Nightmare Gulch in Red Rock Canyon State Park


Early one Saturday morning we were up on the road by 3am in order to get out to Red Rock Canyon State Park and hike through Nightmare Gulch. You might be wondering why on earth would someone get up earlier than they have to on a Saturday just to go out to the desert to take a walk through a place with such an ominous sounding name. Well, you see, I’ve driven by this place dozens of times and have never stopped to explore. That tends to be a problem with living in California, there are just so many amazing places to check out. Plus, the sunrise on the way there was impressive.



We arrived in time to watch the sun hit the red rocks while we got ready and had a bit of breakfast before heading in. From the research I had done beforehand I was intrigued to explore this area. It features cliffs, buttes, and amazing rock formations and the colors of the earth vary from almost white to yellow to terra cotta. Plus, I had read that the park is limited in the months that it is open because it is a nesting site for condors and that there was the possibility of seeing desert tortoise. There is also a rumor that the wildflowers are amazing after a wet winter. Thanks to our dry winter the wildflowers were out of the equation.


The history of the area intrigued me as well. As I mentioned the in my post about Satwiwa, I’ve been interested in the lives of Native Americans, it might have something to do with my ancestry, even though my fair skin and red hair tend to hide that fact. It’s something I’ve never taken the time to learn about so I guess you could say I’m checking it out. According to the State Park website:

“Historically, the area was once home to the Kawaiisu Indians, who left petroglyphs in the El Paso mountains and other evidence of their inhabitation. The spectacular gash situated at the western edge of the El Paso mountain range was on the Native American trade route for thousands of years. During the early 1870s, the colorful rock formations in the park served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons that stopped for water. About 1850, it was used by the footsore survivors of the famous Death Valley trek including members of the Arcane and Bennett families along with some of the Illinois Jayhawkers. The park now protects significant paleontology sites and the remains of 1890s-era mining operations, and has been the site for a number of movies.”



Even Abby took a moment before entering Nightmare Gulch to gain a little perspective and look around. Here we go:




The gulch was like another planet. The layers upon layers and the nooks and crannies. The colors of the rocks varied from almost white to red and there was very little vegetation. Most of it was dry and brittle which didn’t stop Lexi from checking them all out in order to make sure they weren’t hiding a lizard or some other critter worth chasing.





There were times the canyon rose above us with spires and other times when it was wide and rose up in the distance. Either way, it made me feel quite small yet awed me at the same time. It’s amazing how that can happen.






Eventually, we reached the end of Nightmare Gulch and started hiking up and up and up… The views kept getting better and eventually we were passed by some middle aged men on dirt bikes. It seemed their wives let them out for a guys weekend. I was surprised they hadn’t managed to get themselves lost. They didn’t exactly look the part but they appeared to be happy enough.



Up next…getting to the top of this ridge. NightmareGulch15

The views just kept expanding and expanding the higher we hiked. There was a whole lot of nothing out there.




All in a really great hike and so totally different than all the other hikes I have done in the last few years. The area is definitely worth checking out. Granted, I think my next desert adventure will be out to Joshua Tree. I hear it’s great training ground for rock climbing. Hehehe




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