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.