Hike Nightmare Gulch

Nightmare Gulch Trailhead - Search Nearby - Added by Nicole Mason

Hike (or ATV) through an incredible 10 mile long slot canyon with breathtaking rock formation, hoodoos, rainbow sandstone, joshua trees and classic Mojave scrubland. 

Heading north on highway 14, pass the turnoff for Ricardo campground on your left and take the second turn-off on the right, immediately past the large rock outcropping. Park and walk a few feet up the obvious trail and you should see a sign for Scenic Canyon to the right. Follow that trail across the open country and past the aptly named formation to a metal gate. There is no entry for anyone Feb 1 - July 1 due to bird of prey nesting, and no entry for motorized vehicles the 1-15 of each month. If you're on foot, hop the fence and follow the streambed north and into the Gulch. 

Hike north through the gulch until you come out at the top and see another gate. There are tons of side slot canyons and hoodoos to explore on your way, but it isn't so big that you will get lost. Some parts of the canyon walls are sheer or overhung but I found that for most of it I could have climbed out easily if I wanted to. The hike up took me less than 2 hours but I was walking quickly trying to beat a coming rainstorm. 

Once you hop the second gate continue walking straight forward a short way until you hit a big fenceline with another gate nearby. Don't take that gate, just turn left and follow the fenceline up the hill and continue over the top of the ridge and back down into the joshua trees on the other side. Turn left at the ridiculous 3-way intersection (pictured above) and then left again at the next intersection. I had to use my compass multiple times on this hike because there were NO trail signs and a bunch of random turn-offs from ATVs. If you don't have a compass, the country is pretty open up there and you won't be able to see or hear the highway but if you have a good sense of direction you can follow the direction of the ridgeline. 

You'll meander around and up and down a few hills and then drop into Black Rock Canyon, not a slot canyon but with more impressive sandstone cliffs. Continue on the same trail until you eventually see the highway again and get back to your car.

Distance

10 Miles RT

Elevation Gain

1200 ft Gain

Type

Loop

Activities

Photography, Mountain Biking, Hiking

Scenic
Wildlife

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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