Lone Pine

Lone Pine, CA

The 65 mile drive from Bishop to Lone Pine is a stress free ride on a great highway with beautiful views of mountains to the east and to the west.  The view of the Sierras to the west are especially nice.

The day after our arrival we headed to the east on CA 191 to enjoy the scenery and hike a short trail to Darwin Falls, a desert waterfall.  The low, jagged hills along the way contained a great variety of colorful rocks.

After a bit we entered Death Valley National Park, where the road descended steeply in a series of switchbacks.  It’s a great drive in a car, but we wouldn’t want to do it in the motorhome.  Near the bottom of the descent, just before Panamint Springs, we turned south on a one lane dirt road called Old Toll Road on Google Maps.  There is no sign for the road but the National Park Service has a marker for the water falls just a short distance from the highway so we knew we were on the correct road.

View of Old Toll Road from the highway (NPS sign is just visible on the far curve)

The Old Toll Road is a bit “bouncy” but drivable in any vehicle.  After two miles we came to the trailhead in a small parking area.

Darwin Falls Trailhead

The two mile (roundtrip) hike begins in a dry creek bed filled with loose gravel.

About half way to the falls the trail enters a narrow canyon surrounded by riparian greenery that seems out of place in Death Valley NP.

In times of high water hiking this trail would be problematic, as it crosses Darwin Creek numerous times.  But we had no problem crossing, using small logs as bridges and our poles.

As the trail began to narrow we came to the end of the canyon.  There the falls form a small pool surrounded by a variety of plants not usually seen in the desert.  Darwin Falls, named after Dr. Darwin French (1822–1902) a local rancher, miner, and explorer, is as unique as it is beautiful.

The pool at the base of the falls must be very inviting for a refreshing dip on a hot day.  But the temperature was very comfortable during our visit so we decided to stay dry.

Crossing some rocks on the return hike

Colorful views driving back out to the highway

The road must have been paved at one time, as we went over two small areas of asphalt.

It was good to be back on pavement

Returning to the highway we drove back up through the series of switchbacks and stopped at the Father Crowley Vista Point.  The view wasn’t very impressive from the large, paved parking area, but a dirt road lead out to a point with a great view of a section of Death Valley below us.

A section of CA 191 is visible on the left

This short hike was a great way to begin our one week stay in Lone Pine.  We’ve been here once before so we know there is much to see in the nearby Sierra Mountains and the Alabama Hills.  More on that later . . .

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18 Responses to Lone Pine

  1. jimandbarb says:

    Now that is our kind of hike, short scenic and water!

  2. geogypsy2u says:

    Dang it, I missed that one right before the twisty climb to Crowley. May get back there this winter.

  3. exploRVistas says:

    Next time out there, we will probably check out 395. There’s a lot of very nice things to see along that side of the Sierras!

    • placestheygo says:

      I had been wanting to do the 395 drive since we started fulltiming and reading other blogs. Two years ago we made the drive with friends and spent the month of October traveling from Carson City to Bishop. There are so many things to see and amazing hikes along the way. Make sure you give yourselves lots of time. We are just hitting a few missed hikes this time.

  4. pmbweaver says:

    I love that pool photo.
    Looking forward to seeing that area through your eyes. We have never been to Lone Pine.

  5. I love it when a hike ends in an environment that is totally out of place! Very cool!

  6. Steve & Dianne Colibaba says:

    There is a Japanese Internment Camp near Lone Pine that’s quite interesting. Safe travels!

  7. Jeff says:

    WOW – So nice to see so much water flowing in Darwin Falls this late in the season.

  8. Nice looking hike. I remember reading about it when we were in Death Valley but we never made it there. The scenery is quite a contrast to your hikes near Bishop!

  9. Sherry says:

    So nice to be able to return to a spot you’ve been to before and hit the things you missed previously. I’ve never been to Death Valley but certainly am surprised to see such a lovely waterfall and all that greenery.

  10. Jodee Gravel says:

    Those mountains are really hard to beat – great pics of the drive along 395. That is such a unique and wonderful waterfall! Looks like a snake tongue. Glad you were able to find the security of asphalt for a break in the wilds!

  11. Susan Bank says:

    ditto! short, scenic and ending in water….perfect!

  12. Laurel says:

    Love that landscape and view of the Sierra Mountains! What a sweet hike to the falls and pond. On our list for the next time we’re in Lone Pine. Looks like you’re back in gorgeous weather. Yayyyy!!!!

  13. Hah! We drove that CA191 all the way up and down to Death Valley. And you are right our brake linings smelt like bbq!

  14. LuAnn says:

    Looking forward to hearing more. The 395 near Bishop and Lone Pine is one of our favorites.

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