I’ve wanted to do this hike over two years. I finally got to do it on Xena’s birthday. It was a special day all around.
Mojave National Preserve, located in the heart of the Mojave Desert, is 157 miles northeast from Palm Springs, CA.
I didn’t know what to expect on our way to Mojave National Preserve because we kept hearing the horrible news about the overflowing vault toilets and trash bins in the national parks due to the partial federal government shutdown.
When we arrived at the Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center, we only found the place sunny and beautiful. The bathrooms were locked, and the bear-proof receptacles were not, but they weren’t overflowing. We drove to the trailhead located at the end of the road past Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center and began the hike.
I was glad it was close to midday already. The temperature was in the low 40’s and the high sun provided a welcoming warmth.
A desert view isn’t complete without a landscape of mesas.
In the beginning, we found them sporadically. After about a half-mile into the hike, there were big piles of animal poop everywhere along the rocky trail: some fresh and some old and dry. Neither of us had seen these before and we hoped they were left behind by bighorn sheep because we’d love to see them up close. I saw one pretty up close while hiking in Utah two years ago. They are such magnificent animals.
Shortly after, we came to a metal fence. The trail continued on the other side of the fence, so we opened the gate, locked it behind us then continued.
The trail was well maintained overall but I was thankful for the second set of eyes to look out for the trail signs. Those brown metal signs blended in the desert landscape so well.
You’d think once the trail leveled out, it would be easier to find the signs but still, my eyes played tricks on me. I couldn’t find the trail nor the signs quickly. When in doubt, we followed the wash and stayed near the flat mountain on the left since we were doing the loop counterclockwise.
Meanwhile, we felt like we were following the animals who pooped everywhere because we couldn’t get away from the droppings. It was the crappiest trail ever! Literally! 😂
Then, he and I noticed each other at the same time. We were walking towards each other. His tail stopped moving as soon as his eyes locked on mine and I came to a dead stop. Xena, who was walking slightly behind me, stopped as well as soon as I stopped. I told Steve, who was walking slightly ahead of me, to stop. He couldn’t see why I stopped him. His view was blocked. The wild bull stayed still. His locked jaw and the stare were intimidating.
We decided it was best to move back slowly so we did. Steve instructed me to remove Xena’s red coat so I did as soon as I was out of the direct line of sight. I took off Xena’s jacket and put her on a leash while Steve took out his knife from the backpack. Then I realized, OMG I am wearing red and so is the color of the leash!. Steve wisely ignored my slightly panicky comment and calmly told me to walk near him so Z and I did.
Meanwhile, the bull still had his eyes on me because as soon as we came out to the clearing, the bull’s eyes locked on mine again. This time, I looked away. I didn’t want to be seen as confrontational. As we walked forward but away from the wild beast, I could hear my heartbeats. Once we felt that we were comfortably far away from the bull, he felt the same. His tail began to swing again leisurely and finally looked away.
The elevation gain and the loss on this hike mostly happened during the 1st and the last mile of the hike. The middle section was primarily flat and had a vast view of the plains and mesas. Jackrabbits were active and we had multiple sightings of these big-ear super fast animals.
Xena got to chase some of them when they appeared on the trail in front of us. If you want to see a sequence of one epic chase, click here. It was a delightful follow-up event after the standoff with the bull.
There was no cell reception in this section of the trail. When I started to wonder if we were lost, we came to a sign confirming that we weren’t.
Soon after I took this photo, Xena stepped on cactus spines and started limping. I was able to remove them but I made a mental note to add a tweezer to my first aid kit.
After 4 miles, we came to another metal fence. Now we knew why these fences were put there. But apparently, they didn’t stop the bull from roaming around because his poo was everywhere. I mean, everywhere! What does he eat?!
According to the sign at the gate, the Hole-in-the-Wall was 1.1 miles away. The Barber Peak Loop Trail eventually met the Rings Trail near the Hole-in-the-Wall. Our car was parked just behind this wall of rocks. It was time for some rock climbing.
Just around the corner, the first rings appeared.
I guess it’s my turn.
The second set of rings appeared shortly after. Both times Xena had to be lifted due to extreme steepness. The second one was vertical. We had to step on the rings to push ourselves up.
If you only want to do the Rings Trail, it is just 1.5 miles with 100 ft elevation gain. It’s a must if you visit Mojave National Preserve. It was so fun!!!!!
After an exhilarating hike that included a standoff with a wild bull, chasing after jackrabbits, getting cactus spines removed from a paw, and getting lifted by humans to climb steep rocks, the birthday girl was caught sleeping at her birthday party while humans made late lunch.
It’s so hard to stay up. That little tongue out though…gaaaah
I can’t blame her. It sure was an exciting day!
Good to Know:
- Hike Date: 1.2.19
- Distance: 5.4 miles RT
- Elevation Gain: 740 ft.
- Difficulty Rating: Moderate
- Trailhead: 35.044232, -115.396945
- Vault toilets available at the trailhead
- Permit/Fee: None