San Diego Trail Tramps ~ Scheduled Hikes for 2012

  Carey's Castle - SW corner of Joshua Tree NP

Date:  Sunday, January 8, 2012  8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Info. URLs:  Google has many...

Location: The trailhead to Carey's Castle is off the I-10 corridor, along the southern border of the Joshua Tree National Park, and to the east of Indio.

Directions: If hikers leave from the Hillcrest carpool about 8:00 am on Sunday, Jan. 8th, they'll arrive about 10:15 am in Palm Springs. We'll rendezvous at the home of two of our members, take a coffee break, then form a carpool and depart for the hike at 10:45 am. The trailhead is 56 miles to the east and will take another hour to get to. From Palm Springs, head SE on I-10 towards Indio. Continue on I-10 and drive 4 miles east of Chiriaco Summit, then exit on Hayfield Road. Make a left and head toward the mountains. At 1.1 miles, turn slightly left onto a bumpy dirt road marked by a sign that says "Private." Follow for 1.7 miles, turn left at the fork and at .1 miles there is a parking area on your right.

Background info.:

Amidst the Eagle Mountain Range at the SouthWest corner of Joshua Tree National Park, lies Carey’s Castle, a small cave-like dwelling constructed in the 1920's for use as a place to live while mining the adjacent vertical shaft. Very little is known about the “Carey” character, however without the inquisitiveness of the destination, this is still a magnificent hike full of incredible flora and terrain to behold. An early spring hike is probably best as the wildflowers in bloom are fantastic.

This magnificent piece of history has existed in the desert for 60+ years, and as someone on a blog put it, "This isn't the kind of place you want all of Southern California to go to!" (Please leave it the way you found it.) Therefore, no specific route will be given here for the actual hike itself. That is known only to the hike leaders of our group. Instead, readers can find the route by looking at topo maps, as it is clearly marked on them. Then, use a GPS to plot some waypoints.

Hike Description:

This is an off-trail canyon hike to a unique desert "castle", and is an unlisted "secret" hike. It's a 5.5 hr., 8.2 miles out and back roundtrip hike, plus a lunch break. Elevation gain of 1343' and moderate to strenuous. A half dozen rock scrambles are involved, all under 12'.

Although the route is fairly easy to follow, take precautions. It could be easy to get turned around in canyons. Good route finding skills, good map and compass skills and/or a GPS are recommended. Follow the dry wash NNW along the mountainside. Follow it past the first canyon and turn right into the second larger canyon at 1.2 miles. There are 3 major forks along the route. Don't depend of cairns for directions. Take the easy way and follow the footprints.

In addition to flora, the local terrain features are breathtaking; particularly the ridge-line to the east of the trail, featuring oddly shaped domes and towers of rock that, at times, look unreal to the eye. The ever-present elevation gain takes you from the already high desert of the Chuckwalla Valley (I-10 corridor east of the Coachella Valley to the west) to the familiar sights and “feel” of the Joshua Tree ecosystem and geology. The castle and mine are situated along the southern edge of Big Wash which exits the park to the east at a gaging station and old mining railroad at Victory Pass. No doubt, the “Carey” character would access his site via this route.