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  • Writer's pictureJason Sheck

Blackwood Canyon & Barker Pass OHV Road (3rd attempt)

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

It seems some things just aren't meant to be! This is the third time that Bri and I have tried to make our way to the top of the Barker Pass OHV Road and have been thwarted for one reason or another. The first attempt was the long arm of the law. As we left Blackwood Canyon Road and started up the gravel trail known as Barker Pass OHV Road, a sheriff flagged us down and explained that the National Forest was closing and that he was there to shut the gate. So he escorted us out and went home.

Then, late last year after most of the wildfire risk had subsided and the National Forests reopened, we made another attempt. It turned out the early season snow we received in October proved to be too much for us to get through, and now that we've taken most of the trail, we hadn't even gotten to the challenging parts of the route when the snow turned us around.

So that brings us to today's effort! Things went smoothly for the most part, but eventually, well, you'll see.

What did I learn?

The Jeep does an excellent job climbing on rock. Maybe this is obvious to those with built-up rigs and who regularly go "rock crawling", but I am really impressed with how well my minimally modified open differential Jeep does. Airing down and disconnecting the sway bar would make it even more capable.

When you leave Highway 89 near Homewood, CA, you take Blackwood Canyon Road for a few miles until you eventually leave the pavement and head toward the pass.

The road is well-maintained at first, but as you go it gradually becomes more of an OHV road than a forest road.

Something about the spring weather this year made the wildflowers all around the lake plentiful. Wildflowers aren't the easiest thing to photograph but you can get the gist of what the shoulders of the road look like in a lot of places from these photos. It seems everywhere we go this year, flowers abound!

This was the most challenging obstacle on the trail, and when we first approached it, I wasn't sure how we'd fair crawling up it. It actually went pretty smoothly, but Bri wouldn't know because she closed her eyes for it. We crawled up the first ledge of rocks pretty quickly and then veered leftward as we went up. It's hard to see when you're climbing a steep incline, you basically only see the sky! Pictures never seem to show the steepness or depth and distance between rocks, but we were both glad to arrive safe at the top. This obstacle would be very challenging for a crossover or lower SUV. For example, I wouldn't try this in the Subaru Forester I had, or even our stock height 2014 Land Cruiser. But to each their own...

We eventually crossed the Pacific Crest Trail and followed a forest road toward the summit of our drive. The views were awesome, and there were great places to see huge hillsides of Mule Ear, if you're into yellow flowers.

And then this. This is the reason we didn't make it to our destination! We've had to move logs and rocks before, but this was immovable with the equipment and time we had. So we did an Austin Powers U-turn and made our way home. This is actually the second time we've come across a fallen tree too large to move, the last time was a few years ago when were near Kavanaugh Ridge in the Bridgeport, CA area. Maybe we'll try again someday...maybe.

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