Home » 2019 Fall Trip to the Eastern Sierra

Jawbone to Lake Isabella 4WD Road, CA

Friday, October 4, 2019 - 10:00am by Lolo
170 miles and 7 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Along the Jawbone Canyon to Lake Isabella 4WD RoadAlong the Jawbone Canyon to Lake Isabella 4WD RoadWe were pretty much committed at this point to the southern route home from Bishop, which would bring us to Bakersfield and then up I5, but Herb wanted to do it in a more creative way, via the 50-mile (and 4 to 5 hours of bouncing) Jawbone to Lake Isabella 4WD road - another “Easy” route according to our off-roading gude.

Our route from Lone Pine brought us along Highway 14 past the reddish desert cliffs and spectacular rock formations of Red Rock Canyon State Park, which we had had the good fortune to explore last year.

However, today we would go a short distance past the Canyon and turn onto Jawbone Canyon Road, where we would begin our journey up and over the Piute Mountain Range.

The lovely colors along Jawbone Canyon RoadThe lovely colors along Jawbone Canyon RoadThe road began in an OHV (off-highway vehicle) area, where many come to play on the crazy steep hills and rocky terrain. We, however, were going to skip that and just drive the Jawbone Canyon Road.

The drive took us through several climatic zones, starting in the semi-arid foothills of the Mojave Desert and climbing, first past Joshua trees, then pinyon pines and junipers, and finally oak woodlands and conifers.

In about 13 miles we descended into Kelso Valley before turning west and ascending from 2,500 feet to over 8,000 feet along a series of steep and narrow switchbacks up and over the Piute Mountains inside the Sequoia Natioal Forest.

Dilapidated old sawmill chip burner now used for target practiceDilapidated old sawmill chip burner now used for target practiceWe stopped for lunch at a rusty teepee-like structure that was once a chip burner from an old sawmill. I believe now its purpose is target practice as it was riddled with bullet holes. Time to move along.

After about another 6 miles we began our exciting descent to Lake Isabella along a very dramatic and steep series of switchbacks with occasional steep dropoffs.

Finally, after 5 hours, we reached the paved Bodfish Road. Whew!

Herb was too exhausted with driving to even consider driving the remaining 7 hours it would take to get home, so we decided to look for a place to camp along the Kern River, which was on the way to Bakersfield along Route 178.

Twisty road down to Lake IsabellaTwisty road down to Lake IsabellaHerb had heard about a nice hot spring along the Kern River called Remington Hot Springs. We turned off 178 onto Kern CAnyon Road to check it out. After walking down a very steep hill from the parking area to the river, we came upon what I expected to find on a Friday late afternoon -- two pools filled with about a dozen people half or a third our age. We decided to skip the soaking and go back to the Sandy Flat Campground, which we had passed a few miles back on the Kern Canyon Road.

We managed to get a site in an already pretty full campground. It was nice enough and had access to the river. We both were pretty tired and ready to be home, so we made it an early evening so we could get an early start in the morning.

Jawbone to Lake Isabella 4WD Road location map in "high definition"

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