Nightmare Gulch Loop Trail
Distance: 8-9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600 feet
Level: 5 out of 10
VHC previously did this hike in January 2013, as part of a camping trip to Red Rock Cyn State Park. Unless folks want to make their own arrangements for camping at Ricardo Camp Ground, this is planned as a day hike following a drive in.
We will begin our 9 mile loop by climbing to the top of the first of three ridges (which will account for most of the elevation gain and some easy scrambling) that allow great views of the Sierras to the north and the Gulch to the south. We will descend from the third ridge, and enter the east end of the gulch for an easy mostly level hike enjoying spectacular rock formations all around us until we emerge from the west end and return back to the trailhead.
Nightmare Gulch is a small, colorful, highly scenic canyon. The area attracts many birds of prey. To protect the raptor nesting sites, this area of the park is closed to hikers and vehicle travel yearly from February 1 to July 1. The gulch has many side slot canyons just waiting to explore. Along the way, we will turn into one to view a specific rock formation called Magic City.
Red Rock Canyon State Park features scenic desert cliffs, buttes and spectacular rock formations. The park is located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range. Each tributary canyon is unique, with dramatic shapes and vivid colors.
Historically, the area was once home to the Kawaiisu Indians, who left petroglyph’s 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.
The beauty of the desert, combined with the geologic features make this park a camper’s favorite destination. Wildlife you may encounter includes roadrunners, hawks, lizards, mice and squirrels.
Dogs must remain on a 6-foot maximum leash and be accompanied by a person at all times. Dogs are not allowed on established trails, however, as we will not be following an actual trail, they are okay for this hike. They must be cleaned up after and cannot be left unattended.
Bring a lunch, snacks, and adequate water for a desert hike. It will likely be very cold and windy in the morning, so dress WARMLY, but in layers that can be removed as the day goes on.
The park is 25 miles northeast of Mojave on Highway 14, near Cantil. From Highway 14, there is a clearly signed turnoff to Abbott Drive where the Ricardo Campground is located. We will meet at the trailhead, which is a dirt turnout apx ¾ of a mile north of the Abbott Drive turnoff on the right hand side. It is the only obvious pull out for parking from Highway 14. While not clearly marked it should be somewhat obvious.
The park is 120 miles north of Los Angeles, via Interstate 5 and Highway 14.
Folks who would like to carpool can meet at the Starbuck’s restaurant parking lot at 16548 Soledad Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91387, off of the Sand Cyn exit on Highway 14 in Santa Clarita.
Meet at the carpool location by 7:00 AM for 7:15AM departure. The carpoolers will stop for a final bathroom break at the Carl’s Jr in Mojave. Anyone driving directly to the trailhead should plan to meet there at 9:00 AM, however carpooling is encouraged as there is limited parking at the trailhead.
Photos of the scenery you can expect to see:
PLEASE – Know your limits and abilities. Bring snacks and drink plenty of liquids when hiking. Check weather conditions and dress accordingly and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Watching out for poison oak, snakes, ticks, uneven footing, spectacular views, beautiful fauna all while interacting with awesome (usually) fellow hikers can be extremely hazardous, rewarding and fun.
VHC HIKE RATING SCALE
Rating a hike is subjective, meaning the difficulty of a hike will be in direct relation to how often you hike and the type of hike you prefer. Keep in mind that any hike can have the following: un-even hiking surfaces, various obstructions, water and/or water crossings or bouldering and/or rock hopping. A great hike will have all of these!
1 – A long walk
2 – 4 mile hike w/little elevation gain
3 – 5 mile hike w/up to1000 ft. elevation gain
4 – 5+ mile hike w/up to1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increases at times)
5 – 7+ mile hike w/over 1500 ft. elevation gain (heart rate increasing even more at times)
6 – 7+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be trying to remember how to perform CPR)
7 – 5+ mile hike w/over 2000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be muttering expletives to yourself)
8 – 10+ mile hike w/over 3500 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be angry with the hike leader)
9 – 10+ mile hike w/over 5000 ft. elevation gain (at times you might be thinking of reporting the hike leader to the authorities)
10 – Use your imagination
Class 3 Scrambling: Scrambling or un-roped climbing. You must use your hands at times to hold the terrain or find your route. This may be caused by a combination of boulders, steepness and extreme terrain. Some Class 3 routes have ropes in place for assistance.
DISCLAIMER / RELEASE OF LIABILITY
IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ BELOW IN ITS ENTIRETY:
I am a volunteer (i.e. not liable for the group). Safety is a priority for everyone in the group. Think of this as hiking with a group of friends.
Outdoor sports and other events we plan can be inherently dangerous and accidents may happen. By participating in any posted event, you’re taking responsibility for your own safety and well-being. The Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and its organizers are not trained leaders and we do not confirm the qualifications of any of its members to lead or participate in trips. All participants take full responsibility for their own actions. If you choose to sign up for any Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup events, you are releasing the Valencia Hiking Crew Meetup Group and it’s organizers from all liability in case of possible injuries as stated in paragraph 6.2 of the Meetup “Terms of Service” located on the bottom of the Meetup website. Your personal safety depends on your own judgment and experience.