Formation Nation

Hiking Caruthers Canyon in Mojave National Preserve

You don’t have to head to a museum to see some of the world’s greatest sculpted formations. Take a hike along Caruthers Canyon Trail in Mojave National Preserve’s New York Mountains, where eons of volcanic activity have left behind a dazzling landscape of fantastic rock formations. Even the vegetation here is fascinating—not at all what you’d expect at 6,000 feet in a high-desert range.

The 6-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike begins at a primitive campsite known as Stone Table, where you can leave your car in the shade. From there, begin your trek along an easily followed old mining road. Look for some of the named formations—Balancing Rock on Spire, Elf’s Cap, Giant’s Foot—and feel free to name some of your own. You’ll also catch a stunning view to the northwest of 7,533-foot peak that crowns the New York Mountains.

Gallery image 1 of 8
Gallery image 2 of 8
Gallery image 3 of 8
Gallery image 4 of 8
Gallery image 5 of 8
Gallery image 6 of 8
Gallery image 7 of 8
Gallery image 8 of 8

As for the unusual plant life, nearly 300 plant species call the canyon home, including pinyon pine, white fir, oak, juniper, and, weirdly, many coastal chaparral plants that would seem to be more at home in the Santa Monica Mountains. You’ll see manzanita, yerba santa, ceanothus, and coffee berry—leftovers from a long-ago period when the climate here was much wetter. This niche of the New York Mountains is just high and moist enough for them to survive.

The trail culminates at the mouth of the abandoned Giant Ledge Mine. Once a hot spot for copper, silver, and lead mining starting in the 1860s, it has been abandoned for nearly 100 years. As common sense should dictate, it’s wise not to enter the mine. But spend some time in the isolated tranquility of the place before you make your way back to your car and out of this magical canyon.

From Ivanpah Rd., take New York Mountains Rd. west for 5.5 miles and turn north at an unsigned junction. Continue 2.7 miles to a wooded area with a primitive campground. Camping is free, but bring your own water. The approach can be rough; high clearance highly recommended. Dog-friendly!

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Truly Grand Day Hike

    One of the best spring day hikes in the Grand Canyon? See layer upon layer of the park’s grandeur—including the river—on this 3-mile (one-way) journey to Skeleton Point via the South Kaibab Trail.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Eucalyptus Loop

    Forest bathing among Australian trees and biting into tasty Australian meat pies—head to the 3.25-mile Eucalyptus Loop in Chino Hills and end with Aussie meat pies at a great local bakery.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Stairstruck in Hollywood

    Beachwood Canyon in Hollywoodland has an action-packed adventure with A-list workouts, big-budget views, and a stair-studded cast. Running time is 1.25 miles with five staircases

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Do it Yourself Walking Tour of Solvang

    Solvang has long been described as a “little slice of Denmark in Southern California." Experience the historic village on a 3-mile walk that explores the architecture, food, wine, and green space.

    View

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam It All

    The hills have gone green just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, and this 7.5-mile lollipop loop hike passes through some of Mount Tam’s lushest spots, with bridges, creeks, a waterfall, and big views.

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Headlands Over Heels

    People come from all over the world to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get a dramatic and novel view of the bridge without all the people on this moderate 6-mile hike in the Marin Headlands.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Wildflower Hiking Guide

    California’s wildflowers will be lovely this spring! So how do you find the best in bloom? Check out POST’s complimentary Wildflower Guide to find the best hiking trails with wildflowers.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Ohlone Time

    Keep this epic East Bay hike on your radar for wildflowers and a waterfall that only comes to life after rain. Get wayyy back in the Ohlone Wilderness among big hills and scenery, and Murietta Falls.

    View