Farther Afield Places to go
We who live here consider Ridgecrest “just remote enough” to keep away from the maddening crowds – they’re just far enough away. We have clean air, bright sun, 5 min. traffic jams twice a day…. what a deal! But sometimes you really do need something from “the big city” – On the other hand, we’re close to pretty places too – closer than city people!
1.5 hrs. from Lancaster, Palmdale, Bishop
2 hours from: Bakersfield, Stovepipe Wells, DV
3 hours from Los Angeles, Mammoth Lakes
4 hours from San Diego, Las Vegas, Tonopah and the Nevada gold fields
5+ hrs. from – Reno area
6+ hours from the Bay Area.
3 hrs. from – Afton Canyon, Mojave National Preserve, Providence Mountains SRA
*south on Hwy 395 to Kramer Junction (4 Corners). East on Hwy 58 to Barstow. North on Interstate 15 for 20 miles. Turn south at Ransor Road/Afton Canyon exit. 3 miles of dirt road.
The Mojave River flows on the surface all year here through this canyon. Visit a delightful desert riparian area. BLM campground with tables, shade, water, toilets. The Union Pacific tracks come through here, and a train bridge crosses the Mojave river. Catch polliwogs, watch birds, etc. Many 4x4 roads in the area! http://digital-desert.com/afton-canyon/
Mojave National Park/Preserve– (3 hrs from Ridgecrest)
*approach from Barstow and Baker on Int 15 or from Essex on Int 40 out of Barstow. See San Bernardino County map!
This huge section of the Eastern Mojave Desert was set aside as Mojave National Preserve (a National Park with hunting allowed) by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. There are magnificent lava fields, huge Joshua Tree forests, many springs, the Kelso Sand Dunes, the largest dune system in California, and, when conditions are correct, these dunes “sing,” the 1928 Spanish style Kelso Train Depot Info Center, open every day 9-5 p.m; displays, bookstore, and “The Beanery” serving sandwiches and ice cream. Traveling east-west is the 4x4 “the old government road” – the freight and mail crossing before the trains came. many, many other things to investigate. The entire area is magnificent and well worth exploring!! 2 campgrounds are available with water in summer – Hole in the Wall, at 4000 ft; Mid Hills campground at 5600 ft. No other services are available. Dispersed camping is allowed at “traditionally used place”. Visitor Center at Hole In the Wall 760 928-2572 and the Kelso Depot. No gas!! Gas up in Baker or in Ludlow. http://www.nps.gov/moja
Included within the Preserve is the
Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell Caverns Unfortunately, this state Park was a victim of budget cuts and has been closed – and now vandalized! ARG.
Real limestone caves you could have toured!! Labor Day through Memorial Day tours are at 10, 1:30, and 3 on weekends, 1:30 weekdays, and during the summer (it’s at 5000 ft. so it’s not all that hot up there and the caves are 65°F all year), tours are at 1:30 on weekends. Fee. 760 928-2586 Vandals have caused a lot of damage to the old stone visitor center, so it may be a while before this treasure is open for visitors again. how sad! It is a gem!! http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=615
4 hours from – Joshua Tree National Park, Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park , Carrizo Plains National Monument, Mono Lake State Park
Joshua Tree National Park – a huge park with many opportunities for rock climbing, camping, exploring, desert plants, oasis, etc. Get there off Interstate 15, turn south at Barstow; or off Interstate 40, turn north past Indio. www.nps.gov/jotr
Yosemite National Park – 6 hrs. to the valley, 4 hrs. to Tuolumne Meadows (when Tioga Pass is open).
When Tioga Pass Road is open, go north on Hwy 395 to Lee Vining, take Hwy 120, Tioga Pass turnoff just before town, head 12 miles uphill to the pass and another 10 miles into Tuolumne Meadows.
If Tioga is closed, you can get to the Valley by way of Bakersfield, Hwy 99 to Merced, and Hwy 140 into the Park, or from Fresno, Hwy 41 into Wawona area.
There is no prettier place on the planet…campgrounds, lodging in the park and in the surrounding towns, trails to hike, waterfalls in the valley, high meadows, glaciers, – doesn’t get any better!! http://www.nps.gov/yose
Mono Lake State Park and Tufa Towers was scheduled to be closed, but got together with a bunch of community friends and organized a way to keep it funded and therefore open still. whew! The lake is rising slowly, and is a lovely place to stop by for photographs, maybe a canoe tour out aming the tufa towers, etc.
North on Hwy 395 to Lee Vining; USFS Visitor Center north of town overlooking the lake has exhibits and explains this special place and the people who used to live on the shores- check hours, it is closed a lot in winter, open most of the days in summer; The Mono Lake Committee has a bookstore and info center in the center of town, always open every day, and you must go down to South Tufa – turn east off Hwy 395 onto Hwy 120 east, go 5 miles, turn north down to the lake; parking lot, toilets, and trail to the lake. Fee area.Be there at sunset or sunrise for fabulous photos. Canoe out on the lake. It’s a special place! http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=514 and http://monolake.org
Carrizo Plains National Monument
Get there from Hwy 166 west from the base of the Grapevine, or via Hwy 58 out of Bakersfield. It’s located on the San Andreas fault just outside Kern County in San Luis Obispo County between Hwy 166 and Hwy 58. It’s the last remaining remnant of grassland in the state – it’s like what the Great Central Valley used to look like. Valley grassland with appropriate animals – pronghorn, Tule Elk, kit fox, kangaroo rats, snakes, etc. and surrounding hills, folds of the San Andreas fault land Coastal mountains. 2 primitive campgrounds, toilets, no water. Visitor center at the Goodwin Education Center. Soda Lake attracts shore birds and coyotes when it has water, and is a major resting place for 3000+ Sand Hill Cranes in winter (Dec-Feb). Expect to eagles, and maybe even Condors – they do fly that far. Painted Rock is a sacred Chumash Indian site, see info for how to visit it. Great wildflowers in the spring when the rains are just right. Just a lovely place to visit. http://www.carrizo.org/
5 hours from Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, Bodie State Park, Valley of Fire State Park, NV
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Get there from here by way of Bakersfield, then north on Hwy 99 to Fresno or Hwy 198 out of Visalia. Campgrounds, Visitor Centers, and HUGE big Sequoia Trees. General Grant tree is 39 feet in diameter!! Visit Crystal Cave. Kings Canyon has sequoia trees as well, and the road down to Cedar Grove is special and many hiking trails leave from there. Visit Boyden Cave. See maps and web sites.
(Kennedy Meadows/Sherman Pass/Western Divide road is NOT a shortcut to here, in spite of what it looks like on maps!). http://www.nps.gov/seki
Bodie State Park – a preserved ghost town!
Get there – north on Hwy 395 past Lee Vining, over Conway Summit, and turn right on Hwy 270, 13 miles to the park, the last 3 are not paved; this road closes in winter. Or you can get there with maps up Cottonwood Canyon from Hwy 167 on the north shore of Mono Lake.
Bodie is great! Many buildings left from 1880’s and later mining days, some open, most not, but a great place for photos. Park rangers are there summer and winter – you are welcome to ski or snowmobile to the park in winter, but it’s COLD! sometimes tours are given of the Standard Mill which processed enormous amounts of gold. There is still gold in them thar hills – a point of contention between modern mining companies and people in preserving the area just as it is. No facilities other than water and bathrooms; gas in Bridgeport and LeeVining ($$!!), food and lodging there too. No campground nearby. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509
Valley of Fire State Park – NV
Head north out of Las Vegas on Interstate 15; at milepost 72, turn east into Valley of Fire State Park. Aztec sandstone (same as that of Red Rocks west of Las Vegas) outcrops, some with Anazasi petroglyphs on them, 2 campgrounds, a great visitor center, fossil trees, weird rock formations – a fantastic place to visit just 1/2 hr. north of Las Vegas!!
6 hours from- Yosemite Valley, Anza Borrego State Park, CA. Zion National Park UT
8 hours from- the South Rim of the Grand Canyon AZ.