Kern County Rides
Southern Sierra, California
RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
Kern - COUNTY
37 Miles - LENGTH
Poor in most parts, narrow, - PAVEMENT
Tight, sandy, sudden, bumpy - CURVES
Caliente Bodfish Rd to Comanche Dr - CONNECTS
Bodfish, Kernville, Bakersfield, - GAS
Quick Ride: Remote 37-mile backroad east of Bakersfield through treeless hilly ranch land. Sandy, bumpy, single lane in most parts, smooth in others, terrific views, magazine cover photography in spring, hot, dry, golden brown scene in summer. Fire Lookout at the summit for the Adventure Riders.
Bane or Boon.
The best kind of road is one that will split a room.
The boons in the room swim in excitement, a dash of glee, a dose of anticipation. The banes lament their predicament, a hub-bub of turmoil and tribulation. A 37-mile ordeal? Maybe. It depends on how you look at it. After all, it's all just a reaction to a road.
Then again, if it's the goaty stuff you like, got just the thing. All those that need the smooth stuff, you go over there a few miles to the north, a fun but congested ride called Hwy 178. All my goat road (i.e. fit only for goats) aficionados- come with me.
Breckenridge Rd is just that, a deserted ranch road that widens, twists and narrows with impunity.
Bumpy, with a dash of sand, the usual goat trail attributes are always present and the dirtiness of the road is cyclic with the seasons. This road will also be closed at the 7000 ft summit in winter due to snow. With elevations approaching the 7544 ft at the crest of Breckenridge Mountain and 7500 ft at the fire lookout, get ready for a dramatic change in terrain and vegetation.
Breckenridge Rd starts out as a residential street in Bakersfield from Hwy 84 and just north of the 58 freeway.
However, if you want to skip all that as I would, use Comanche Dr which connects Hwy 178 and the 58 freeway.
There is gas at Comanche & Edison Dr so top off the tank and grab a snack to consume at the summit. You will quickly see why no one would even bother to be on this road. Freeway running parallel to the south for the travelers, Hwy 178 running parallel to the north for all the tourists headed over the Kernville and Lake Isabella. The western end is easy to find, a deserted intersection well marked and up the hill you go.
Elevations are low here, a mere 1000 feet, and dry ranch land with nary a tree in sight. Grassy rolling hills denote this particular region of California on the very southern edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. If you could choose, ride this as soon as the snow melts for hills covered in green rolling grass and lower temps.
Middle of August? This is Bakersfield folks, 108 days per year above 90°F. More plainly, it’s super-hot, the 7000 ft elevation will be a welcome respite but what goes up, must come down. Bring the mesh jacket or cool vest.
In April, it’s perfect.
As with any ride where you may see little or no human contact, make sure to leave with a full tank of gas and a modicum of self-sufficiency. In the height of summer, bring plenty of water. I saw only one other motorcycle the entire ride. Not even a car, just some ranchers tending their cattle in the lower elevations.
Breckenridge Road starts off as a meandering cut through the rolling hills, always climbing in elevation. The road is paved for the duration, bumpy, but sometimes smooth and a competent rider on the right bike will maintain a brisk pace through the smooth corners. This is not a road you can go fast on. Numerous blind corners will remind to hold your line and set your lane position entering a blind hairpin.
And yes, you've probably figured out by looking at the pics twice, and then finally reading the text, that the views go a long way for making up for the goaty ride.
It takes a bit of luck, a bit of good timing to get that clear shot of the Central Valley. Bakersfield is famous for poor air quality. The city lies at the very south end of the 400-mile long Central Valley. Winds push poor air south, it all comes here with nowhere to go. Mountain peaks surround on three sides. Kern County often suffers from severe air pollution. Particulates cause poor visibility, especially in the winter. Air here is considered in the unhealthy range an average of 40 days a year. Looking back west on the other 312 days, you can make out the outline of the Coast Range clear on the other side of the state.
Luck is on your side if you get a clear day (think spring!) and the view during a ride like this is simple dazzling. How many miles can you see? 30, 50, 70 miles across the valley. From this range to the Temblor Range, it's 90 miles. Not a bad view.
You might have to stop the motorcycle for a bit, grab the snack you picked up earlier, some water and contemplate that a bit.
With the climb in elevation in increments of 1000 ft and on up, the terrain evolves with it. Summit Ranch is at the top so be on the lookout for cows. Plus a compelling view north across the Kern River valley before the final climb to Hobo Ridge.
It's not until you reach the 7000 ft range that you roll right into a forest of oak and pine trees which always surprises me no matter how many times I experience dramatic elevation changes in short distances. One can get used to the dry rolling grassy hills, or the high desert scrub forests. Travel 30 miles, climb 6000 feet. Sweet. Upon reaching the first summit, a small ranch house appears with a cow here and there. Occasionally they are standing in the middle of the road.
Lots of sand at this elevation riding into southern edges of the Sequoia National Forest. Every rider needs to have their senses keen watching the road surface as the bike rounds the endless curves. Sand, cracks, potholes, crumbling pavement, frost heaves, just another day on the bike.
There's a small Forest Service community at Breckenridge Meadows and a Forest Service campground here at the crest of the mountain. Breckenridge Campground is along Forest Road 28S07 and is situated on shady slopes of pine and fir near a meadow. It is at 7,100 ft in elevation and isn't suitable for trailers. There are picnic tables, fire rings, and a pit toilet. The cost is free. A fire trail to the south will take you to the 7455 ft Breckenridge Mountain Summit to see the fire lookout if you are so inclined - and are dual purpose capable.
If you've learned anything about wandering around the Sierra Nevada Mountains, it's whenever there is a fire lookout nearby, make a beeline. Breckenridge Mountain is south of the Greenhorn Mountains which are the transition between the southwestern Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Tehachapi Mountains.
Breckenridge Lookout, elevation 7500 feet, is found 4.8 miles south of Breckenridge Rd via FR 28S07 (found at the very crest of Breckenridge Rd).
Dating to 1912, the first lookout was a crow’s nest observation platform built in an 87 ft tall tree which is said to still be standing nearby. During World War II Breckenridge Lookout was used by the Aircraft Warning Service to watch for enemy aircraft.
The fire lookout pictured here dates to 1942. The lookout is also part of the National Historic Lookout Register.
If you're in the area, plan some time to visit with the ranger and enjoy the view. Open to the public 9:30-5 and staffed during the fire season. Breckenridge Lookout is the southernmost observation post in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Also, a little hint is combining FR 28S62 & FR 28S07 to form a (unpaved) scenic loop that splits off from the paved Breckenridge Rd. This ride circles 9 miles around the crest of Munzer and Breckenridge Meadows and provides spectacular views to the south and west clear across the state.
The small community of Breckenridge Meadows sits in the middle of this loop below the crest in a mountainous bowl. FR28S07 also provides the access to Breckenridge Peak about three miles to the south. There's also a small primitive camping area, Breckenridge Campground at 7100 ft with 8 campsites, at the crest along FR 28S07.
As you ride over the crest of the ridgeline past FR 23S07, the view is a sight to behold. If you are a sucker for a good view and don't have the time (or the tires) for the Fire Lookout, this will have to do.
This goaty road is all worth it for this one moment in time. As you summit, and begin to head back down the ridgeline to Caliente-Bodfish Rd, riders can see the numerous switchbacks that lead down the hill and even clear out to Kernville and Lake Isabella.
In my case, the ride was a relaxed one, I was too enthralled with the view in front of me. And rather fascinated by the road while steering around the sandy patches and occasional rocks in the road.
The photo above gives you a snapshot of the typical conditions and where all that sand and rocks come from. Road cuts carve directly into the hillsides with little or no shoulders allowing slides and runoff to come down directly onto the road. You'll get used to it once you spend a few miles on a great ride like this.
Breckenridge Road is a perfect example of all that is revered and alluring about the quintessential California goat trail. Long, deserted, narrow, sandy and bumpy, even grueling and annoying. Roads like this may be the bane of your existence and you are right to avoid them. If you are on the wrong bike, this road may be your bane. Or a personal promise to not ride your TL1000R on this road.
But for the other half and how they live, it is a boon. A gift, a godsend, a sheer blessing. A truly Pashnit California Motorcycle Road.
Where to Next?
Highway 190 - Western Divide Highway is possible to reach from Highway 155 and then back around into the Central Valley to Porterville.
Sherman Pass Rd - Nine Mile Canyon through Kennedy Meadows continues the ride northward from Lake Isabella and back around to Highway 395. This ride is the last Sierra Nevada Pass. Reach Sherman Pass Rd by riding north from Kernville through the Kern River Canyon.
Kern Canyon Road - one of the best unknown thrilling motorcycle roads in all the state of California, Kern Canyon Rd is often deserted with a small camping area in the middle. Super fun turns, very good pavement, and a broad view of the tourists down on Hwy 178 in the canyon below, Kern Canyon Road rides up the canyon wall, and connects Bodfish with Hwy 178. A mile north of the Kern Canyon Rd intersection is a great little Mexican restaurant and the Veterans Memorial (must visit) a mile further north with an M48 Patton Tank on display.
Caliente-Bodfish Road - Ride it south back to Highway 58, or northward for Lake Isabella. Caliente-Bodfish Rd has some amazing magazine cover views west of Caliente and then again as it name changes to Bena Road and rides off the ridge and flows down to Tehachapi Creek.
Walker Basin Loop - Once you reach Caliente Bodfish on the east end, if you turn south, there's a low range, Red Mountain, to ride up and over. It leads to an enjoyable remote loop around Centennial Ridge via Basin Road and looping back via Caliente Creeks Rd. There are no services back in this canyon, no gas, and a small country store for the locals at Twin Oaks. In spring, there are several washes where no bridge was ever built and Caliente Creek Road rides through the creek across a concrete wash.
Breckenridge Rd starts out as a residential street in Bakersfield from Hwy 84 and just north of the 58 freeway. However, if you want to skip all that as I would, use Comanche Dr which connects Hwy 178 and the 58 freeway.
There is gas at Comanche & Edison Dr on the south end of Comanche & at Hwy 178 & Comanche at the north end of the boulevard. Top off the tank and grab a snack to consume at the summit.
On the eastern end of Breckenridge Rd, ride 9 miles south out of Bodfish. Breckenridge Road looks like a single-lane ranch road to someone's house, but it is signed and marked with a large forest service sign. The east end is always sandy.
Breckenridge Rd - Photo Gallery
MORE INFO: Breckenridge Road
RIDE IT on a PASHNIT TOUR
37 Miles - LENGTH
Poor for the majority, Smooth in some portions- PAVEMENT
Tight, bumpy, rippled, sandy, hairpins - CURVES
Caliente Bodfish Rd to Bakersfield - CONNECTS
Bakersfield, Bodfish, Kernville - GAS
Bakersfield, Kernville - LODGING
7100 ft- PEAK ELEVATION
35°22′N 119°1′W - Bakersfield
35°35′17″N 118°29′31″W - Bodfish
LISTED CONNECTING SIDEROADS:
Forest Road 23S07 (dirt)
Forest Road 28S26 (dirt)