Kelbaker Road

Kelbaker Road, Mojave NP

Kelbaker Road is one of the well-traveled back roads in the Mojave Desert connecting two major Eastern California routes of Interstate system. The I-40 to the south and the I-15 to the north, spanning 50 miles from one to the other.

Kelbaker Rd continues south to T up w/ historic Route 66 near Amboy, CA. Gasoline is very iffy in Amboy, so remember gas up in Barstow.

This region is super scenic portion of Kelbaker Road, which cuts thru the western edge of Mojave National Preserve. The Kelbaker pavement reaches to an elevation of 4024′ at Granite Pass, about 6 miles north of the exit @ interstate 40. Boulder outcroppings, bare mountain peaks, secluded cove camp sites w/ dirt roads, and old mines all over. Joshua tree forest and pinyon pine forest encircle the Mid Hills region.

Some roads are suitable for passenger cars, but many are not. Dirt slides, erosion gullies, wash outs and rocks are common on these roads, so drive slow and pay attention.

There are private property ranches, active railroad tracks & BLM lands along the Kelbaker route. Some of the boundaries of NPS have been extended, so best to bring a map.


Free camping is abundant in this desert region, but it’s all primitive w/ no facilities and all are on dirt roads when your turn off Kelbaker. Some of the best camping areas are around 4000 feet (above sea level), so serious wind and even snow is quite possible in the winter months. Go prepared w/ plenty firewood.

Historic Mojave Trail (aka Mojave Road) is out this way. Dirt bikes, off roaders love this trail that connects the Colorado River @ Avi Casino to Afton Canyon near Barstow.

WILDFLOWERS – joshua tree, yucca, barrel cactus
Higher elevation deserts bloom in late Spring, generally March thru May. Perfect rainfall timing in the autumn, can determine wild blooms and flora months later. Providence Mountains SRA can be a good location for wildflower viewing.

Kelso, CA

Kelso Depot:  historic spot, centered around the old train depot, which has been restored and has become the new visitors center and museum. Totally worth a 2 hour stop and HIKING/WALKING stretch break. The road heads north from Kelso and the name changes to: Kelbaker-Cima Road

Cima, CA

mojave dirt roadsCima Store, 20 miles to the north is one of the few businesses in this region. Post Office next door, maybe. Cima Road connects to I-15 in approximately 15 miles north. Kelbaker Road splits again and it heads up to I-15 @ Baker, CA

See more in this Mojave area —

Kelbaker Rd

Kelbaker Road and Railroad Tracks

Hole in the Rock

Hole in the Rock, Mojave NP

Mojave Scenery

Mojave Mid Hills boulder peaks

Kings River Camping

Camping areas along Kings River, Sierra Nevada California


Kings is the longest river in the Sierra Nevada and very rugged and remote in most of the length. The Upper Kings is situated in the highest of elevation, granite alpine back country, with abundant small lakes and numerous Wilderness areas.

Tallest peak, Mount Whitney, drains this way – down waterfalls and whitewater, westward to California into the San Joaquin Valley. Agriculture and orchards of citrus. The mid section of this mighty Kings River runs close to Hwy 180 inside the Kings Canyon National Park.

The Lower Kings is popular among campers, fishermen, kayakers and rafters, accessible most of the year. Upper Kings River is located inside the National Park boundaries.

NPS Campgrounds near Upper Kings River

Inside Kings Canyon National Park:
Cedar Grove Village @ end of Highway 180

elevation 4600′

may be closed during winter months.
reservations recommended.

Sheep Creek Campground (111 sites)
Sentinel Campground (82 sites)
Canyon View Campground (37 sites)
Moraine Campground (120 sites)

Roaring River Falls, Sentinel Dome (9115′ elev)

Roads End Trailhead
backpack camping, from paved parking area.
NPS – wilderness permits required for overnight stays.

Kings Highcountry Topo Map

bridge kings

Camping near Lower Kings River

Open all year round. Outside the National Park boundary, westward in lower elevations, many more camping options are available.


NOTE: Sierra National Forest is located  on the north side, along the river shore in between Pine Flat Lake & Kings Cyn National Park. But Sequoia National Forest is located on the south side!

Lower Kings is best accessed via the paved roads, up behind Pine Flat Lake, California

Trimmer Springs Road #11S12: a paved access route, wraps around the northern shore of Pine Flat Reservoir. Very winding and long, with 25 mph curves; this main route continues east into the massive Kings River Canyon.

Google Maps may have this road crossing the river, toward the end. Proper signage is questionable in the area, since local rednecks love to shoot up signs. Trimmer route quickly peters out to narrow dirt roads, anywhere past the Mill Flat Campground area.

Lower Kings is NOT easily reached via the National Park – Kings Canyon Highway 180. Dirt road travel is required on Road #12S01, which can be steep and rocky at best. The drivable climb up to the highway may require 4 wheel drive in some sections, depending on weather.

Winter brings some snow and abundant rains (NOV – APRIL).

LANDSLIDES and ROCK SLIDES are common with ROAD CLOSURES usually posted on the Sierra National Forest, NFS web site.


Wildflowers are abundant in this region for springtime. (MARCH-MAY)


(north shore)
Lower Kings River

elevation 1100′

Sierra National Forest

Kirch Flat Campground NFS (17 sites)

tables & toilets

both above are free camp spots: boondocking, primitive car camping, tent camping, RV camping, fishing, kayaking, rafting

Sierra Road #12S01 – primitive camping, few pit toilets; fishing access, some trailhead camps and RV spots along river. The northern most arm of this road is also referred to as Road# 12S001 Garnet Dike, on the NFS web site.

Along paved routes, near bridges, some dispersed camping is also allowed. Campfire permits are required.

Sierra Road #9 is Big Creek Canyon
a side route, graded dirt road worth exploring for primitive camping options. The farther you drive up, the more vegetation you will find. Campfire permits are required.

BlackRock Reservoir Road #11S12, another side route (paved) climbs steeply in elevation, along a cliff edge. This spot offers a small NFS campground near a lake, and is located along the North Fork of the river.


click to enlarge


(south shore)
Lower Kings River

elevation 1000′

Sequoia National Forest

Pine Flat Reservoir

elevation 952′

Lake View



12S01 – Sierra NF


Kings River, Sierra National Forest
Road #12S01 – Lower Kings

Located in between Kings Canyon National Park and Pine Flat Reservoir. Graded dirt road w/ trailhead parking & camping; Primitive car camping, vault toilets, some areas accessible by small RV. Campfire permits are required.

Long, (sometimes rough) dirt road, that parallels the north side of the Kings River. Dirt road used by families, fishermen, kayakers, campers, mountain bikers, rafters and rafting shuttle buses, seasonally. May be gated and closed off to the public in wetter months of the year.

Bear Wallow Trailhead
Kings River Trailhead


click to enlarge

Forest Route 12S01 crosses the river and leads to the south side of the river, near Green Cabin Flat. Mill Flat Campground is back this way.

Road 12S01 gains in elevation, turns to high-clearance, continuing up McKenzie Ridge thru a small slice Sequoia National Forest to the highway Kings Canyon National Park. 4×4 may be needed in wet/snowy weather.

flats of kings

1S25A – Inyo NF


Parker Lake Road
Inyo Forest Road #1S25A

This dirt road is a side canyon route; access to a whole mess of aspens @ Parker Creek. Fish the creek. Day hikes and backpackers trails; Picnic in the aspen groves.

Parker Lake Rd turn off is signed @ Road #1N17. All this is north of Highway 158 @ Grant Lake, on the June Lake Loop #1S63.

Primitive camping options only. No facilities, No developed campgrounds back here. Minimal camp sites and clearings, so have a backup plan B in case these few canyons are already occupied.

MUD NOTE: Dirt roads here can turn to mud, especially near creek beds – anytime in between October and May. Region is also prone to summer thunderstorms; Maybe even flash floods. Weather changes for June Lake and Lee Vining can be sudden so keep tabs on the current forecast.

Inyo National Forest
Ansel Adams Wilderness

nearby towns:

June Lake, CA
Lee Vining, CA
Mammoth Lakes, CA


area maps:
Inyo National Forest USDA
Ansel Adams Wilderness Maps
Mammoth Lakes Map by NatGeo

Camp Clean

Minimal Impact Camping

Camping Tread Lightly

Leave No Trace Camping

Camp Cleaning

  • No Soap in Streams, Creeks or Lakes: Even Biodegradable Soap is not good for the poor fish downstream.
  • Bring a bucket or wash tub – Wash dishes, clothes & yourself 100′ from streams & lakes
  • Food put away & dishes washed up before bed time. Keeping a clean camp will lessen the chances of wildlife or a bear visit
  • Use existing campsite or rock campfire ring to prevent impacting new areas
  • Pitch tent in cleared camp spots only (when primitive camping). No need to trample new spots.
  • Do not set a tent up in a meadow, next to a creek or on a lake shore. It’s too fragile an environment.
  • Bring extra trash bags (heavy duty lawn type is best) for cleaning any litter you might find at your selected camp site.
  • Sometimes you’ll need to shovel out the whole fire pit (full of glass and trash)  to start a fresh new campfire. Building your fire on top of somebody else’s mess means you’ll be inhaling all their left-over garbage.
Always leave a clean camp

always leave a clean camp

leave no trace

Camp Kitchen Outdoors

Try to keep all food, drinks and cooking to one area of the camp. If you plan to cook over the campfire, this choice will make much more sense. Setting up kitchen area in between the tent and the campfire is usually an excellent spot. Having the vehicle close by for proper food storage is also advised, or use bear boxes if available. If you choose to hang your food in the tree, bring adequate ropes and bags.

The last person still up around the campfire at night should double check the cleanlness camp before retiring for bed. Chances are there is a half-eaten snack or left over beverage that could attract the animals. Oh no, the GARBAGE!! Don’t forgot to put your garbage bag away at night, or dispose of it in a proper trash container. Double bag your garbage if you are concerned with it leaking or smelling up the vehicle.

Food Preparation

Potty Breaks in the Outdoors


  • Bathroom break in the bushes? Don’t leave your toilet paper trash. Dispose of in your vehicle with a plastic bag or back at camp.
  • For human waste – Bring a shovel, dig holes 8″ deep & pack out all toilet paper. Do not bury paper as animals will just dig it up.
  • Certain areas are so sensitive or overused that all solid waste must be packed out, check for the local regulations.

Camp Hygiene in the Outdoors