La Cumbre
La Loba
El Serrijon
La Cuesta
El Tolete
Las Paredes
La Aleta
La Meseta
El Leon
La Cima P500
El Piso
El Loro
El Lobo
Cerro Alto
Mesa Roida
Cerro Ultimo
Drillers Ridge
Bullwheel Ridge
La Muralla
La Palomera
El Rascador
Discovery Ridge

Wed, Jan 5, 2022
La Cumbre
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPX
La Cima later climbed Wed, Jan 5, 2022

The Kettleman Hills lie in the southwest corner of Kings County, just west of Interstate 5. The northern part of the range is owned of an active petroleum business. There is a ridiculous number of named summits that date back to the start of oil extraction more than 100yrs ago. Most have very little prominence, but they show up on LoJ and comprise more than half the summits in the county. I had been to the area some years ago, mostly to do the range highpoint at La Cima, with 500ft+ of prominence. I was happy to find that there is very little security patrol (if any) and I was able to drive almost where I liked. Others have visited the area, including Laura Newman (yes, that Laura Newman), but no one has made a concerted effort to visit all of these, from what I could tell. I was driving out to the desert for the usual peakbagging, this time by myself. I had recently contracted Covid-19 from my dear wife who had traveled to Ohio, of all places, so I figured I probably shouldn't invite anyone along this time. It seemed like a good time to pay a second visit to the Kettleman Hills. I didn't arrive in the area until just before noon, but I kept at until sunset, collecting 22 of the summits. Most of them were drive-ups, but there was some hiking involved, probably less than 4mi all told. I didn't bother breaking out the driving and hiking portions on the map, and am not going to bother giving any details on the individual summits - just some general overview.

Most of the economic activity centers on an area close to SR269, which connects Avenal (a state prison town) with I-5. After the first mile on Skyline Rd, there's a good chance you'll see no one. The area used to be signed for Permission to Pass Revocable at Any Time, but I noticed there were two newer No Trespassing signs off the highway, right as one nears the main facilities. The north and east sides of the range have most of the petroleum stuff. Most of it is rusted and abandoned, and the place looks pretty trashed with old pipes all over the place. I saw only a few active wellheads, most have been removed or no longer operating. The main roads are in decent shape that any vehicle can navigate. The lesser roads tend to be overgrown, but the Jeep had no issues. Depending on your vehicle, you may have more or less walking to do. The west and south sides of the range are devoted to cattle grazing. A number of the peaks on the crest of the range straddle the two economic use areas. Most of the gates between them were locked, but at least one was just latched and allowed me to drive to the summits, or very close. I had hoped to exit to the south at Kettleman City, but found the overpass gated and locked, and could see no clear way to exit from that side, now mostly cattle country (later, I found that it appears Bullwheel Ridge Rd might allow one to connect to SR41 to the south). I ended up having to drive all the way back out to the north at SR269, costing me about an hour and a half. So it goes. I spent more than four hours in the area and was happy that nobody sent me packing. Not a Wilderness experience, to be sure, but if you go in looking for a history lesson, it's not all bad...


Submit online comments or corrections about the story.

More of Bob's Trip Reports

This page last updated: Mon Jan 10 18:48:08 2022
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: