Road Trip to Barker Ranch: Charles Manson’s Last Hideout

Barker Ranch – Panamint, California

Barker Ranch is located in rock and boulder-filled valley in the Panamint Range. It is only accessible by sandy, primitive and rugged roads. Streams feed this little valley and provide much vegetation. There is a small one-room guest house located to the side of the main house. There is also a makeshift swimming pool (this was probably a cistern to store water from the spring) made from cement and rock boulders towards the back of the property.

Barker Ranch – Panamint, California
Barker Ranch, Panamint, California

Today the remnants of the ranch belong to National Park Service. Due to a fire in May 2009, most of the structure has been destroyed with only the cement and rock portion of the cabin still standing. The bathroom vanity where Manson hid is gone.

Barker Ranch, as most people are aware, is the site that Manson and his followers were arrested at back in the late 1960s. The Ranch is now abandoned and within the Death Valley park boundaries. This site has a lot of myths and stories attached to it – the most common of which is that Manson family members still visit and care for the ranch to this day. However, on our recent visit, it was obvious that the ranch has fallen into disrepair and no one is currently taking care of the site.

We first visited Barker in the mid-90s and at the time it was in share-cabin shape. Cat is going to dig up those photos to post here and show the decline the site has taken in the 10+ years since that first visit.

This photo on the above right was taken in the bathroom at Barker and shows where the bathroom cabinet was that Manson was found hiding in. Cat works with the CHP officer, Jim, that actually found Manson in that cabinet! He said that he was running a last check of the house and he saw a brown curl sticking out the cabinet door. That small curl of hair is what alerted him to Manson’s hiding spot. Jim also expressed how surprised he was to find someone able to hide in such a small space. As you can see someone removed the cabinet as a souvenir.

The swimming pool behind the ranch house and the lookout on the hill above the ranch.

Tracing Charlie Manson

Following the events surrounding Charlie Manson has been a long search. The families that were murdered, the missing girls that were seen with the group and the long road to his conviction has taken right 40 years. He is still incarcerated and the family members remaining work constantly to prevent his parole. The lens I am preparing here is just a drop in the bucket of the events over these past years. The cruel and sadistic way he went about his evil work and took so much from so many people cannot be fairly described in this lens or any language for that part.

Barker Ranch, Charles Manson's last home

The photo below of the inside of the old Manson gang truck still shows the stars stenciled by the group onto the inside cab ot the truck. The truck is parked at the old Ballarat Ghost Town location. Another sad reminder of the times and the mixed emotions that come with seeing the cult following going over the edge into disaster and murder.

Wikipedia on the Barker Ranch

For the community in Yuba County, California, formerly named Barker Ranch, see Woodleaf, California.

Barker Ranch is infamous as the last hideout of Charles Manson and his “family” after the gruesome Los Angeles murder spree. It is located inside Death Valley National Park in eastern California.

The Inyo County sheriff department, California Highway Patrol, and National Park Service law enforcement captured the group in raids on October 10 and October 12, 1969. Manson was caught hiding under the bathroom vanity. At the time of his arrest, they were unaware of the magnitude of their find. They wanted to prosecute the persons responsible for vandalism within Death Valley National Monument (the unit was upgraded to National Park status and expanded in 1994) further north, unaware that they had a mass murder suspect and his followers.

Nearby Ballarat Ghost Town

Many people driving to the Barker Ranch pass the ghost town of Ballarat. Located in the town by the general store is an abandoned vehicle, a Dodge Power Wagon. This vehicle belonged to the Manson Family and has the stars they used on its ceiling.

Ballarat Ghost Town
Ballarat Ghost Town

A little known ghost town in California, Ballarat is a wonderful place to visit. Located near Death Valley, the town is situated in the Panamint Valley in an ancient lakebed. Started as a gold mining boomtown, Ballarat still has several buildings and one lone resident.

The remaining adobe buildings are weathered and ruined but make for great pictures, and the area is frequented by feral burros, left wild after they were abandoned or escaped from the gold prospectors that once made this present-day ghost town a thriving hub of activity.

Most people stop by Ballarat on their way to Death Valley National Park since Ballarat is located just on the west side of the park. It is fairly good 2-lane highways all the way to Ballarat, except the last mile or so, when you will have to turn off the main road and take a well-graded dirt road the rest of the way. It is fine to take even in a car.

Trona Residents Recall Manson’s Visits to Town

Latest activity at Barker Ranch

There are still a few local Trona, Ca. residents who can recall seeing him and some of his group when they came into town for supplies.

Those that I interviewed locally said the group would come into the parking lot of the grocery store, pile out of an old van or bus wearing very little clothing. No shirts on the women and he was nude also. Of course, they wouldn’t let them in to shop until they got dressed. At that point, they were allowed to shop.

inside Barker Ranch
inside Barker Ranch

One long time resident told me that he was an eighth-grader and a group of the boys would go buy some treats a little store behind the big market and watch the events as they transpired. Giggling at the site of the shirtless women and pantsless men.

There was a fire recently at the Barker Ranch hideout of Charlie Manson. Not a lot of details, and some of the photos I saw on another site it appears that a lot of the inside of the old house was burned. It is such a sad place and a wonder that fire didn’t get it sooner. There isn’t much to see up there, and now scars of the fire. Someday maybe some good thing will happen at that place. For those who want to brave the canyon, it is still a popular place to explore.

The Possibility of Bodies Buried at Barker Ranch is Highly Probable

A Group of Killers Not Likely to Have Stopped After Arriving at Barker Ranch

The evidence being searched for has up to now pointed to the GREAT possibility that there are still bodies of unknown people buried out there in the forbidding desert hills of Barker Ranch.

Map to Barker Ranch

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