Shadows of the past at the Manson hideout

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 “short cut” 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 canyon along this scenic route.

kitchen inside the Barker ranch house
Barker ranch house kitchen in 2007

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 to you to walk around and explore. I am glad we visited during daylight hours as there were creepy carved gourd candles, messages, and graffiti to suggest some evil rituals may have taken place there.

Unsolved mysteries

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 caught 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

To see photos of the ranch ruins and directions of how to get there visit this Off-Road site. We recommend you have good guide books to make your trip more enjoyable. Our favorites are Death Valley SUV Trails and The Explorer’s Guide by the Bryans.

Barker ranch house photo gallery:

One thought on “Shadows of the past at the Manson hideout

  • June 7, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    I have read the Desert Shadows book which was very interesting. However, I don’t recommend it for reading just before bedtime.


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