Southern Sierra Chimney Peak Byway


Pixel Monkey
Even though I don't own an off-road vehicle yet, I wanted to share a little trip I took last weekend with two friends in a jeep owned by one of them. I should be buying something in the next few months, so I look forward to contributing more.

One of the great things about living in Southern California is that you have such a large diversity of landscapes and environments within just a few hours drive. Back in 2011, a friend and I did a hike along a short section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the southern Sierras. This hike really whetted our appetite for the southern Sierras and got us thinking about what was further in. The southern Sierras were also enticing because they are a reasonable drive from Los Angeles. This time we added a third friend who owns a pretty hard-core Jeep TJ Rubicon to get us down the dirt road heading deeper into the wilderness (the Chimney Peak Back Country Byway). It really only required a regular higher clearance vehicle, but it was great knowing we could drive through a field of boulders if we came across one (which we thankfully didn’t).

We left Los Angeles Friday evening and got up to the turnoff for 9 Mile Canyon Road pretty late. Surprisingly the campground was completely empty, but this worked out because we ended up having quite a lot of fun trying to eventually get a good throw of the rock with rope tied to it over a decent branch to hang our food. The next morning we first drove the extent of the byway loop to the spot where it has been closed due to a washout for many years. We continued up to a little peak with some pretty cool views to the west of the Domelands Wilderness area along with some rather large microwave repeaters humming away. Happy to get away with our electronics still working, we backtracked over to the closest point the road got to the Domelands Wilderness and Rockhouse Basin. With larger sweeping views in mind, we continued on foot along a ridge line and series of smaller peaks trying to find the best view looking west. If we had backpacking overnight gear with us and more time the Domelands Wilderness would have been our destination, but we had to settle with enjoying that beautiful landscape from afar on this trip. It will definitely be visited on a future trip.

We eventually made it to a nice overlook spot and settled down for a few hours waiting for sunset. The area looked like it had burnt roughly five years or so prior, so there were no live trees covering much of the area. While we did not have much of any shade, the dead trees did give us some interesting foreground subjects. I’m a sucker for clouds and the weather provided some beautiful ones. I ended up filming two time-lapse clips of what amounts to cloud porn. Then, when the sunset light started hitting the clouds, I was really having some fun. Our hike back started at sunset and the dirt road which we hoped would make the trek back to the Jeep easier ended up being almost impossible to follow at times. We figured it hadn't seen four wheels in just as many decades. Thankfully the GPS guided our flashlights through the dark and we got to the Jeep safe, but exhausted. We had originally planned to camp that night, but we made the decision to drive back. Showers and beds were too strong of a draw and none of us felt like setting up a tent with the easier option available.



Wow, nice pics. I've been wanting to go into that area myself, Domeland looks like it would be really fun. I just got back from a day-trip with my daughter to Monache Meadows last month. That entire area is beautiful!


My girl and some of the "Wildlife" that we saw.


New member
Thank you for sharing these. That's just so beautiful capture you have in Domelands Wilderness. The sunset is just so lovely. You can't blame me since I am a hopless romatic person. Ha ha ha. When I went to Manila bay in Philippines as the place is so famous for the beautiful sunset, it was just so lovely. I always wanted to watch sunset and capture them.


nice pix Aaron .. you've got some real photo talent there mate. it was nice to see the Domelands again - I used to climb some of those rocks a long time back. also, your photo of the sky before sunset was just awesome.
here's a suggestion for you ... you've noticed that there is a large burned out area. forest fires do happen - it's a shame. but there's no reason why you can't do a little re-planting. it's not complicated. while driving in the area, if you enter nearby forest with pine trees - just gather a few fresh cones that have not "opened" yet. take them back and toss them on the burned out section of land. better still, place them near the path of a small streambed so they will have a better chance at getting water once the seeds grow into small trees.
good luck to you - the southern Sierras are also a stomping ground for me as well.


OK Aaron, go get yourself a vehicle and do a whole bunch more trip reports like this. I'm a sucker for clouds and timelapses, so cloud timelapses? Um yeah.

I was up in the southern Sierras recently too, SO many roads to explore up there - it's OHV heaven I think.

Thanks for posting :sombrero:


New member
Looks like a fun trip. I've camped at the Long Valley campground that you passed the turnoff to on the way to your lookout point. Great views into the Domelands.


Makes we yearn to head-up that way again, being retired, its similar to pulling teeth asking other retirees to ride shotgun... Wonderful video an still photography! I keep saying I intend jumping headlong into this hobby, but I've realized over time lenses are seriously expensive if I stay with Cannon.



Pixel Monkey
Thanks everybody!

Hey Garbinator, as much as I am a gear head, I will be the first one to say it's all about the squishy thing behind the eye piece - that's what makes the photograph. Having basic gear is no excuse. You don't need a $2k lens to make a nice composition. Just get out there and shoot shoot shoot.


You're so right about the southern Sierra. It's one of the most dramatic mountain escarpments on Earth. Where else can you travel in a day from one of the planet's lowest and driest places, to 10,000 feet or higher in one the snowiest?

Among my favorites drives in the southern Sierra is the road between Jawbone and Lake Isabella.


Excellent and powerful pictures. You west coast folks have it made on places to get away.

Mind me asking what software you use for your time-lapse? the Gopro has a time lapse setting but once i download the 400 pictures.... i don't know how to get them to sequence and play.


The Southern Sierra has its own unique beauty as a transition zone. Domelands is cool, the Sherman Pass trail is fun and the area above Lake Isabella is a mountain bikers paradise. Have to put it on the list again for next summer, thanks for the report.

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