The Taboose-Goodale Loop is a tour of recent volcanic activity that lies along the base of the eastern Sierra Nevada of California. The floor of the Owens Valley, running east of the southern Sierra Nevada, is a 'slip block' - a wedge of bedrock 'slipping' down between two huge mountain ranges, the Sierra on the west and the Inyo Mountains on the east. Along the edges of the valley, the fractures in the bedrock allow magma to rise, producing zones of cinder cones and lava flows.
This loop encircles a large lava flow (20 square miles) with several large cinder cones at the center. The cinders and flows are relatively young, with some as recent as 800-1000 years, and the contrast of red and black lava laying atop the ancient granitic alluvium of the Sierra is striking. As well, the cinders and desert alluvium stand out in stark contrast to the cool alpine mountains rising 10,000 feet above the valley floor.
The terrain encountered while riding the loop is varied, often sandy or very rocky, but usually firm and very ridable. The climbing is mellow, and the moderate elevation barely strains the lungs. There are several nice camping spots nearby, including the developed Taboose Creek and Goodale Creek campgrounds, and many secluded primitive spots with peaceful desert camping. The nearby towns of Big Pine and Independence offer hotels and general stores, and, for after the ride there's the infamous Keough Hot Springs a few miles north of Big Pine.
This description assumes a starting point at Taboose Creek Campground, which is the major landmark along the route, and a good parking place. The loop can be started at a number of good locations, particularly from any of the good campsites located near or on the loop.
From Taboose Creek Campground, ride west on Taboose Creek Road. The road is straight for about 0.5 mile, then curves right (north) at a 'Y' intersection with a "Day Use Only" sign. Continue straight north for 0.25 mile, then curve left (west) and begin climbing as the road wanders through the desert. A few minor side roads are encountered, but the main road is always obvious.
After another 2.5 miles, a 'Y' intersection is reached where a small wooden sign indicates "Taboose Creek" right and "Goodale Creek" left. Go left here, and ride 0.3 mile to a crossing of Taboose Creek. There are a few fair campsites here, on the north side of the creek. This makes a good alternate start point for the loop. Driving beyond this point requires a high-clearance vehicle, though, as the creek crossing is deep and rocky.
Cross the creek and continue southwest, climbing steeply away from the creek up a very rocky section. The grade eases as the road bends to the south and enters a narrow valley between the foot of the mountains to the west and the cinder cones to the east. Some faint side roads lead to campsites near the cinder cones in this area.
The road descends for a short distance before crossing Goodale Creek. There are fair campsites on either side of the creek here, and a nicer campsite at the end of a short spur road leading southeast from the crossing to where the creek nears the base of a large cinder cone.
Continue riding uphill to the southwest on increasingly rocky road, with the base of the mountains on the right. Just before reaching the end of the road, a jeep trail branches left (south). Go left here and climb steeply for a short distance before bending east for the big descent.
The jeep trail is rough and rocky, with sections that can be fairly technical. There are a few secluded campsites along the descent, but access to these sites for car camping requires a high clearance vehicle. The riding varies - there are rough sections, hardpack, and some sandy zones as the road wanders down through the desert back to the Tinnemaha Road just south of the small village of Aberdeen.
At the Tinnemaha Road, go left (north) and pass the Aberdeen Store, a small general store. Just past the store, a road goes left (west) up to Goodale Creek Campground, which is larger and more pleasant than Taboose Creek Campground, but sits about 1 mile off the route.
Continue north on the paved Tinnemaha Road as it curves gently around the base of a large lava flow and returns to Taboose Creek Campground.
Getting ThereFrom Southern California
If driving from the greater Los Angeles area, head north on Highway CA-14 from the I-5 / CA-14 junction and continue to Highway US-395 in Inyokern. If driving from the Inland Empire or San Diego, drive north on I-215 or I-15 through Cajon Pass and exit at US-395 and head north.
Continue north on US-395 to Taboose Creek Road, which is about 15 miles north of Independence. Go left (west) on Taboose Creek Road for 1.25 miles to Taboose Creek Campground.
From Northern California
Head east from Sacramento on Highway US-50 to Highway CA-89. Go right (south) and continue through Markleeville to US-395. Go right (south) and continue on US-395 to Taboose Creek Road, about 10 miles south of Big Pine. Go right (west) on Taboose Creek Road for 1.25 miles to Taboose Creek Campground.