Owl Canyon |

Barstow

Hiking Owl Canyon - Barstow Hiking Owl Canyon
Barstow

Overview | Getting There | Route | Photos | Maps | Comments

Overview

RATING: Easy/Moderate Hike

Sat

84 | 61

Sun

76 | 54

Mon

76 | 50

Tue

82 | 53

Wed

90 | 59

View Full Weather Details
SEASON: Fall, Winter, Spring (Hot in summer)
GEAR: Standard Hiking Gear
WATER: None

Sat

84 | 61

Sun

76 | 54

Mon

76 | 50

Tue

82 | 53

Wed

90 | 59

View Full Weather Details
The Owl Canyon Trailhead

The Owl Canyon Trailhead

Owl Canyon, near Barstow, is a colorful family friendly hike with fascinating geology. As the hike winds its way up the canyon, the walls cross through several geological formations, creating diverse textures and colors. The easy access and straightforward hiking make this an excellent family hike. Our 4-year-old loved checking out a couple of small caves along the way, as well as climbing up and over several small obstacles.

Difficulty Note: About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, in a particularly narrow section of rock, two dryfalls block the way. Both obstacles are straightforward, and about 6-9 ft (2-3m) in height. Though straightforward, they may be difficult for dogs and children. Be sure to be skilled enough to reverse anything you go up! Both yield well to a spot/boost. We got both a dog and 4-year-old up these obstacles easily, but both the dog and child are well versed in being assisted up and down obstacles!
Great colors and textures high in Owl Canyon

Great colors and textures high in Owl Canyon

Getting There

From Main Street in Barstow California, go north on 1st Ave. The road crosses above railroad tracks, then bends east before quickly turning north. Just after it turns north, go left on Irwin Road. Follow Irwin Road for 6.0 miles as it heads north out of Barstow. At 6.0 miles, turn left off the paved Irwin Road onto the signed, graded dirt road to Owl Canyon Campground.

2.9 miles down the dirt road, turn right toward Owl Canyon Campground. At 3.2, turn right again and follow the road to the campground. The Owl Canyon Campground is about 4.6 miles from Irwin Road. Continue straight through the campground to the north end and a parking area at the trail start.

Note: The Owl Canyon Campground is a large campground with vault toilets and water. In cooler times of the year, it is a great campground to use as a basecamp for exploring the Mojave. The campground charges a small fee per night ($6 in 2021). Pack out all trash.
A narrow section in Owl Canyon

A narrow section in Owl Canyon

The entrance to the cave that goes all the way through in Owl Canyon

The entrance to the cave that goes all the way through in Owl Canyon

Route

From the trailhead, the well-worn trail heads north up Owl Canyon. Side trails exist, but it is easiest to just stay in the canyon bottom. The initial section is wide open as it heads through brown and grey terrain. As you head up, keep an eye out on the left for a small cave. It does not go anywhere but is fun to climb into and check out.

Continuing up the canyon, keep an eye out on the right side for a cave coming in on a bend where the canyon turns east, around a bend, then west. The cave is hard to miss if you keep an eye out. Unlike the first cave, this cave goes completely through a mud and rock tunnel and out to an open wash behind. It is an incredibly unique feature! Though short, it is dark enough a headlamp or flashlight is required to make it through safely.

Back in the main Owl Canyon, keep heading north up the canyon bottom. A couple of bends above the cave, the wash cuts through a grey rock layer and narrows. A few minutes more, and the grey rock gives way to tan rock at the base of the two dryfalls. The first dryfall seems most easily passed by climbing up the left, then traversing over. Easy, but a little exposed for kids and dogs. Immediately around the bend from the first dryfall is the second. This second requires chimneying up between the canyon wall and a chockstone. At about 7-9 feet (2-3 m) it is reasonable to lift kids and dogs if you have a person on top to help them.
Beyond the dryfalls, the canyon opens into a wider brown canyon. This seems to be the turnaround spot for many groups, as the number of footprints above greatly diminished. If you continue, the brown canyon passes through a red layer before a final very colorful section of bluish greys and whites. I highly recommend this upper section; the colors are unique. In this upper section a side road comes in on the left, and the canyon opens and reaches a well-worn dirt road. Return the same way.


Maps

Route / 5.18 miles / Elevation Range 2,848 - 3,340 ft.
Printable Maps:
Trailhead

11S 497955mE 3875824mN

N35° 01' 30" W117° 01' 21"

Cave

11S 497768mE 3876700mN

N35° 01' 59" W117° 01' 28"

Dryfalls

11S 497770mE 3877003mN

N35° 02' 09" W117° 01' 28"

Dirt Road

11S 497721mE 3877730mN

N35° 02' 32" W117° 01' 30"

End of Canyon Dirt Road

11S 497771mE 3878206mN

N35° 02' 48" W117° 01' 28"

Comments

Want to make a comment? Login and let yourself be heard.