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Best route from Bakersfield?

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Walnut Creek...
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Best route from Bakersfield?

We'll be coming in (Presidents' Day week-end) after an overnight stay in Bakersfield, and it's hard to tell from the map which way is quicker (we'll have two nights at the Furnace Creek Ranch). Is it quicker to take CA-178 from Bakersfield, or CA-58 then CA-14? The former seems to have fewer miles but be somewhat windier on the map. And from the CA-178/US-395 junction, is it quicker to go up US-395, then cut off at CA-190, or just go all the way with CA-178? Thanks!

Grover Beach...
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1. Re: Best route from Bakersfield?

The 58 will be quicker than the 178.

The 178 takes you through the very narrow Kern Canyon on a windy road along the Kern River. The other downside to the 178 is the fact that you have to drive through part of the city of Bakersfield before you hit freeway. The freeway goes for about 7 miles before it becomes a two lane highway.

The 58 through Tehachapi is your best option.

Your only real threat to your trip is if a major storm passes through the mountains. Then it will be slow no matter what.

San Francisco
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2. Re: Best route from Bakersfield?

I just took 178 today, returning from DV. It is a beautiful scenic route along the Kern River Canyon, several small resort towns, and Walker Pass, but it will take more time. As Kibblesmom said, it's more curvy, and some of it can make people nervous. I saw a car being recovered that had gone over the side; don't know if it went into the lake, but it took a tow truck with a special hoist to lift it straight up and out.

Tehachapi Pass isn't exactly dull, but it's less spectacular than 178. It does have green hills as well as more "typical" desert landscapes. If you have time, you can take a side trip to see Tehachapi Loop, an interesting railroad grade. Because of the steepness of the inclines and the need for gradual elevation gains so one or two locomotives could haul a train up, the road was built in a circle. A long train literally passes itself going around the loop, like a snake chasing its tail.

With either 178 or 58, continue to Ridgecrest and Trona. North of Trona, you have another choice: Trona-Wildrose Road or Panamint Valley Road. I always suggest Wildrose because it is such a surprise to many DV newcomers. It's a mountain road, with a short stretch of gravel that's fine for any car driven carefully. The Park Service just grades it as needed; they can't keep it paved because flashfloods and runoff from a spring keep tearing it up.

Along the way, you can see the ghost town of Ballarat, a settlement founded on gold strikes in the western Panamint range. You can also see Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, where local wood was roasted into charcoal to use in the smelters at a mining operation on the other side of the Panamint Valley, which was too low in elevation and had no local trees. That mine, the Modoc, was owned by the father of William Randolph Hearst.

There are several other historic mine sites along Wildrose Road, so if you're interested I can give you more details later.

Part of Wildrose is narrow and curvy, and vehicles over 25' are not allowed. It's pretty; you'll see real trees, and probably snow on the surrounding mountains. The season for snow at road level will be mostly over by then.

Panamint Valley Road is more typical DV scenery, with sweeping views of the mountains. It is more similar to much of what you'll see in the park, which is why I suggest Wildrose.

Going up 395 to 190 is a longer trip, which isn't worth the time unless you want to see Owens Lake. It was once navigable aand boats actually ran on it, but the river that feeds it was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct so the lake is now a shadow of its old self. If you follow my Trona route, you'll see Searles Lake, which is also a desert marsh and a lucrative source of minerals that are harvested from the briny water (yes, there's water, but not enough to make it navigable). In Trona, you'll see a huge refinery that pumps out the brine, extracts and processes the minerals, and returns the water to the lake to maintain the water table.

3. Re: Best route from Bakersfield?

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