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Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon

Mojave Desert, California

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Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon

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  • An information kiosk marks the unpaved Doran Scenic Road from Calico Road.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • A large flat area provides parking just outside the intersection of the two canyons.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Doran Canyon forks to the left while Odessa Canyon continues on the right.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • The canyon has areas of narrow sheer walls.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Sedimentary rock within the canyon.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Mineral content colors much of the area, which is what drew miners here long ago.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Colored landscape in the Calico Mountains.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Though off of the main path, open vertical shafts present a danger.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Further up the canyon, abandoned mines are present in almost every direction.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Much of the canyon hike is a steep ascent or descent through the wash.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • The fork at the top of Odessa Canyon. If you'd like to make a loop of the hike, the road to Doran Canyon heads off to the left here.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Sweetwater Spring is a freshwater spring in an otherwise parched landscape lying just off of the trail and is drinkable if you have a filter.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • The colorful Calico Mountains.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • At the high point of the hike you will soon descend into the heavily mined area atop Doran Canyon.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • The hike is over small to medium sized boulders.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Descending through Doran Canyon.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
  • Interesting tunnel formations at the base of the canyon near the parking area.- Odessa Canyon / Doran Canyon
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
A very colorful and scenic canyon that lies far off the beaten path
Cons: 
No shade, Signs of destructive jeep use
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Alerts: 
Though the trail generally stays away from potentially risky mines, the areas and smaller roads surrounding the main trail contain shafts - many of which are vertical and not protected by markings of any kind. Always be extremely cautious around mines and when venturing away from the main trail.
Region:
Mojave Desert, CA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
1,000.00 ft (304.80 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
5.50 mi (8.85 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
2,279.00 ft (694.64 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Pro Contributor

Though the town of Barstow tends to be more of a pit stop along the I-15 for travelers making the drive between Southern California and Las Vegas, the area offers quite a few features and hikes that are worth exploring. One of these is the Calico Mountains - so named because of their colorful bands in varying shades of reds, ochres, turquoises, and steel.

This route follows a loop using two different roads, the combination of which used to be the paved Doran Scenic Drive; however, years of floods through the narrow canyon washes have long since eliminated most semblances of a driveable road. Today the area is popular among off-roaders driving some seriously modified beasts up the canyons that seem to be anything but vehicle-friendly. (To get an idea, do a video search for Calico Gatekeeper to see a lengthy catalog of clips of rollovers, broken axles and vehicle extrications...)

If you're able to look past the scars of years of vehicles scraping stone obstacles and empty beer cans that can litter the route, then these canyons will treat you to a trail of narrow slots, colorful scenery, and the potential to see some mine shafts up close.

The more scenic of the two roads is Odessa Canyon, which can be treated as a 3.5-mile out-and-back with a total of 500 feet in elevation gain if you're looking to stick to the main narrows of the canyon - there is no set turnaround point, but the canyon opens up at about the 1.75-mile mark. A second option would be to combine the Odessa hike with a continuation to a high point overlooking the Calico Mountains about 1,000 feet above the starting elevation before dropping into Bismarck Canyon (often called Doran Canyon) to complete the loop at the mouth of Odessa Canyon for a total distance of about 5.5 miles. 

Those choosing to take the loop will pass a short spur path to a small basalt hill and the Sweetwater Spring, a freshwater spring amid the dry Mojave landscape. Sitting at the top of Bismarck Canyon is the abandoned Bismarck mine, a honeycomb collection of mine shafts and adits last used for commercial production in 1962, when gold and quartz were mined from it.

Along the hike, it is possible to see old patches of pavement clinging to the edges of the washed out canyon bottom. And the track alternating between variously sized boulders and soft sand will definitely require some effort to walk, and may even leave you impressed that people are willing to try to drive it with their vehicles. 

There are no amenities at the trailhead.

Outside of the canyons, there is no shade on the hike. And following wet weather, the dirt road into the mouth of the canyon which is usually okay for two-wheel drive vehicles can become extremely muddy and rutted, so it may be necessary to park near the kiosk on Calico Road and begin your hike from there. 

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(1 within a 30 mile radius)

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