Tucked into a remote corner of the Goler Wash in Death Valley, is the Barker Ranch, infamous for once being a hideout for the notorious Manson gang in 1969.
A favorite “shortcut” into Death Valley from the west side of the Panamint Range, is to go across Goler Wash. Access to this remote area is only by high clearance 4×4 vehicles. Be sure to check road conditions before entering, as one year we found so many rock falls it took the joy out of driving it.
You can still gain access from the east side by driving in via Warm Spring Canyon Rd. to go over Mengel Pass into Goler Wash. There are many opportunities for dispersed camping along this scenic route.
Charles Manson hideout
The serene beauty of the area where this ranch is located belies the heinous deeds of Charles Manson and his gang, who used it to hide from the pursuit of lawmen after their murder of five people, including Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger. The Barker Ranch is where the group was apprehended by Inyo County Sheriffs.
You can read the story, as an insider law enforcement account, in the book Desert Shadows. Ironically my hubby worked where Manson was incarcerated for a portion of serving his life sentence.
The sound of the nearby spring and breeze rustling through the willows beckons you to walk around and explore. I am glad we visited during daylight hours as the creepy carved gourd candles, messages, and graffiti suggested some evil rituals may have taken place there.
The last time we tried to visit the site, it was taped off by law enforcement digging for bodies, after being tipped off there may be some buried there. Sadly in 2009, the main ranch buildings were gutted by a suspicious fire and now only the ruins remain with their untold mysteries. I am glad I had taken photos on one of our trips before the fire, which you can see in my photo gallery at the end of this post.
I discovered a well-done video with a tour of the area including stories about the history of Manson’s occupation at this remote hide-out. Thanks “Dusty Desert Trails” for your video series.
“There are horrors beyond life’s edge that we do not suspect, and once in a while man’s evil prying calls them just within our range.” – The Thing on the Doorstep (H.P. Lovecraft)
Guides to get there
We recommend you have good guidebooks before venturing into this remote area. Lost campers have come into our camp after dark to ask for directions. Our favorites are Death Valley SUV Trails and The Explorer’s Guide by the Bryans.