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    Traveling from Sequoia to Death Valley: available roads and tips for staying overnight

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    Lluis Enric Mayans

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    The itinerary from Sequoia National Park alla Death Valley (or vice versa) is quite common especially in the closing period of Tioga Pass, when it becomes practically obliged for those who have to cross the Sierra Nevada to go from west to east (or vice versa). Clearly this is not the only case in which you can find yourself walking this road: there are also those who, in the difficult choice between Yosemite and Sequoia, have decided to visit Sequoia by skipping Yosemite. Consequently, after the visit of Sequoia, to continue the tour and reach the Valley of Death it will not be convenient to return to Yosemite to take the Tioga Road, but you will have to go around the Sierra Nevada from the south passing by Bakersfield, one of the landmarks in this journey.

    Although the journey is not complicated, we receive lots of questions about how to organize yourself in the passage between Death Valley and Sequoia e where to sleep, because there is a long way to go between the two destinations and, as usual, time is short and energy after visiting the parks is even less. Also, this part of California doesn't have a lot of roadside attractions, which can make the trip a bit boring. But let's see in detail how to organize this shift.


    • Sequoia to Death Valley: distance and available roads
      • Roads available
      • Where to sleep?
      • From Death Valley to Sequoia: what to watch out for?
    • What see? Some interesting pit stops
      • Trona Pinnacles
      • Red Rock Canyon State Park
      • Le ghost town Ballarat e Silver City
      • Remington Hot Springs
      • Tehachapi Loop
      • Cesar E. Chavez National Monument
    • Map of the Sequoia-Death Valley itinerary

    Sequoia to Death Valley: distance and available roads

    Desert near Ridgecrest

    Taking the Foothill Visitor Center and Stovepipe Wells as landmarks, the distance between Sequoia and Death Valley it's about 480 km to go in at least 5.15 hours. This means that it is practically impossible to cover this route on the same day as you visit Sequoia National Park. It is therefore necessary to find an intermediate stop where to stay overnight, following however some important criteria:

    • We always advise against doing more than 5-6 hours of travel on the road in a single day.
    • due to the "hellish" climate of Death Valley, especially in summer, the ideal would be to arrive in the park not too late in the morning.

    In light of these considerations, here is my first advice: try to decrease the maximum km to reach the Sequoia from the previous stage. An example? If you are coming from San Francisco or Yosemite, find accommodation in Fresno, visalia or, better yet, Three rivers in order to minimize the distance to travel by car to reach the park the next day.

    In this way, you will have two advantages: you can explore the Sequoia at your own pace from the morning, and in the early afternoon you can get in the car for get as close to Death Valley as possible.

    Tips for finding accommodation at Sequoia

    Roads available

    From Sequoia to Bakersfield there is only one way to go: the CA 65. From Bakersfield onwards there are essentially two ways to cover remaining distance:

    The most direct and fastest way

    From Bakersfield follow CA-58 E to exit 167 towards Bishop / Mojave. From here you need to drive to Bishop via CA-14 N to Olancha or by first detour to Ridgecrest / Inyokern (CA-178 E), then drive to Panamint Springs. To get to Death Valley from Panamint Springs there is only a piece of the CA-190 E (about 50 km).

    The longest and most scenic route

    Compared to the one just mentioned, there are just 12 km more and 20-30 minutes more time to spend by car, but the road has curves and climbs and the landscape is much less bland and boring. From Bakersfield take CA-178 heading east. The road winds through the Sequoia National Forest and gives the best of itself in the curvilinear section that follows the course of the Kern River up to Lake Isabella. From the lake (a not particularly beautiful reservoir) continue towards Bishop taking the CA-14 N / US-395 up to Olancha (you can also go through Ridgecrest / Searles Valley, it is equidistant): the important thing is to reach Panamint Springs and Death Valley.

    CAUTION! If you want to follow the scenic route (CA-178 E), refuel in Bakersfield, because except in Mountain Mesa, you won't find many gas stations on the road.

    Where to sleep?

    As I said, if you organize yourself well, the ideal would be to achieve Ridgecrest, which is the largest town in the southwest of Death Valley. Here there is no shortage of services and there are various motels of the most reliable chains: the ideal place to stop after such a long journey. Ridgecrest is located at a distance of 315 km from Sequoia National Park (Foothill Visitor Center), to be traveled by just under 4 hours. Ridgecrest to Stovepipe Wells is around 1.40 hours by car (155 km).

    Ridgecrest accommodation available

    If, on the other hand, you have not been able to organize your trip in this way, or you think it is too long and tiring after a visit to the redwood park, the advice is to stop at Bakersfield (150 km from Sequoia, just under 2 hours), leaving the longest part of the trip to the next day, knowing full well that it will be difficult to get to Death Valley very soon. In fact, there are 325 km to cover in just under 3.30 hours to get to Stovepipe Wells.

    Accommodation available in Bakersfield

    Any alternatives?
    • In the case of the fastest route, a good middle ground between Bakersfield and Ridgecrest is represented by Tehachapi, where there is a handful of interesting accommodations and a very curious attraction, which I will talk about shortly.
    • If you do the overview, you will find some accommodation and services only a Mountain Mesa. Plan accordingly!

    From Death Valley to Sequoia: what to watch out for?

    In case it is necessary to make this journey in the opposite direction, it must be borne in mind that the visit of Death Valley can be a little more tiring than the Sequoia, also because you have to take into account long journeys within the park, with prohibitive temperatures.

    So, in case you want to get as close as possible to the Sequoia arriving at Bakersfield for the overnight stay, even more so it is necessary to minimize the movement from the previous stage, providing for an overnight stay in Death Valley itself or at the gates of the park. I often read about travel plans they provide the trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley, the complete visit of the park and the transfer up to Bakersfield: in my opinion it is a massacre! In that case it is much better to stop at Ridgecrest and postpone the long journey to the next day.

    What see? Some interesting pit stops

    Red Rock Canyon. Particular

    In case you planned to have some time available along the on the road or you want to add a intermediate overnight stay to do everything more calmly by taking a whole day to move between one park and another, why not think about reaching some interesting destination to enrich the experience? As anticipated there are not many attractions, but thanks to short deviations from the main route we can reach real ones hidden gems unknown to most.

    Trona Pinnacles

    I Trona Pinnacles they are by far the best natural attraction that can be found along the itinerary, so much so that I often recommend reaching them even if the time available is short. For example: if you have visited Death Valley in the morning and early afternoon you are already on your way to Sequoia, why not take a couple of hours to reach them, as they are close to Ridgecrest? Definitely more complicated to reach it at the end of the day for those who come from Sequoia and have decided to go straight to Ridgecrest: well, why not do it early in the morning before going to Death Valley?

    If you wonder what to expect from this panorama, I will tell you that we are talking about an isolated and fairly circumscribed desert area where impressive white tuff towers stand out that create an almost science-fiction context, in some ways similar to Mono Lake. To reach this area you need a little bit of adventure, as it is a off-road. Nothing complicated, but you have to follow the directions indicated in my article dedicated to Trona Pinnacles.

    Red Rock Canyon State Park

    Il Red Rock Canyon State Park it is not well known by tourists; in Hollywood instead they know it well, since in the past it was used as an exceptional natural set for films such as "Zorro Rides Again", "The Big Country", "Law and Order", "The Ten Commandments", "Jurassic Park", and "Beneath the Planet of the Apes". Here we need to make a clarification: I'm not talking about the Red Rock Canyon of Nevada or even the Red Canyon of Utah, but precisely of Red Rock Canyon State Park of California, located near Cantil. In fact, there is no shortage of red rocks in the West (while there is a lack of imagination in the toponyms), only we do not expect to find them in California, but more easily in Utah and Arizona. Well, if you think that, this little one state park open from sunrise to sunset will amaze you.

    How to reach it based on the itinerary?

    • If you have decided to do the fastest way following the directions I have given above you will have no problems, since you will find it right on the CA-14 N road a few kilometers after Cantil.
    • If, on the other hand, you are traveling the panoramic road, you have to make a slightly more uncomfortable detour (just under 60 km a / r): at the intersection of CA-178 and CA-14 you have to turn right towards Mojave instead of Bishop. After that the park will be on the street, as above.

    How to visit it?

    If you don't have much time to spend in Red Rock Canyon, take a detour off the main road near the Red Cliffs Natural Area. A very short stretch of road will lead you to an open space at the foot of a badland whose brightly colored gullies imperiously stand out: the opportunity is good to take some photos and wander around the parking lot. Since the detour is not well indicated, here is the exact point of Google Maps to watch out for.

    A few meters further on, the detour to Abbott Drive is well indicated, a short uphill road that leads to the Visitor Center, near the Ricardo Campground: from here starts an interesting panoramic loop road that allows you to drive in a rocky desert dotted with yucca trees, right under the impressive badlands that delimit this part of the park so similar to Joshua Tree. There are also some excursion opportunities: if you have time and want to take a walk to enjoy some exceptional glimpses of the reddish cliffs of the canyon, walk along theHagen Trail, just under 2 km long. The start of the path is right at the base of Abbott Drive, near a dirt clearing on the left.

    Le ghost town Ballarat e Silver City

    Silver City

    The biggest regret of those who wanted or had to give up traveling the US-395 along the Eastern Sierra is not being able to visit Bodie, one of the most beautiful ghost towns in the whole West. Many ask me: are there other ghost towns on the journey from Death Valley to Sequoia National Park? The answer is yes, although they may not be as good as Bodie:

    • Ballarat: Approximately 43km south of the tiny oasis of Panamint Springs and 78km north of Ridgecrest, along the Trona-Wildrose Road is the detour to Ballarat Road, a dirt road that cuts through the desert and leads to a charming, authentic, shabby ghost town call Ballarat, founded in 1897 and abandoned shortly after 1917. Legend has it that the old van parked in the rubble of the town belonged to the famous serial killer Charles Manson, even if the well-informed deny it. Rock Novak, the only resident and "mayor, doctor, judge, sheriff, priest and gravedigger of Ballarat", will probably welcome you since 2013. He claims that the pickup truck really belonged to Manson… I don't want to contradict him.
    • Silver City: you can only visit this ghost town if you take the scenic route that crosses the Kern River Valley. TO Bodfish (3829 Lake Isabella Blvd) is this complex of 21 perfectly restored old buildings that really give you the idea of ​​what a Far West town must have been like in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The ghost town can be visited for a fee ($ 5.50 for adults, $ 4.50 for children aged 6 to 12), the site is open every day from 10 to 16 (on Saturdays it closes at 17).

    Remington Hot Springs

    To remain within the CA-178 panoramic road, I wanted to report the presence of Remington Hot Springs, practically the only ones free term remained public along the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest. Until recently they played with their neighbors Miracle Hot Springs, adjacent thermal pools a stone's throw from the Hobo Campground but since the latter have been dismantled, the Remington Hot Springs have become the most popular destination for locals who want to spend some time in a pool of hot water immersed in the nature. Reaching it from the north (Bodfish) is simpler than doing it from the south: you need to take the ancient Kern River Canyon Road, a narrow and somewhat rundown paved road that takes you one minute south of Silver City Ghost Town, right here. From the point indicated, follow the road for 8,7 km, after which you will find a small parking lot on the right and the start of the short path (0.6 km) that leads to the small artificial basins obtained from the river. The limited space available is very coveted so if you want to go there, do it early in the morning.

    Coming from Bakersfield, it is necessary to take the southern end of the same Kern River Canyon Road, deviating from CA-178 at this exact point: from here the trailhead is 12 km to travel at low speed in just under 20 minutes.

    Tehachapi Loop

    Finally, a curiosity for the train lovers: plan a pit stop in Tehachapi, because north of this town is the "famous" Tehachapi Loop, a spiral railway path that is the result of an engineering project that has become a masterpiece National Landmark. There aren't many others around the world (find a list here), so it's a good opportunity to see it, also facilitated by the high frequency of trains that go from Bakersfield to Mojave (an estimated 40 per day, but not I am aware of a timetable). Why build a spiral railway path? Essentially to facilitate the Tehachapi Pass for longer freight trains: following the helix circuit, the wagons manage to reach a certain height difference without remaining in a dangerously horizontal position for too long. In the lower part, the train passes under a tunnel: in the case of particularly long trains it is therefore possible to see the curious event of a train passing over its wagons!

    How to see it from an elevated position? Coming from Bakersfield it is necessary to deviate from CA-58 at exit 139 in the direction Keene. As soon as you leave the junction, take the Woodford-Tehachapi Road (the Tehachapi Loop is well indicated as soon as you leave the motorway) and follow it for just over 5 km. The best point from which to see the train, however, is not the one indicated by the two plates on the side of the road, but it lies at the top of the hill: to reach this observation point it is necessary to climb for just 150 meters up to the intersection with a dirt road closed by a chain. Although it is privately owned, the owners of the land allow you to walk up the hill to see the loop.

    Cesar E. Chavez National Monument

    In the tiny town of Keene, at 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Rd, is also the Caesar E. Chavez National Monument, in memory of the well-known American activist of Mexican origin who fought for the rights of Latin American workers between 1952 and 1976. You can visit the exteriors of La Paz , the property of the Chavez family, especially the pretty and quiet Memorial Garden - where César Chávez is buried - and the little one Desert Garden, where you can see plants and flowers typical of the Californian desert. Admission is free, the complex is open every day from 10am to 16pm except Easter, Thanksgiving, the Friday following Thanksgiving, December 24th, 25th and 31st and January 1st.

    Map of the Sequoia-Death Valley itinerary

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