Flickr photo album link: flic.kr/s/aHBqjzEe1Z
The trip from the Saline Valley to Big Pine, California can be fairly easy going if the road is in good condition, which is usually not the case. Most of this dirt road is well maintained, but there are sections up in the mountains that are prone to snow and ice. After negotiating the snowy mountain pass, the dirt road passes through a section of pine and juniper forest that looks easy to traverse from a distance, but this section often is deep mud. There are a few vehicles that pass through on any given day, so if you get stuck on a muddy day, the chance of being rescued is not an impossible dream.
Past the muddy forest section, Saline Valley Road returns to being an easy going dirt road drive through the high desert. This old trail first runs through the Marble Canyon Mining Camp and onward to Highway 168. From there it is an easy downhill run to Big Pine, where civilization awaits. As mentioned earlier, Saline Valley Road is not usually a smooth easy gravel road trek and there are a few hazardous sections. For this reason, a high ground clearance vehicle is recommended and a 4x4 is a better choice.
The cold weather seasons are best for doing the complete 100+ mile Saline Valley Road tour, since the extreme heat of summer negatively affects vehicle reliability. The high desert mountain scenery with snow capped peaks along this travel route certainly is memorable. The Marble Canyon Mining Camp is a nice place for taking a break and there are enough structures standing to peak the interest. Most of the hard rock mine shafts have been sealed up for safety's sake, so the risk for children is minimized. Old mining camps of the west certainly are photogenic, so be sure to pack a camera when exploring this historic site.
Just beyond the mining camp is where the Inyo National Forest begins and there is plenty to explore in this unique federal property. Some of the destinations are listed in this website and four wheelers will be happy to know that there are many challenging travel routes through the foothills east of the Sierra Nevadas. When this towering wall of sky high mountains first comes into full view near the end of the Saline Valley journey, it definitely will be a breathtaking experience, so plan on taking the time to absorb the majestic views!
This is the last blurb in the series of Saline Valley Road articles that were published in early 2023. I had to take a long break from writing, so I do apologize for the delay in finishing this series. Part of the delay was due to starting the new Destination West Org YouTube channel, which will feature time lapse videos, nature slideshows and destination presentations. On the flip-side, the lengthy hiatus may have been a good thing for one reason and that is flash floods. The 2023 summer monsoon season caused extensive damage in the entire Death Valley region and the Mojave Desert. Many roads are still closed and some of the dirt trails have been washed away. It will take several years to clean up the flash flood damage and this national park still has limited access as of October, 2023. Unfortunately most of the remaining travel articles that I need to publish feature destinations in this area. For this reason, it will be best to check on travel conditions for the remote dirt roads before making travel plans in the entire Death Valley region.
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