On this trip, we hit the Bradshaw Trail via the Red Canyon Jeep Trail. This is a fun and easy trip that rates can be done in a day or taken more leisurely can be a two-day trip. Be warned, from Orange County it is a long day so, pack some lunch and probably an afternoon snack as well. Let’s get the ratings out of the way so we can get into the adventure of the day!
LIKE ANY GOOD ADVENTURE,
IT BEGAN BEFORE THE SUN ROSE
The day began at 6 am for us as we rolled out of our home in South Orange County. We made our usual stop for coffee and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Once caffeinated and fed (let’s not kid ourselves, starting without coffee is just asking for pain) we hit the road. It was a 2-hour drive on this early Saturday morning out to Chiriaco Summit. This is a little-known exit off the 10 freeway, home to a gas station (key), a restaurant (bonus), and the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum (a must-see). This is a great spot to meet up because the museum doesn’t open until 9:30 am so we met in the parking lot at 9 am. There’s food and gas so you can top off before hitting the trail!
Not get off topic here, but, I highly recommend going to the museum. The history of this region of the California desert is not known by many but this was the area selected by General Patton to prepare the troops headed to fight the Nazis in North Africa. The California desert offered the perfect tortuous conditions of heat, wind, and lack of shelter or easy supply routes. This was not just training for the troops but everything that would be needed to sustain an army in these harsh conditions. I highly recommend you pay this museum a visit and learn some of the local history, some world history, and see some amazing Trench Art. I won’t spoil it, it really must be seen. I should also mention this is volunteer run and donation supported museum. You can visit the museum website HERE.
Once our group of 15 arrived, we had a quick driver meeting to cover safety, comms, and what can be expected as well as the sights we’ll be seeing. The two major attractions on this trip are the old trestle bridge that is soon to be taken down. Which, as of this writing the bridge maybe has 6 months, at best. The second is the slot canyons that can be found in the wash below the Red Canyon Jeep Trail. More on these later. Once the meeting was wrapped up we took a short drive across the freeway and into the desert to a nice open spot to air down.
This is where the Red Canyon Jeep Trail begins, a fun little double track that heads south into the desert winding around hills and in and out of washes. It’s really a great scenic trail that’s also great for beginners. While you don’t need 4wd on most of this, there are two good sections where a beginner can throw it into 4wd and practice on a climb or in some soft sand. While in one of the washes there is a really fun tight area (large enough for a full-size truck) with high walls and boulders. It was a blast to wind through these areas and then begin to climb to end up on a ridge. Here are some shots of the group exiting one of the washes and heading up to the spine of this small range.
“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”
– Amelia Earhart
Once to the top, we were treated with views of the valley below that we were headed into in a few short minutes. A quick stop while everyone made it to the top and took in the view. Exchange a few high fives and talk about the terrain we’d covered. We were only a couple of hours in and we were having a blast already!
We’re back on the trail! Winding along the ridge on this amazing double-track that dips and winds like a roller coaster with a bluff on one side and rolling hills on the other. Before long we’re descending into the valley to meet-up with the Bradshaw trial. The day has already been awesome. We come across a few groups of ATVs but overall the trail is pretty quiet.
Once at the end of the Red Canyon Jeep Trail we took a hard right, continued for a few hundred yards, and then another right in the canyon that runs parallel to the Red Canyon Jeep Trail. These slot canyons are awesome. The first one is a loop, so don’t fear that it gets narrow the group can just follow you around. It was here in this tight canyon with high walls that we took shelter from the sun and found a spot to park and have lunch.
I love traveling with this group. Always great conversation and awesome rigs. We talked about adventures over lunch and took in the gorgeous scenery and weather. It was a perfect 72 degrees that day. It really could not have been better with perfect cotton candy clouds to boot. From here we headed further into the wash and into a longer slot canyon that was even more impressive! It opened up to an amazing arena-like area where we were able to fit all 15 rigs. We hopped out and did some exploring by foot to find an old, now dry, waterfall. This is why we do this, seeing things that most people never will only a few hours from home!
After taking in the sights we headed out the trestle bridge. Heading west on the Bradshaw Trail we made it to the bridge after a few miles of deep soft and. This is probably the most treacherous section for the 2wd vehicles. But aired down and with momentum, we all made it without issue.
With the rigs all lined up, we took some pictures and began to explore the area. From the top of the bridge, you get an amazing view of the Salton Sea to the west and out into the desert towards Blythe to the east. It was amazing to see what was built nearly 100 years ago. To see how well the steel has held up in these harsh conditions. You can see all the stamps from where the steel was made, all the ties and spikes. The bridge was built by a local mining company to haul ore through the San Bernardino desert, where it was mined, out west into the city. Some incredible history out here. The Bradshaw trail itself also holds the pretty unique title of being the first trail to cross the Riverside County desert clear out to the Colorado River. The trail was created in 1862 by William Bradshaw. Read more at Desert USA, this site taught me quite a bit.
After some time on the bridge, the crew headed east on the Bradshaw Trail. That took us all the way to Blythe. From here on out the road is pretty well maintained, some washboard and some bumps here and there but flat and easy. Don’t get too confident, there are some junked cars out there to remind you this is a two-way road, and stopping on dirt doesn’t work so well. Enjoy the view of the chocolate mountains on the south side of the trail and the view in front of you. It’s important to note that the south side of the road, I mean literally past the berm that lines the road, is the Chocolate Mountains Bombing Range, which is still in use. There are plenty of signs to warn you of setting foot in there. Don’t, you may not get it back. On the right, most land is BLM land and some did camp on this trip. I did the last time I was out here and was treated to an evening show of just how exactly the range is used. I must say, our tax dollars put on an impressive show! Dare I say worth every penny? If you can camp, do it, you may get a treat.
That’s the end of this journey, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope you get out there and explore!