OverviewThe Chimney Creek - Long Valley Loop is a neat Southern Sierra Nevada sampler that takes in the high desert sagebrush and pinyon forests, subalpine meadows, dense pine and fir forest, and rocky mountainsides. The loop is mostly dirt fire road, with one short segment and one long segment of pavement. Two campgrounds and numerous primitive sites along the route provide nice camping. This loop would make a good easy-to-moderate overnight bike tour.
Despite moderate elevation (5200' low point and 7800' high point), this route can be ridden most months of the year. The desert conditions provide a relatively dry environment, even in winter. Also, road conditions on the loop are good to excellent, with almost no deep sand, and very few rocky sections.
The route passes through the southeastern corner of the Domelands Wilderness, and has many minor trailheads along the way. Two major trailheads provide access to the South Fork Kern River near scenic Rockhouse Basin.
Start at the parking area at 5200' elevation, at the road junction near the south end of Lamont Meadow. Ride north through Lamont Meadow and past Chimney Creek Campground. The road makes a switchback here and begins a moderate climb up to a high valley at 6200' elevation. Here, the Chimney Creek Road meets the paved Kennedy Meadows Road in Chimney Meadow, about 1 mile northwest of the top of Nine Mile Canyon, and 5.75 miles from the start.
Ride northwest on the Kennedy Meadows Road for about 0.5 mile, then go left on the Chimney Basin Road. A nicely graded climb leads up a canyon for about 4.75 miles to a high meadow and the Rockhouse Basin trailhead, an entry point to the Domelands Wilderness. This is the high point of the ride, at 7800' elevation.
Descend to the west, traversing across mountainsides, then bend south and drop into the top of Long Valley. The road straightens out for a few miles of high-speed descending before reaching another low point at 5500' and about 6.5 miles from the Rockhouse Basin trailhead. Here, a road leads west to Long Valley Campground.
From this junction, the road is paved for the remaining 9 miles of the ride. Climb a moderate grade up to a pass at 6300', then descend 1000' of rough, curvy pavement back to the starting point at Lamont Meadow.
CANE BREAK OPTION:
The ride can be extended by starting at Cane Break, along Highway CA-178 just west of Walker Pass. Park where the Chimney Creek Road leaves CA-178, and follow the well-graded dirt up a set of switchbacks with spectacular views to the south. Just above the switchbacks, the road enters Lamont Meadow and reaches the start of the loop.
Getting ThereFrom the west (Bakersfield area), drive east from Highway CA-99 on Highway CA-178. Continue east through Lake Isabella and Onyx to Cane Break and the Chimney Creek Road.
From the east (Ridgecrest / Inyokern area), drive west from CA-14 on CA-178 over Walker Pass and down to Cane Break.
Drive up the switchbacks to Lamont Meadow for the loop, or park near CA-178 for the panhandle option.