Red Bluff, CA to Kingman, AZ - Options?

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Kim (skyking4ar2) Bertram

Moderator Emeritus
Jun 16, 2010
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Sometime around November 1, we will need to get from Red Bluff, CA to Kingman, AZ. Our traveling preference is to limit the jumps to a maximum of 275 miles or so a day. We want to stay in parks with 50 amps service, and maybe linger a day or two as we travel and absorb what the local area has to offer.

At that time of the year, we will be watching the weather in the mountains and will prefer to avoid any really steep climbing only because we are having some slight issues with transmission temps that will be addressed farther east.

At the moment, Minden, NV,  Bishop, CA, and Pahrump, NV all appear candidates, but it seems like we might come down through Sacramento just as easily. We have no experience in that area of the country. We have to be in Memphis on November 17 and will be in familiar territory once we get down to I-40.

If you have some suggestions in routing or stops, I will appreciate your response.
From the two alternatives you mention I would prefer South through Sacto - and have been trekking that route for 30 years or so.

I prefer the 5 to 58 at Buttonwillow, then 58 to Barstow, then 40 to Needles or points East on the 40. 40 between Barstow and Needles will sometimes get windy and there are a few grades - but no real long pulls. Also, it is a "long, lonesome, road".

You "will" have a long pull over the Tehachapi Summit en route to Mojave - but there are tons of pull outs and vs. the Nevada route, it all major freeway (other than from Buttonwillow over to Bakersfield). As to snow, in 30 years have never been stopped by snow, but have had to wait at times for the fog to lessen.

When the fog is too bad and heading East, I continue on 5 up the grapevine to Gorman, then 138 to the 14 North of Lancaster, then North back up to the 58 at Mojave - the East to Barstow. Same if returning to NCal. When traveling West, I can tell by looking at the mountains from Mojave whether or not to travel on down to Lancaster on the 14 and back over to the pick up the 5 on North.
If you follow bob's suggestion and come down I-5, a good stop would be Flag City RV resort in Lodi, at the intersection of I-5 and hwy 12, approx 45 minutes south of Sacramento; A clean park with easy access, and a Flying J nearby.

Since Bob first told me about Hwy 138 to Lancaster a few years ago, we rarely go over Tehachepi Pass; The latter can be very windy (that's blowing hard), and is an ugly drive when it's raining. Hwy 138 is a 2-lane road, but has very little traffic (we sometimes don't see another vehicle for miles). The Antelope Valley fairgrounds in Lancaster has become a favorite overnight stop; Large, level pads, W/E hookups, easy in and out, and a great $ rate. Be sure to check their event schedule, and don't plan on being able to stay when large events are going on.
In Bakersfield, we like the Orange Grove RV Park, which is off Edison on the east side of town, on the route to Tehachapi Pass. In Sacramento, we like to stay at the Elks Club in Carmichael, CA, just east of Sacramento. South of there, in Lodi, CA, we've stayed overnight for free at the Flying J, if you don't mind that. In Needles, CA, we like the Desert View RV Park (if you can get a space), but then we're usually headed farther toward the Phoenix area, not Kingman.
There are some very interesting spots to visit in Sacramento.  While it is a big city and generally I do not like them, the Railroad Museum is impressive as is a Capitol tour. 

Will be very cold in Bishop when you are considering travel.  Pharump is a good stop over if you plan to  go to Death Valley, but I doubt you have the time for that stop over.

You guys sure maximize your tourist time.  I am impressed with how much you pack in. Do you ever rest?
I wanted to spend some time in the Sacramento area, but we are starting to become a little time urgent with the length of the trip. We may shorten the Red Bluff stop and add some more California is we can get the route nailed.

We wanted to come down through the Las Vegas area but think we have too long a pull without good stops down the CA/NV border. We are liking some of the I-5 options and may save the Las Vegas area tour for next year.

I am leaning towards Bakersfield to Barstow and am trying to get some sense of the Tehachapi Pass. Still researching whether its a long slow grade or a steep short one. I don't have any mountain issues, but we seem to be running some hot trans temps on our pulls and I need to get that figured out. Weather is the other factor, and my pilot training kicks in fine there. We don't do foul weather in planes or motorhomes.

And yes, we get our money's worth! I rest when Christi flies to Baton Rouge to visit the grandbaby!  ;D
I think Betty and I both assume when you say Bishop and Pahrump that you mean going through Death Valley.  You should be aware that eastbound going into Death Valley is a 17-mile steep descent with no straight parts.  If you don't like steep roads and worry about braking, I would definitely avoid that route.

During iffy weather times (e.g. winter) we've generally taken I-5 to the Wasco road (CA 46) then south on 99 through Bakersfield and over the Tehachapis on CA 58.  That takes you to Barstow where you can pick up I-40 to Kingman.

ArdraF said:
I think Betty and I both assume when you say Bishop and Pahrump that you mean going through Death Valley.  You should be aware that eastbound going into Death Valley is a 17-mile steep descent with no straight parts.  If you don't like steep roads and worry about braking, I would definitely avoid that route.


One of the original plans was to skirt Death Valley, east (US 95) or west (US 395), on the way south. We were just trying to see if we could plug in Las Vegas as a stop from on the way from way north to way south through California. Steep roads and braking are not issues at all, but the trans temps are until we get that sorted out; that's the only reason we are checking on pulling grades.

skyking4ar2 said:
Still researching whether its a long slow grade or a steep short one. I don't have any mountain issues, but we seem to be running some hot trans temps on our pulls and I need to get that figured out.

Yes, the grades on Tehachapi "are" long and enough grade that I must drive in 2nd gear -- probably at least 5 to 6% at times - and a few short stretches may be steeper. You have one long one going up, then some up and down stuff, then a final long one into Tehachapi.

To give you an idea, trains are restricted to 2.2% (or there abouts) so on the first half of the grade, they designed and built the Tehachapi Loop. The tracks follow a complete circle passing over themselves if long enough to minimize the grade overall. As an old civil engineer, I love this.  :)

Also suggest you go to Google Earth and type in "Bakersfield to Tehachapi". You can look at the roadway plus note many pictures posted on the route. Coming down the other side into Mojave is not bad at all because you are then in the High Desert several thousand feet higher than Bakersfield.
If you have the time and want to see a bit more of California compared to what I-5 South has to offer, consider taking CA 36 out of Red Bluff to Lake Almanor.  That route takes you through the Lassen Volcanic National Park and while we pull a travel trailer and are less than 55 feet overall, I don't think you will have a problem with your setup.  Don't recall if the park we stayed at in Almanor had 50amp or not but I'm sure you could find one in the area.  From Lake Almanor, you could backtrack on CA 36 to CA 32 South to Chico.  CA 32 is one of the most scenic routes we driven. From Chico, you could head over to Lake Oroville State Recreation Area.  Oroville is a large reservoir with several state campgrounds.  Don't recall which one we stayed at and again don't know if they have 50 amp service.  The wife who keeps the memory is away so If you want more specifics let me know and when she returns will figure it out. 

Alternatively and FYI, we have not done it, you could continue on CA36 beyond Almanor to Susanville where you will connect with the US 395 South.  Heading south on 395 there are two campgrounds you should consider.  One is at Topaz Lake which is run by Topaz Lodge and casino.  It has a decent restaurant.  Further down the 395 at Lone Pine is Boulder Creek RV park where we have stayed 3 times.  It is two miles beyond the town adjacent to Mount Whitney.  If you're a fan of old westerns, there is a museum in town and the Alabama Hills where many of the old westerns were filmed is only 10 or 15 from Boulder Creek.  It's a very nice park with many pull throughs.  They do have 50 amp service.  From there continue south on 395 to CA 58 east which will take you to Barstow and I-40.   

If you decide to go to Oroville, continue on CA 32 south to Chico.  From there take CA 99/149/70 toward Oroville.  If you bypass Oroville CA 70 will take you to Sacramento.  From Sacramento, you're either back on I-5 or you can take I-80 toward Reno and connect with 395 south.     

Be sure to check the weather.  I-80 take you over via Truckee which can get snow.  Not sure how high up the road from Almanor to Susanville is but I'm sure others will chime in regarding both. 

Have fun.   
X2 for Bob's routing and Tom's campground recommendations. The Antelope Valley Fairgrounds is only a mile or two away from the singing highway (on the way to the airport), it plays the William Tell Overture at the speed limit. Flag City RV is a PA park for one or two nites and is close to our current favorite winery; Cycles Gladiator. Great zins.
If you want to add Vegas as a stop, then you probably should get over to the 95 south.  I would do that from the 395 using the 120 south of Mono lake to the 6 going over to pick up the 95 south before Tonopah, nv.  Then head south.  The 80 over to the 50 at Fernly, take the 50 to the 95 south to Vegas.  Out of Vegas I'd take the 93 to pickup the 40 at Kingman. As for RV parks with 50 amp and amenitys I can offer little to no assistance.  We have done most of that route several times and I dont remember any of the passes being treachorus, someone else might have a correction for me on that though. 

Have fun!

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