Bradshaw Trail and Joshua Tree NP

A 4 day / 3 night outing to get on top of some peaks north of the Bradshaw Trail in the Chuckwalla and Orocopia Mountains that I had been eyeing for quite some time: Chuckwalla Peak, Black Butte, Orocopia Mountains High Point.

  • Day 1:
    • Met Doron at the east end of the Bradshaw Trail just off Hwy 78. Shortly after getting on the dirt and hitting washboard right away, we decided we did not need that rattling and so we stopped and aired down our tires. Much better.
    • Drove for about 29.3 miles on Bradshaw Trail, then turned towards the mountains for another 1.8 miles.
    • There was a well established and recently used campsite at the spot where we planned to start our hike. We parked and set off for Chuckawalla Peak.
    • About 2/3 up I continued alone as the others decided to take it easy.
    • There was one short section along the ridge where one has to scramble around some small cliff, otherwise it’s a (steep) walk-up
    • Got back to camp with the last daylight and set up for a campfire and dinner.
    • Full hike: 3.13 miles, 1585 ft gain
  • Day 2:
    • Got up with the sun, had a leisurely breakfast preceded by a friendly coffee grinding competition
    • Drove back to the Bradshaw Trail and continued west for 15 miles, then turned north towards the mountains for 3.2 miles
    • We again found an established campsite, parked, and headed off towards the peak (Black Butte).
    • The hike first followed a wide wash, but soon we had to turn into a very rough wash towards the peak. The wash got progressively steeper and a lot of scrambling over rocks was necessary.
    • The others again decided to turn around about 2/3 up and I continued by myself.
    • On the peak I found a lot of batteries from the old surveying days. The views were great all around.
    • On the way back I caught up with the others and we hiked back to our campsite for another campfire and dinner. We made use of our campfire pit since the existing fire ring had not been used in a long time.
    • Full hike: 4.6 miles, 1600ft gain
  • Day 3:
    • Same morning routine as on day 2
    • Drove back to the Bradshaw Trail and continued west for 16 miles to the intersection with the Red Canyon Jeep Trail. The intersection was not obvious at all with all the tracks in the wash, so we used GPS to find the way out of the wash.
    • The Red Canyon Jeep Trail follows a ridge line east of the Red Canyon. It’s a fun drive on a roller-coaster like road. Many of the hill crossings are steep enough so that one can not see over the hood of the truck where the road continues. Slow approaches are required. We saw some interesting looking side canyons from Red Canyon, an area to come back to for exploration. The trail also includes some rockier and rougher sections. It’s a road for high clearance and 4×4 vehicles.
    • After 12.3 miles we reached a power line road which we took to the west for 3 miles before heading south on a dirt road for 3.3 miles until that road ended.
    • Like on the previous days there was a campsite. It was a bit of a mess so we decided to go with our firepit again.
    • The way up to Orocopia Mountains High Point follows an old road for awhile, then there is a use trail (faint in places) with cairns that leads all the way to the top. This time Doron joined me all the way while Srisuda waited for us 2/3 up. The late afternoon light created great views over the Salton sea. With only little daylight left we could not spend too much time enjoying it though.
    • Another campfire and dinner by the fire ended the day.
    • Full hike: 5.44 miles, 1500ft gain
  • Day 4:
    • Same breakfast routine
    • After breakfast we drove to the pavement at I-10 and aired up the tires. Doron then headed back home while Srisuda and I went into Joshua Tree NP for one last hike.
    • I was surprised by how busy the park was on a weekday. It appeared to be mostly people bouldering/climbing. We drove down the Geology Drive road for a few miles before parking by the side of the road. Srisuda opted for rest and I set off to hike to Lela Benchmark. I took the gentle canyon to the southwest up and the fun scramble canyon to the west down.
    • After I returned Srisuda joined me for a short scramble up Malapai Hill on the other side of the road.
    • This concluded our hiking for this trip and we drove home eager to take a nice shower after 4 dusty days.
    • Lela BM hike: 4.86 miles, 933ft gain. Malapai hike: 2 miles, 480ft gain

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