Explore the Mojave Desert during these beautful hikes that will take you places you never imagined
Hiking trails and opportunities abound at China Ranch. Trails vary in length from a few hundred yards to several miles. October through April are the best months in order to avoid the intense summer heat. Routes may include lush riparian strips that are excellent habitat for birding, narrow rock canyons, winding arroyo badlands, mining and railroad ruins, as well as paleo-indian campsites.
Slot Canyon Trail
About 4 miles round trip, this is the longest but possibly the most rewarding of the hikes. It involves an elevation drop and then gain of about 350 feet over its course. From the gift shop, walk straight down the canyon. When the trail forks bear to the right and continue past the historical saloon building. Continue on to Acme Siding, an ore loading site and stop on the Tonopah and Tidewater railroad from 1905 until 1938. From Acme, follow the cairn-marked trail to the right down off the Mesa, then continue on. The trail leads up and over the T&T railroal grade, then down to the Amargosa river. Walk down stream and find the place where you can rock hop across the river.
After crossing, bear to the right and walk up the large wash which drains into the Amargosa River. At the top of the wash you will enter a narrow twisting slot canyon eroded into the igneous rhyolite rock. The path is eventually blocked by two boulder strewn vertical dry falls, ten to fifteen high. Skillful climbers can pull themselves up with hands and feet, but there is a danger of falling. More cautious hikers will turn back at this point.
An easy walk, about 200 yards long. It begins behind the gift shop and ends at the crossover road. The trail follows China Ranch Creek through thick native vegetation. Plants are labeled with interpretive identification signs. Three tables for picnicking are also located along this path. The streams contains frogs, crayfish, and speckled dace, a rare native fish.
About 2 miles or more in length, a challenging trail that requires hand and foot climbing over two ten to fifteen foot vertical dry falls, with a little steep climbing on loose footing at the end of the trail. From the gift shop, walk straight down the canyon. When the trail forks bear left, dropping down into China Ranch Creek. The creek bed is wet and brushy, and the outlet on the opposite bank is marked with a rock cairn. Carefully wind your way through the thorny mesquite, then across the mud flats. The trail will turn left into the major drainage between the soft, light colored clay hills on the left and the darker, hard rock mountain on the right. Follow the wash uphill and over the dry falls, and continue climbing until you dead end at the base of a sheer verticle cliff several hundred feet high. You are now in a nicely formed natural "bay", hidden away in these ancient lake bed sediments. Try some echoes!
About 2.5 miles round trip, this route includes an elevation gain of about five hundred feet from one end to the other. Take the trail directly opposite from the gift shop up onto the first ridge, then bear right and onto the remnants of an old power pole road. At the second, or higher of the two wooden pylons, the trail separates from the road and is marked with rocks painted white. this trail gives a good opportunity to see China Ranch and its physical setting from above.
The first rock on the trail painted with an asterisk marks the view of the ranch. the second such asterisk marks the location of a good view of the Amargosa River canyon, which can be reached by walking down the ridge which projects to the west. The main trail ends at the first steep grade coming down China Ranch Road. The return trip can either re-trace the trail, or simply walk down China Ranch Road. This provides one with a good opportunity to explore the old gypsum mines in the canyon.
Ranch View Trail
A more challenging trail, about two miles round trip. This trail has a few short, steep sections and is high and narrow in some places. Not recommended for anyone who has vertigo or problems with heights. It includes an elevation gain, and then loss, of about four hundred feet over its course. From the gift shop, take the cross over road and then walk up the canyon past the date grove. At the top of the canyon, turn right and walk down the flood levee, then up onto the spine of the small hills directly in front of the of you. To your right there will be a spectacular view down the length of China Ranch, and to your left a small slot canyon incised into the soft clay sediments by intermittent flash floods. Follow the ridge all the way to its end, then cross the lower date grove to get back to the gift shop.