.

My driver’s side mirror vibrated off and I had to reattach it. All it took was a Phillips screwdriver but how many people don’t even have that, let alone a full tool kit? This road is DEATH on tires. How do you feel about changing yours?


Many cars have bit the dust on this track. Massive, zero-visibility sand storms are possible at any time There are no services of any kind except for very limited tire repair by Lizard Lee at the springs. No cell service. You have a breakdown? You fix it yourself or you wait for a ride. In the summer that could be a very long, hot, wait. A tow will cost $2-3,000 out of Big Pine.

There is a tremendous amount of history I haven’t had a chance to visit. I need to get up there in the winter again. Ninety-five-degree heat just sucks any desire I have to explore right out of me.

Saline Valley salt tram

Idiot German tourists were determined to strand themselves in the desert on Lippincott Mine Road. I tried to talk them out of it but the male insisted on following the GPS in his rented sportscar. People with serious 4WD rigs who later cautiously crawled over this road did not see any stuck sportscars, so I suspect the guy managed to turn around when the going became impossible. He had already caused significant damage to his undercarriage and wasn’t willing to go back the way he came. If you want to see what the road offers, here is an article on the Dangerous Roads website:

Lippincott Mine Road

I have commented before on the stupidity of people who insist on following dirt tracks because their GPS said to do so.

Don’t be this guy!

We were strafed regularly by jets out of the China Lake Naval Weapons Station. Or at least I think it was. It is enough to make you jump out of your shoes. The lower runs made the water dance and the ground vibrate.

This location has been built little by little over the last century by users who love the place so much. Volunteers scrub the tubs out regularly and the outhouse is stocked by donations. There is a man nicknamed Lizard Lee who lives there full time and does upkeep. His income is nothing but gratuities and donations from visitors.

Big changes are coming since the Park Service expanded Death Vally NP to include this

This is known as the “sunrise” pool.

area. They seem to be hostile to their very existence. Sadly, the shady palms and the cool lawn (non-native species, you know) irrigated by used hot spring water as well as the permanent residence, will never be replaced. The permanent residence will be gone. Any structure that can’t be proven to be at least 50 years old will be gone. This is to preserve it in its “natural” state. The burros will be rounded up as an invasive species and relocated. Nobody is sure where.