Bell of the High Desert

A Hike Up Bell Mountain in the High Mojave Desert

The payoff for the thigh-burning hike up Bell Mountain is a majestic view with a patriotic flair. Unfolding beneath you is a panorama of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains and a vast expanse of the high Mojave Desert, while Old Glory flaps in the breeze above you. It’s a breathtaking tableau you’ll want savor for a while.

Bell Mountain, named for its shape (it rises more or less symmetrically), stands apart from the rest of its rocky counterparts on the outskirts of Apple Valley, 3,903 feet above sea level. It’s visible from far away. In fact, you’ll see it from the freeway and keep it in your sights as you approach. The out-and-back hike gains just over 700 feet in 1.4 miles, one-way.

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You’ll find two unsigned but obvious trailheads on the south side of the mountain. It doesn’t matter which one you choose since the trails converge a third of the way up. You’ll always know you’re on the right track because the routes are clearly marked by rocks lining either side of the path. The hike starts as a gentle incline littered with giant boulders and outcroppings. Be sure to pay attention—long sections of the trail run through uneven footing that requires navigating your way around some of the bigger boulders. You’ll know you’re close to the top when the trail suddenly grows steeper, but power through it to the top of the ridgeline. From there it’s a leisurely stroll to the American flag that marks the summit. You made it—an accomplishment worth a snappy salute!

Tips: Wear thick-soled shoes or boots for hiking over jagged rocks. This hike is best in the fall and winter, for the cooler desert temperatures and far less risk of encountering rattlesnakes.

Take the I-15 north just past Victorville, to Exit 157, the second exit for Stoddard Wells Rd., and turn left. After 1.6 miles, turn right onto Johnson Rd. for 1.4 miles. Make a right on Dale Evans Pkwy. for 2 miles, then another right onto Falchion Rd., an unmarked dirt road. Follow Falchion 0.5 mile and turn right at the first four-way intersection. Follow that road to the south-side base of the mountain. Dog-friendly!

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