• Whippoorwill Flat - #WhippoorwillFlat

    Norcal - Inyo County - Big Pine NickNames: #WhippoorwillFlat

    From the town of Big Pine along US-395 in the Owens Valley, go east on CA-168 (from north end of town). Cross the valley floor and go southeast (right) on the Big Pine/Death Valley Road. Drive up into the Inyo Mountains to the Saline Valley Road, which turns right (south) at about 7600' elevation. HINT: Watch for a faded wooden sign on the right at about that elevation because there is no obvious sign for the Saline road. Continue south on the Saline road for several more miles, entering Death Valley NP at 5400' elevation, about halfway to Whippoorwill Flat. Climb back to 7000' elevation, which is where you enter the Flat - a broad sage flat with low hills on the left (east) and the crest of the Inyo Mountains on the right (west).

    Several nice campsites can be found by driving up side roads, mostly on the right (east) side of the Saline road. Some side roads require high clearance or 4wd vehicles.

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    • Trail UpdateMIcadon Mine Via Jackass Flat-

      Doubletrack through Jackass Flat

      The jeep trail leading to the Micadon Mine starts at the low point of the Saline Valley Road in Marble Canyon, immediately adjacent to the dead Volkswagen. Continue down-canyon on a jeep trail, passing old mine structures and house foundations. In about 1.5 miles, look for the road to turn right up a narrow side canyon with dark, broken rock.

      The road climbs up this side canyon, then zig-zags up a broader canyon beyond before leveling out at the northern end of Jackass Flat (see photo). In just over 2 miles, the road crosses a broad 'saddle' and descends for a couple more miles. Go left at any intersection, and stay close to the ridge on the left. The road turns left (east) and follows a dry wash through the ridge, then descends into an unnamed valley with stunning views to the north.

      The road curves right (south) and follows the base of the ridge to the site of the Micadon Mine, where there is an old metal 'cabin' with an attached storage room. The cabin is in fair shape, and is used periodically by the odd desert rat.

      There are some side roads to explore, but no return loop, so return the way you came in.

      Ride rating: Intermediate
      Ride distance: ~15 miles RT Elevation change: 1000'
      Dirt Road=100%
      Tom Kenney a 33 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Klein Attitude from Reseda, CA


    • Trail UpdateRecommended Ride #4 Picture-

      Descending the road from Secret Cabin Flat

      See description for Recommended Ride #4 below...

      LINK: TopoZone map of Whippoorwill Flat area

      Tom Kenney a 33 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Klein Attitude from Reseda, CA


    • Trail UpdateThe Volkswagen Memorial-The Volkswagen Memorial at the road junction in Marble Canyon

      Tom Kenney a 32 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Klein Pinnacle from Reseda, CA URL: Tom's Page


    • Trail UpdateMarble/Whippoorwill/North Pass-The zone along the Saline Valley Road through the Marble Canyon/Whippoorwill Flat/North Pass corridor is a wonderful area to explore by bicycle. There is little or no water, so tank up before starting any ride.

      There are no 'singletrack' trails in the area, but there are plenty of 'doubletrack' 4wd trails leading to old mines, cabins, hidden desert flats, and up long dry washes. The terrain varies considerably, so some rides are baby-butt smooth while others are scree piles. The scenery varies: rocky canyons, sage flats, dry lakebeds, alluvial fans and washes, dense pinyon and juniper forests, and some open grassland.

      The weather is best from mid autumn to mid spring...this is a desert!!! Summertime temps, despite the relatively high altitude, are downright sweltering. In winter months expect some snow patches, but most roads will be clear. On my recent trip (25-MAR-2000) the daytime temps at North Pass were mid-70s F, nighttime temps were a chilly mid-30s F.

      Primitive camping is the rule...there are NO developed campsites here. However, a virtually endless supply of ultra-dry pinyon wood means cheery bonfires when the temps drop. There is ample room for pitching a tent, but be sure you don't bed down on a cactus!


      1) Cowhorn Valley: This ride starts a short distance from the Big Pine/Death Valley Road. After descending the Saline Valley Road for a couple miles, a large valley opens up on the left (east). There are two doubletracks that enter the valley, then connect. The doubletrack continues for several miles, eventually connecting to the Big Pine/Death Valley Road in Little Cowhorn Valley. Volcanic ridges and open grassland make this ride a scenic delight. Few hill climbs keep the grade to a 'beginner' level.

      2) Marble Canyon: The Saline Valley Road traverses a short stretch of Marble Canyon before climbing up Opal Canyon toward North Pass. Marble Canyon continues to drop to the east into Eureka Valley. The rough road stops 1/3 down the canyon from where it leaves the Saline road (near a dead volkswagen). An old mining camp surrounds the road junction, and several more prospects can be found down-canyon. There is no shade in this canyon, so it's best done mid-winter.

      3) Marble Canyon Connector: A 4wd road connects the Saline road in Marble Canyon with the Saline road in Opal Canyon. Just after entering Marble Canyon, a 4wd road can be seen heading steeply uphill to the southwest. This road goes over the ridge and follows a wash down into the head of Opal Canyon, where it connects again with the Saline road. A branch of this road heads west (up-canyon) once the dry wash is encountered. This branch eventually leads up through pinyon forest to a sage flat. Interresting geology and secluded, forested hills are encountered on this ride.

      4) Secret Cabin Flat: This ride is a steep one! Starting from North Pass, locate a 4wd road leaving the Saline road and heading east. Pass through a dense forest and climb a steep, rocky hill. Atop the hill, the road levels out a bit and wanders through more forest past a disintegrating cabin with outlying buildings and a dead International Harvester pickup truck. Pass through this camp and into the beautiful sage flat beyond. A small plywood shack can be seen on the ridge to the east. The road circles the sage flat, passing several excellent campsites, then climbs up to the shack. At one time this 'cabin' was in excellent it's without door or windows, is chock-full of rodent droppings, and the floor is sagging. The view, however, is mind-boggling! More interresting geology, the surprise-ness of the hidden flat, and some beautiful open forest with spectacular views make this one of the best rides in the area.

      When you're done riding, the Saline hot springs are about 1 hour drive south and east, well inside the newly expanded Death Valley National Park.

      Dirt Road=100%
      Tom Kenney a 32 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Klein Pinnacle from Reseda, CA URL: Tom's Page

      Posted:03/31/2000 ~ your local mountain bike site since 1996. - Terms Of Use - Site Map
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