Home » 2019 Fall Trip to the Eastern Sierra

The Narrows and Papoose Flat 4WD Road, CA

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 9:00am by Lolo
54 miles and 4 hours from our last stop


Along the Papoose Flat 4WD RoadAlong the Papoose Flat 4WD RoadAfter leaving Bishop, we headed south on Highway 395 towards Big Pine, where we made a turnoff onto 168 and eventually the Death Valley/Saline Valley Road to get to the start of the Narrows and Papoose Flat 4WD road. It was rated as easy, but we are always somewhat suspect as conditions frequently change.

The first part of the drive took us up through a long, narrow canyon to the Narrows, a high-walled gap in the dark laminated rock. The ride wasn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t exactly call it Easy. Also, we had a little difficulty navigating because the Forest Road names in our 4WD guide didn’t match the ones on the signposts along the way. Fortunately, Herb found a forest road map that he had picked up at the Mono Lake Visitor Center that did have the correct road names.

Along the Papoose Flat 4WD RoadAlong the Papoose Flat 4WD RoadThe highlight of the ride was arriving at Papoose Flat, a unique and otherworldly landscape with granite spires somewhat randomly strewn throughout the desert scrub. One of the granite outcrops even had a large arch, which I thought looked like a map of the U.S. with Florida on the wrong side. You could see the Sierra Nevada mountains through the arch.

The Flat, which lies at the crest of the Inyo Mountains which separate Saline Valley from the Owens Valley was once a food gathering place for the Paiute Indians, who spent the summer and fall in the Inyo Mountains gathering pinyon nuts and killing game for winter.

After leaving the Flat, we descended through a series of switchbacks back to where we started. Some sections were so rocky that we had to get out and construct, or repair, existing rock ramps to smooth things out a bit.

Really interesting ride, but if this was classified as Easy, I’m not sure how anxious I am to get on a Moderate.

The Narrows and Papoose Flat 4WD Road location map in "high definition"

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