The Argus Range Wilderness is a narrow area of BLM land south of the rural town of Darwin in California. It's a strip of desert only two miles wide interspersed with steep-sided canyons stretching for a total length of around twenty-eight miles. It's a dry, rocky, and almost barren terrain with very little flora or fauna other than a few scrub plants and some reptiles. There are no access routes for rigs, no RV camping facilities, and just a few roadways leading into the wilderness that are suitable for exploration on foot or by four by four vehicles. While the wilderness may be pet-friendly, it's probably not the sort of place you'd want to walk your dog.
This BLM property is bordered to the east by the impressive peaks of the Argus Mountain Range. The western slopes of the mountain range are occupied by a military installation and have restricted access, though hiking and climbing are permitted on the east-facing slopes of the range. Historically interesting hiking can be undertaken at the most northern tip of the wilderness in the Osborne Canyon, which lays right on the edge of the Death Valley National Park.
If you're looking for somewhere to take a solitary walk or quiet OHV drive in California, you'll have found the right spot amidst the arid landscape of the Argus Range Wilderness. For an RV campsite in more green and verdant lands that isn't too far away from the desert, head to the forests of the Sequoia National Park to the west of the wilderness or to the Kings Canyon National Park to the north. They're a completely different world.
The Argus Range Wilderness isn't the easiest of BLM properties to access. The roads leading into the wilderness itself are only suitable for four by four or off-road vehicles. It's a scenic drive around a desert landscape you'll want to enjoy in your OHV after pitching up at your chosen campsite in one of the nearby national parks.
From the Death Valley National Park, it's a testing drive along the CA 190 through the peaks to Panamint Springs, which gets worse the closer you get to the Father Crowley Overlook. There's a car park there where you can pull in and take a breather from the stress of driving along the mountain roads. Even though it's an isolated spot, don't expect too much peace and quiet as there are often fighter jets flying Top Gun-style on maneuvers through the canyon below.
If you're heading to the Argus Range Wilderness after camping out in the Inyo National Forest, you'll have about a three hour run along the US 395. On the way, you'll pass through the small towns of Independence, Manzanar, and Lone Pine, all of which, as small and remote as they are, are great spots to stop off as they have some very interesting places to visit.
There's no shortage of campgrounds in the Death Valley National Park. All of the campgrounds are open twelve months of the year and, apart from the Furnace Creek Campground in summer, operate on a first-come-first-served basis. The semi-primitive Sunset Campground, located on Furnace Creek, is the largest site with almost three hundred pitches. On-site amenities are limited to flush toilets and drinking water.
The Texas Springs Campground has ninety campsites furnished with picnic tables, fire pits, and grills, with water and flush toilets available for general use. The Furnace Creek Campground is the only one with utility hook-ups and then only at eighteen of the one-hundred and thirty plus campsites. The Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogany Flats Campgrounds at the Death Valley National park are all primitive with no amenities and restricted to RVs no longer than twenty-five feet.
Between the two national parks, Sequoia & Kings Canyon, there are fourteen campgrounds suitable for RVs. There are only three that are open all year and those include the Potwisha Campground, the Grant Cove Campgrounds and the Cedar Grove Campgrounds. The rest of the campgrounds are open from late spring through to early fall.
None of the campgrounds have any utility hook-ups and all have restricted hours for generator use. Reservations can be made via the recreation.gov website to ensure a pitch even though most operate on a first-come-first-served basis.
You'll need a good strong pair of boots, ample provisions, and a compass to go hiking in the Argus Range Wilderness. The trails are rocky dirt roads and the going can be tough. One of the most accessible is the Nadeau Trail which runs through the Osborne Canyon to the north of the wilderness.
Trek over the crushed rock surface of the trail and you'll come across old mining sites, abandoned cabins and some unusual geological formations. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see some prehistoric petroglyphs too.
The Argus Range Wilderness will really challenge your photographic skills. From the incredible geological formations to the shadowy crevices of the canyon walls, you'll be wanting to snap both color and black and white to get the full effects of the contrasting light.
If you run out of subjects in the wilderness, head over to Searles Lake to capture some images of the tufa spires known as the Trona Pinnacles. Show your snaps to your friends and they'll think you've been RV camping on the moon.
If you're headed to the Argus Range Wilderness during the fall to explore the desert in lower temperatures, check to see if your visit coincides with the annual event, the Gem-O-Rama, on Searles Lake.
Organized by the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society, the two-day gem hunt usually takes place the second weekend in October and is a mayhem of gem collecting that sees at least three thousand people excavating in the lake bed for pink halite, hanksite, and the much rarer sulfohalite.
If you're a fan of Wild West movies, the Lone Pine Film History Museum is a must-visit when you're up at the Argus Range Wilderness. Located in the small town of Lone Pine, the museum houses memorabilia and artifacts from the film industry ranging from cameras to camera cars, posters, costumes and much, much more.
There are exhibits on many of the famous actors who graced the silver screen in cowboy films including Gene Autry, John Wayne, and Audie Murphy.
The Manzanar National Historic Site is a WW2 prisoner of war camp located to the north of the Argus Range Wilderness near the town of Manzanar. The camp housed many Japanese families who were forced into incarceration because of the conflicts.
At the site, you can watch a short informative film, explore the reconstructed barracks and mess hall, extensive Japanese gardens, orchards and the ruins of a Judo Dojo site.
You may have already guessed that there's nowhere to go fishing in the Argus Range Wilderness. If the desert landscape gets too much for you and you want to be by the water to cast a line and hook some fish, you'll need to travel two and a half hours north to the Tinemaha Reservoir.
Both Searles Lake and Owens Lake close to the wilderness area are dry lakes and no good for fishing whatsoever, whereas the Tinemaha Reservoir is teeming with bass and the Tinemaha Creek is full of trout.