China Springs Road > Cotton Wood Canyon > Barney Riley

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Brooke

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Hi Everyone,

My name is Brooke, I'm new to the 4x4 thing. I drive a 2006 Xterra Off Road model. I took a trip this weekend to the Barney Riley Campground, and thought I would post my experience for everyone. I know there is another thread here about this trail, but I came in from a different road (north entrance) addtionally after the weather we've had in the Sierra's this year a lot has changed on the trail. I would say that it is actually no longer suitable for stock rigs and if I were to do it again I'd make sure to go with a group because it was a very rough road. Anyways, I hope this report helps anyone who is planning a trip out to the Barney Hot Springs.

Trail Head: 38.860981, -119.673541
Trail End: 38.769317, -119.714422
Rating: High end of intermediate
Features: Rock gardens, hill climbs, primitive trail, scenic views of the Carson Valley, Carson River (suitable for tubing/rafting), hot springs.

I decided to take this trail over the weekend because it had a lot of features, and it was rated a beginner trail - suitable for a stock rig.

When you enter the trail after about .5 miles you will begin a rocky decent (crushed granite) and this goes on for about 2 miles. Then will empty out into marshy high alpine area along the Carson River. As you continue along the river you will encounter obstacles such as sand, mud, and low hanging trees. This is the easy part of the trail. And then you will come to your first ascent, its about 40ft to the top of loose rutted out dirt don't be shy with the gas and get a running start. Then you will hit some nice dirt road that will last all of 300yds before you are spit into some of the harshest trail I've ever done. I would recommend that your vehicle be lifted at least 2" and sufficient under armor. Your first major obstacle here is going to be crossing a dried out creek bed, riddled with boulders about the size of shopping carts and volkswagens. After you creep up here the road will split, you are going to want to stay to the left. If you go right, the trail will narrow and dead end at a river crossing and at the time of writing this, the water is both too swift and too high to cross. You'll continue on a reasonable dirt road with plenty of dips and ascents that are happy to scrape your bottom so be careful. You will eventually find yourself at an old abandon weigh station from the 1800's - it's a pretty cool sight so make sure to stop and check it out.

You are going to want to stay to the right at the fork here and continue on Cottonwood Canyon Rd. (Entering California). Things aren't that bad from here on out, there are short sections of intense technical driving but as long as you stay in lo and go slow you should be fine. You will come to your final decent here, there are 3 lines. The one on the left does not look all that bad, but I could not pass on this one, I was getting too much roll and thought I would flip so I backed off. The middle is rough, lots of BIG boulders here and I did get high center on one of them and ended up having to use all of my tricks to get free. Ended up banging my diff bad enough for it to start leaking. The line on the right is for the lunatics out there, guys with trucks that have tires the size of grizzly bears, it is so rutted out and scary... if you have a wide wheel base I'd recommend the left most line, you will probably still end up with 2 wheels off the ground though. If your in a stock rig, and you've made it this far then you can probably get down the middle line, just maybe walk it first. Once you get to the bottom you are home free.

You will see a small camp ground, the river, and directly across the hot springs. Some people cross the river here, I heard this was illegal starting in 2011 but there were 3 rigs over there when I was there... (which is insane because the current is so strong they are lucky they didn't get swept away, just youtube "carson river crossing fail") there is a hill climb over there for the brave (though I hear that is an unofficial route and you may be ticketed for being over there) we saw a truck attempt it only to lose traction about 30ft from the summit, and watched him back down - we all thought for sure he was going to roll - so if you do attempt it for the love of god please be super careful and don't die.

The map indicates the road goes through the Carson and then crosses back to the otherside a little up the ways, from there you can take the Barney Riley all the way out to Loope, CA. Again, I'm not sure if it is legal or not to cross the river - I do not advise you try it this year due to the height of the river. In this case you can backtrack just past the weigh station and turn right onto Leviathan Mine Rd. This road has only one major obstacle on it - there is a very long stretch of dried out river bed, I'd describe it as a half pipe of boulders. Crawl cautiously, and slowly, and find yourself a small water crossing (creek?) on your way out. From here it will be just a rocky dirt road all the way up. The last bit of the road is paved, a great time to air up before hitting the highway.

I managed to do this trail in a stock 2006 Xterra Off Road Edition. I at several points had to use my lockers and 4lo. At one point I had to use traction pads and a shovel to free myself from a boulder I got high center on. My skid plates were used plenty and about 2" of lift would have saved me a ton of scary. This to date is the hardest trail I have ever done. I was actually scared I wouldn't be able to get out the next day, so if you do this trail in a stock rig I'd recommend that you carry everything you need to get yourself out and a radio. GPS is a must. Tire repair kit, and a spare too. The information out there about this trail is not current. After the snow/rain of 2016 the trail has changed a LOT.

That's all I got! Cheers~
 

druff6991

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This sounds amazingly fun. Although with commiefornia being the way it is, I'm sure it's illegal to cross the river.....thats why you claim ignorance [emoji6]

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Brooke

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This sounds amazingly fun. Although with commiefornia being the way it is, I'm sure it's illegal to cross the river.....thats why you claim ignorance [emoji6]
Well, even if it's not illegal, I still wouldn't recommend it this year. The trucks that were over there looked pretty well outfitted (winch, high clearance, big tires, bumpers, etc.) and may have arrived early in the morning before the current got to strong. The only reason they banned crossing it back in 2011 was 2 trucks were taken by the river and it was very difficult to extract them. I know one of the people failed because they tried driving upstream in a high and swift river, then his buddy tried to pull him out and lost his truck too. I think it comes down to how you wanna spend your time, and personally I don't wanna spend my time watching my truck roll down the river only to be pulled out by a bulldozer.

Personally I wouldn't even do this trail again, it was really hard on my rig, and being so new to this I was way outside of my comfort zone. Although.... I'm super proud that I made it out w/o any body damage. I'm not sure what the damage on my diff is going to amount to... I took it to my mechanic last night and he said he didn't hear anything. But I am hearing a noise when in gear idle or when accelerating and I get a clicking noise when turning (perhaps I damaged my CV). I'm going into Nissan on Friday and hoping that its nothing to bad.

PS. California does have A LOT of rules... it really does take away from the experience. All the permits and research to ensure your in compliance is a real hassle.
 

boss324

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Brooke I was out on Leviathon mines road and it's no joke! Rock garden for days!




My temp gauge read 108 going through the rock garden! I did tap my running boards and skid plate but that was about it. It is the HIGH end of moderate as you stated. I think everyone on the trip agrees trail not for everyone. This trail chewed up my BFG K02 pretty good. Oh and good for you making it through Barney Riley road which from what we hear even worse trail than Leviathon mines road.


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ntgbrl

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Ive done this route, and the route out to Hwy 89 several times in my Jeep Liberty (1" lift on 31" tires) and have seen Subarus at the hot springs in past years. The route out Leviathan Mine Road used to be an easy route, but the '16-'17 winter has really rutted up the tracks and exposed a lot of rocks, so id consider it a moderate track now (not recommended with a stock Subaru).

July 29-30 2017 I did the route from 395 > China Springs Rd > Horse Shoe Rd > turn right at to fork to follow the river. The high water during the spring really did a number on this track, with entire sections washed out and now part of the river. New parallel tracks have been cut through the brush, but they are not well established and sections can be quite challenging. This trip I took my new Jeep JK on 35" tires, and crossing the river near the main hot spring pool was not an issue for me, though the water is deeper this year than past years (the river bottom has changed so the river is now narrower and deeper). The upper river crossing i'd consider impassible now, its very swift and over waist deep.

FullSizeRender 2.jpg

Apparently helicopters are an alternative form of transport to get there too
IMG_0405.JPG
 
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Brooke

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Apparently helicopters are an alternative form of transport to get there too
View attachment 31896
That helicopter though!!

I think if I went back, I'd drive to a point and launch a raft into the river and just float there. I didn't think I was going to get out of there..... granted I'm new to off roading so this was in my experience hella intense! Are you a Nevada local? Would love to get some guidance from someone who knows the area :)
 

ntgbrl

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Rafting the river is pretty popular. When I was there last, dozens of rafts and kayaks came by and camped at the hot springs. You drop into the river at Markleeville CA and get out at Hwy 395, you can also pay someone $60 to move your car from the start to the end, I may do that at some point. I live in CA Central Valley, but am in the Reno/Tahoe area often. This track and the dirt roads around Bodie CA are the only Eastern Sierra trails I've done so far, but I'm always up for an adventure with new people.
 
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boss324

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Ive done this route, and the route out to Hwy 89 several times in my Jeep Liberty (1" lift on 31" tires) and have seen Subarus at the hot springs in past years. The route out Leviathan Mine Road used to be an easy route, but the '16-'17 winter has really rutted up the tracks and exposed a lot of rocks, so id consider it a moderate track now (not recommended with a stock Subaru).

July 29-30 2017 I did the route from 395 > China Springs Rd > Horse Shoe Rd > turn right at to fork to follow the river. The high water during the spring really did a number on this track, with entire sections washed out and now part of the river. New parallel tracks have been cut through the brush, but they are not well established and sections can be quite challenging. This trip I took my new Jeep JK on 35" tires, and crossing the river near the main hot spring pool was not an issue for me, though the water is deeper this year than past years (the river bottom has changed so the river is now narrower and deeper). The upper river crossing i'd consider impassible now, its very swift and over waist deep.

View attachment 31895

Apparently helicopters are an alternative form of transport to get there too
View attachment 31896
We were meeting up with another pair of Suburban's and they said this was easier than taking Barney Riley. Due to the rain lots of exposed rocks along the trail which is rough on tires and suspension. But had a blast taking the burb on this trail.





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LVCoffeeguy

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Thanks for the details Brook! I think we are going to have to give this one a try. It is hot enough that all routes require swimming these days.