21 mi / 33 km
Eastern Sierra (BIH)
Dirt (Grade A to C)
A drive up into Buttermilk country will get you up close (and personal) to the mighty Sierra's. It's also a rock climbers paradise and haven for countless birds come spring time. After the marked point on the map, the road is suitable only for 4 wheel-drive vehicles. However, there’s still much to explore for regular vehicles up to the Buttermilk boulders.
Originally dairy country in the late 1800's - it was also a popular stop for sawmill workers to grab a cold drink of buttermilk during the heat of summer. Just a little to the north, the pyramid shaped Mt. Tom was home to the largest Tungsten mine in the country. The Owens valley is in fact littered with crumbling abandoned mines from more than a century gone by.
As you drive up along Buttermilk road you'll weave past the willow-lined McGee Creek. This place explodes with color and melody during late Spring when songbirds gather in their hundreds along the river edge.
Small feathered critters from green-tailed towhees to hummingbirds, sapsuckers, warblers and wren fill the skies. If you manage to get close, you may just be rewarded with their delightful melody among the spectacular Bitterbrush blossoms.
Only 3.4 miles from the Buttermilk rd turn off, you'll be in the heart of 'buttermilking' territory. Which means, a boulderer's paradise. The mounds of boulders serve up the perfect opportunity to climb these irresistible rock formations. Rock climbers from all over congregate here to what is quietly uttered "the best bouldering spot in the world".
If you're a little early for Spring, then keep your eyes out for mule deer, bears and mountain lions. They venture down into these parts as the winter freeze takes hold. At other times you may be lucky enough to spot bighorn sheep up on the rocky slopes, golden eagles soaring the peaks or the striking Western Diamondback rattlesnake slithering in the brush. Just be mindful to stay clear of these wild animals to avoid any less than desirable encounters.
Once you cross the second cattle guard here, the road gets rough. If you're lucky enough to be in a well-equipped off-roader then the mountain is yours! There's a number of often washed out roads here to explore at the base of these epic mountains. And if the road is in good order, then you’ll be able to get straight back onto the 168, with no backtracking required.
The country up here is wild, untamed and as beautiful as anything. As you traverse south you'll be directly in the shadow of the colossal 13,000 foot Mount Basin. Proceed with caution, the roads up here can be impassable due to damage from weather and landslides.
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