The Bradshaw Trail or the Gold Road to La Paz is a popular overland trail in the southeast corner of California in Riverside County. This once-popular overland stage route used to haul miners and other people looking for the wealth of California. Along the route, you will see many unique features to the area including old mining encampments, abandon train tracks, abandon train tussle, and many unique natural wonders. Because of all these amazing scenic stops, this route has become very popular with the overland community and off-roaders that are looking for a great way to escape the hassles of work. One of the amazing opportunities of this scenic trip is you can make it a day trip or multiple days to get to enjoy all the unique locations along the route. Thus, if you are looking for a unique offroad adventure near Palm Springs and Blythe, California, that could be done in 1 to 3 days and is easy enough for a new driver, look no further than the enjoyable 4x4 adventure of the Bradshaw Trail.
Trail Difficulty and Assessment
2WD Vehicle with High Clearance
The trail has several areas of soft sand that could get a 2wd some issues. A single locker would be beneficial along with airing down.
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Dirt and/or rocky road. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 8" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 9" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 12" inches. Good tire placement likely. Can be steep but with good traction. Read More about our Rating System
The Bradshaw Trail is a popular overland route that takes you from the Colorado River to the Salton Sea. Along the route, you follow many unique features from abandon train tracks to old mining areas. The trail is a lightly maintained road meaning it could be in good condition or poor condition based on if there was any weather recently. 4wd is recommended since the soft sands could easily cause problems for 2wd vehicles. The trail on the east end is usually maintained while the trail on the west end is a wash-boarded wash.
The area can get over 100-Degrees easily in the summer. Never travel alone on this trail and always bring extra water.
Also, be careful for flash floods during the rainy season, the trail crosses many washes that could swell in seconds.
1. Eastern Trailhead (0
The trail splits off Highway-78 and heads west. There is a sign right as you turn off the road that says Bradshaw Trail. This is a good area to air down, prepare for the trip, and take a couple of pictures.
2. Begin Dirt (1.06
Not far down the road, the asphalt turns to dirt. From here, you have over 100 miles of dirt before you see asphalt again.
3. Fork - Go Right/Uphill (2
The trail curves off to the right, up the hill.
4. Unknown Road - Continue Straight (3.21
The trail has many unknown roads that cross the path. Most are obviously not part of the trail. But it is a good idea to check your TrailsOffroad GPS track to ensure you are staying on the right path.
If you take a minute and turn around, you can see the valley behind you along with Dome Rock Mountains on the other side of the Colorado River.
5. Open Pit Mine (4.53
One of the many scenic stops along the route. But in this case, this spot has camping and is also a great spot to camp if you are meeting up with a group before starting the trail.
6. Wash - Continue Straight (5.07
A wash crosses the path in a Z-shape. If rain is in the area, it would be wise to approach this spot with caution.
This optional route is a cool side trip. The mine isn't far up the trail and is a cool area to explore. The area also has several large flat areas that would make for a unique dispersed camping spot.
We recommend the side trip to the mine.
Just past this waypoint, the trail begins paralleling the Mule Mountains Mining District aka the Hodges Mountain District .
8. Camping - Continue (7.4
The trail gets a little rocky which would be helpful to be aired down. Also at this point is several large open areas that would make for a unique dispersed camping area, the only downside is many of the areas are full of small rocks. Air-mattress or rooftop tent would be recommended if you would like to camp here. (Some of the spots have some soft dirt for those that who are sleeping on the ground.)
9. Roosevelt Mine (7.86
As you come around the hill, the trail becomes more of a shelf road. The road isn't that bad but is on the narrow side for a vehicle. Most of your normal off-road vehicles should be able to do this road including the wider track ones like Jeep Wrangler JL's.
The Roosevelt Mine was a gold mine that is part of the Carnation Group which also included other nearby mines.
Please note, the mine was mostly a gold mine, but copper and Uranium were mined here. Do not pick up Yellow Rocks.
10. Mule Mountains (10.63
The trail enters into the Mule Mountains which is a Fee Area to camp. Many people find themselves heading down to the canyon floor where they camp at the campground off of Wiley Road.
History goes that gold was discovered in the Mule Mountains back around the 1880s by Powell Weaver which is the person who started the La Paz Gold Rush.
11. Wiley Road and Camp - Continue Straight (13.03
This new campsite to the road, Coon Hollow Campground is something that was added after the gold rush. A great place to get away from the city, this fee-based campground has everything you need for a weekend away.
The area does have natural springs in the area and it is common for water to seep out of the ground.
To the south is Opal Hill Mine.
12. Charcoal Kilns - Continue Straight (16.94
The trail crosses the Charcoal Kilns cut-off. But the location of the kilns is not known. It is estimated they used to be near the hills on the northside.
They used to use downed Ironwood to make the charcoal which was sold throughout Southern California, Nevada, and Western Arizona.
13. Government Pass - Continue Straight (17.92
Continue straight at Government Pass. This is another one of the side trips you can take.
To the north was a popular area General Patton used for drilling during WW2.
To the south was a popular rock hounding area.
14. Ashley Flats - Continue Straight (21.58
Continue straight at Ashley Flats. Shortly after, the road curves north.
15. 401 Trailhead - Continue Straight (23.08
Continue straight at the trailhead for 401. The track on 401 is hard to follow but seems to head off into the hills.
16. Deep Sand (24.05
Maybe the hardest section on the trail. This part of the path passes through a soft sandy wash. Being aired down will be required to get through this spot. 2wd vehicles may struggle and need assistance.
17. EC620 Trailhead - Stay Straight (24.99
Continue straight at EC620.
EC620 is the access road to the power lines.
18. EC553 Trailhead - Stay Straight (26.96
Continue straight at EC553.
19. EC4556 Trailhead - Stay Straight (27.54
Continue straight at EC4556.
The area is an open area for people looking for places to camp. But note, this area is rocky.
20. EC555 Trailhead - Stay Straight (28.3
Continue straight at EC555.
21. Old Boat - Continue (29.06
One of the unique finds on the Bradshaw Trail, this old sailboat was left behind from some time ago. It has many nicknames including Desert Sail Boat, The Bradshaw Sail Boat, and even the SS Lost Hope. Rumors have it that the Navy placed boats all over the desert to practice different maneuvers. This rumor states there are dozens of boats. If you are up for a challenge, this would be fun for something map.
22. 620 Trailhead - Continue (29.37
Continue straight at EC620.
EC620 is the access road to the power lines.
23. 554 Old Salvation Pass Trailhead - Continue (31.28
Continue straight at EC554. This is the old Salvation Pass Road that takes you south to the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range. Avoid this south side of the trail for the remaining part of the trail.
Continue straight at Gresham Pass.
Gresham Pass takes you north and allows you to connect to Interstate 10. The trail is a popular side route because it allows you to connect with Augustine Pass / Chuckwalla Springs Road which is a popular offshoot in the area.
25. 549 Indian Well Road - Stray Left (32.74
Continue straight at 549 Indian Wells (North).
To the south, a short distance you will see Indian Wells along with a windmill. Since there isn't much shade in the area, many people use this as a lunch break.
26. Chuckwalla Well (Optional) - Stay Straight (35.76
The area is closed on the north side from June 1st to November 1st due to Bighorn Sheep Breeding Season
If looking for a cool side trip, check out the Chuckwalla Well area. The trail isn't very long but has some cool camping and spots to have lunch at. We recommend heading back to the end of the trail to enjoy lunch.
This well was once an old stagecoach station for the Bradshaw Trail. It is said that this short route is about as authentic as the original Bradshaw Trail gets. Thus as you take this short trail, keep in mind that the original trail, nearly 100 miles, was like this route.
27. Small Camp (37.25
Just up the offshoot is this small camping area. Unfortunately like the many others, the area is kind of rocky. But with that said, the area is remote and would make for an amazing dispersed camping spot.
28. Boat and Wash - Slight Right Up Wash (36.03
As you drop into the wash heading up to the spring, there is a yet another boat. It is very interesting to see the boats in the middle of the desert so far from any kind of water. Unfortunately, people have been damaging the boat which you will find pieces of all over the area.
If you are out here, do not destroy the unique items. Leave them for others to see.
PLEASE NOTE - Possible pin stripping if you continue back to the well.
29. Lunch Spot and Chuckwalla Well (36.56
At the end of the trail is an old spring that bubbles out of the ground. This is a unique thing to see and is a must stop. We choose to have lunch here because of how unique the area is.
PLEASE NOTE - You are not allowed to camp near natural springs or other water sources.
30. Small Soft Campspot and Old Suburban - Continue (37.64
On the sides of the road, there are several areas with soft dirt that would make for good camping spots with small groups.
On the south side of the road, about 150 feet off the trail is an old suburban that has seen a better day.
31. Unknown Road - Stay Straight (38.79
Continue straight at one of the desert roads that cross the path.
A popular side trail, Augustine Pass named after Martin Augustine. This rougher Jeep Trail will require 4-wheel drive to complete.
The history of the pass is that is was discovered in 1917 after Martin discovered gold in the pass. He built a cabin there and worked the area until he died in 1945.
33. Dupont Road - Stay Straight (45.86
In the area, you will notice that there is more green than in other areas. They say this is due to when the weather was wetter hundreds of years ago.
34. Split - Stay North (46.51
The trail is on the north side of the split. The south side is a bypass around the mud that happens often due to a high water table in this spot.
35. Dupont Western Trailhead - Stay Straight (47.85
Continue straight at Dupont trailhead. The Dupont trail is part of the old connector to Highway 60. This old cut-through to the north is an early-ish exit from the trail.
36. 480 Tralhead - Stay Straight (48.99
Continue straight at 480.
37. Wash - Stay Straight (51.97
Continue straight at Wash. If you go north, this takes you up towards Gasline Road and Red Cloud Mine.
38. Gasline Road - Stay Straight (56.05
Gasline road is the connector to the Red Cloud Mine Trail which is a awesome off-road trail back in the hills. The trail is full of older relics of the past and makes for an amazing area to camp.
39. Scenic View (59.53
One of the many amazing scenic views from along the route.
40. Old Rail Grade - Straight (63.52
The trail passes over where the old Eagle Mountain Railroad once used to be. You can drive down where the tracks were for an old feel what it was like to drive a train through this accent desert.
Please note, they closed this line due to washouts. Thus pay attention if you drive that path.
41. Summit Road - Left/West (63.55
At this point, the trail turns off to the west or south depending on which way you are traveling. To the right is Summit Road that follows the old Eagle Mountain Railroad. This also takes you out to Red Cloud Mine.
42. Amy’s Wash - Continue Straight (64.3
Amy's wash splits off to the north and loops through the hills. This is a nice detour if you have time.
43. Red Canyon Trailhead- Continue Straight (65.3
The trail passes by the southern trailhead to Red Canyon Trail. This is an amazing trail with some of the best rock formations in the area. This is also a popular way to either exit the trail after a quick stop at the trail bridge or to start the trail. Please see more information about this trail by clicking on this link for Red Canyon Trail.
This area has some of the best camping. We highly recommend either camping in this area one night or heading over to Red Cloud Mine Trail.
44. Red Canyon Drop In (Jeep Trail) - Continue (65.6
The trail passes by the southern trailhead to Red Canyon Drop-In Trail aka Red Canyon. This is an amazing trail with some of the best rock formations in the area. This is also a popular way to either exit the trail after a quick stop at the trail bridge or to start the trail. Please see more information about this trail by clicking on this link for Red Canyon Drop-In Trail aka Red Canyon
This area has some of the best camping. We highly recommend either camping in this canyon one night or heading over to Red Cloud Mine Trail.
45. Train Bridge (69.64
Probably the most photographed spot of the trail. The old train bridge for the Eagle Mountain Railroad crosses over the wash you are driving down. This is a great spot to get out, explore, and have lunch.
Unfortunately, people are trashing this area, so please pick up after yourself and if you see any trash, please pick up after the others who didn't feel the need to clean up after themselves.
PLEASE NOTE - they are removing the tracks from the area, it is unclear if they will remove the bridge too. So get out there and enjoy it while you can.
46. Camping (70.6
A cool dispersed camping spot is off to the northside of the trail.
47. 238 Trailhead - Continue Straight (71.1
Continue straight at 238.
PLEASE NOTE - This area is closed from June 1st to November 1st.
48. Scenic and Old Rail Grade - Continue (71.5
At this point, the trail crosses over the old Eagle Mountain Railroad tracks once again. This is a very cool spot due to it being elevated. Thus you can see the Salton Sea on one side and back to the railroad bridge to the other.
Fortunately for us, the train tracks were still there and we got to see the old tracks before they are removed.
49. Unknown Road - Continue Straight (72.6
One of the many unknown desert trails in the area.
PLEASE NOTE - This area around the trail is closed from June 1st to November 1st.
50. Western Trailhead at 24 Viaduct (74.7
The trail ends at the aqueduct. Unfortunately, time has taken away the rest of the trail, meaning you can no longer follow the path to the Salton Sea. To exit the area, head to the north and follow the aqueduct for just shy of 8 miles where you can then head into a housing track on the south side of the canal.
There are many areas to camp along the trail including Wiley Well Campground (Picnic Tables, Shade, Restrooms, & Grills), Coon Hollow Campground (Picnic Tables, Shade, Restrooms, & Grills), Corn Springs Campground, Chuckwalla Mountains, Salt Creek, Mule Mountains, and many areas along the trail.
Some of our favorite camping spots along the route are some of the dispersed camping which are near the Roosevelt Mine, and around Red Canyon. If you are up for venturing off the trail and have a lightly modified 4x4, check out Red Cloud Mine Trail.
***East Trailhead - From Blythe***
Exit I-10 at CA-78 and head south. Take CA-78 toughly 14.8 Miles and turn west on 30th Ave aka Bradshaw Trail.
***West Trailhead - From Indio***
Take State Highway 111 east roughly 23 miles to the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. Turn left on Parkview Drive continue roughly 1.7 miles, then left on Desert Aire follow the road for roughly 0.5 miles, to the canal road. Take the canal road for roughly 10 miles to the beginning of the Bradshaw Trail.
We run a fantastic 2 night trip on this quintessential overland trail. Unbelievable history spanning 1850 through WWII to the modern day. Our group started in Ripley, running the Bradshaw Trail from East to West. Camping at Roosevelt Mine made for some epic sunsets over endless landscapes. On night 2, we camped deep within Red Canyon, and offshoot to the north of this trail. We visited the Eagle Mountain Train Trestle and then backtracked to take Red Canyon Trail to the North, ending in Chiriaco Summit - making sure to visit the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum - well worth the $13 bucks to get in.
Overall - the Bradshaw Trail was extremely easy. Any 4x4 vehicle will make easy work of it. The views are excellent and there is plenty to see and explore.
We did a very small portion of the trail (Red Canyon to the Bridge) and wanted to comment on the status of the bridge. I have been here many times and for the first time the rails have been removed form the bridge. I do not know the future of the bridge but it appears to be getting ready for demolition. if you want to see this piece of History, you may want to go soon.
The trail description is spot on. There are areas of deep sand and if you do not maintain speed you might get stuck. It was my XJ and an 2001 2wd lifted Ford F150 and we did it all in 2wd no problem. There was one point of concern though, due to rains and monsoons the road leading up to red canyon jeep trail turn point and beyond all the way to the bridge is washed out. Using Gaia gps and the track trails offroad made, we were able to make our way to the bridge while staying the good side of the danger signs and back. We continued onto the Red Canyon Jeep trail.
Ran the trail East to West with Land Ops. The trail is in generally great condition until you get to Amy’s Wash, and then the washboard becomes very rough. It’s the type of washboard that causes your vehicle to oscillate and you have to stop. Max speed less than 5mph. I would have rather exited out through Red Canyon and avoid the trestle. The road from the trestle until you get to the Salton Sea isn’t worth seeing anyway and is so rough and exhausting that I won’t do it again. It was even worse as I was pulling a trailer.
We took the Bradshaw Trail from the West entrance to Red Canyon Drop In/Red Canyon. We wanted to see the Trail Bridge, but didn't want to start so far East. From the West you take 10 East to 86 South to 66th Ave and go East to Highway 111. Then south on Highway 111 to Parkside Drive (across from Salton Sea Recreational Area) and turn left. Then Left on Desert Aire Dr. Take this up to the Aqueduct and turn right and follow along the Aqueduct to the trail head. There are several trails along the aquaduct, none seem to make sense...just go East. You will see the Entrance sign at the trailhead. This trail is loaded with "washboards". My video doesn't do it justice. Almost miserable. I couldn't imagine going all the way to Blyth, therefore the 2-Star rating. We got to the Train Bridge and then went on to Red Canyon. To be honest a better trail run to see the Train Bridge, but much longer, would be a big loop running Red Canyon North to South, then east to the Train Bridge. Then Double back, but go up Red Canyon Drop In and back up North on Red Canyon. See my review of Red Canyon. Of course my camera glitched the video of the Train Bridge...it was pretty cool.
Just a heads up, we are going to do this trail on March 13th so I was checking other sites to learn more about it and I ran across a posting in All Trails that said the Navy had closed the road. I checked with the Navy contact person named in the post and she said the road is open and the posting was in error.
Good "beginning overlander" trail. We did this with 8 vehicles - mostly modified Jeeps, but also a full size Dodge truck with camper and a bone stock 2020 Grand Cherokee. The only issue you could run into is that there are a lot of sharp rocks on the trail and if your rig is running street tires, make SURE you have a full sized spare with you to be safe. Other than that, any AWD vehicle can handle the main trail. I'd recommend starting the trail (or ending if going East to West) via Red Canyon trail, rather than the segment coming from the West toward Salton Sea. The reason is that this section is frequented by SXS crowds that travel it very fast and have created a really really bad 10-mile section of washboard that is pretty miserable in something like a Jeep.
Camp spots can be a little difficult to find on the main trail, and if you do want to camp along the trail, you need to pay attention to where the Wilderness boundaries are (no camping). A good spot to camp at the western end of the trail is the Meccatopia trailhead wash area - lots of dispersed camping spots, and the farther back you go, the more away from the RV/toy hauler crowd you can get. Our second night we tried to find a spot up in the little Chuckawalla mountains about 12 miles east of the turnoff to Chuckawalla Wells, but it was extremely rocky and we turned around after about 30 minutes of unrelenting bouncing over small rocks, as it was late in the day.
Overall, the trail itself is kinda boring, but there are a lot of interesting side trails to explore in certain areas. For those not afraid of heights and steep climbs and descents, there is a trail that goes WAY back behind Chuckawalla Wells that is not on any of the maps I have.
This is a good trail to bring your friends on that are new to camping/overlanding . It’s a very easy trail that is not stressful and has a lot of cool spots to check out. I split this up in about 2.5 days (head out after work Friday, trailed Saturday, came home Sunday). We ran this trail from Blythe to Salton sea area. Took us about 6 hours with stops along the way. We were about to do about 35 mph most of the way.
I would say most vehicles can do this trail/road. There are some areas of deep sand but that’s it. I think a 2wd would be able to make it if it didn’t stop in the deep sand. The weather was perfect this time of year 80/45 with a little wind. Train tracks are still there and was the highlight of the trail. We headed out of red canyon to the 10 fwy. I gave a three star cause although it’s cool, it’s basically a dirt road but still fun to do with your friends/family.
This trip did not disappoint! I did about a thousand side hikes & adventures, so I can’t speak to how fun it is to just drive this trail from beginning to end per this trail guide... do some research & choose your own adventure!
Lots to do - abandoned mines, drive-thru slot canyons, random boats on the side of the road (thanks Navy), rockhounding, hiking, camping, and lots of history here :)
To see more (better quality) photos & check out some of our other adventures, follow us on Instagram @ReachesofRaine
We ran this east to west in 1 long day, it can be broken up into 2 days to allow for more side trail exploration. It was a fun route that presents many other opportunities for exploring side trails and many other desert oddities - such as old sailboats! If you are looking to just go explore the desert in mellow fashion, this would a good trail to try.
Very easy trail, but lots of mud when we were there. Not hard to drive in, but makes a mess of your rig. We just headed out to see the Train Trestle, it's rumored that it will be torn down soon. Not sure if that's true, but wanted to see it again just in case. Fun day, and a nice trip from our Palm Springs Hotel.
I led a small group of 4 vehicles along the Bradshaw Trail and the road conditions were excellent. Everything was open. We even took some side trips in Augustine Pass Road. This is an easy trail.
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Mapping Crew - California
Joshua Noesser grew up in Southern California but has lived in different parts of the country during his young adult life. Josh was first turned to four wheeling when he road with one of his friends dad up Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Valley at age14. After nearly 3 different roll overs later and a half dozen intense waterfalls, Josh was hooked. At 16 he purchased his first Jeep a CJ 7 and by 17 was putting his first locker in it.
Currently, Josh is the owner and CEO of Nybble, an IT Solutions Company based in Orange County, California. Nybble isn't your normal IT company where everyone stays in and plays video games. Nybble's average company trip is out on the trails since a good amount of his staff enjoy wheeling too. As Josh likes to say, he offers the only IT Company with the ability to provide services in extreme locations. "If you want a server at the top of The Hammers, we will take care of that for you."
Today you can find Josh out on the trail behind the wheel in one of his three different off-road vehicles. See the vehicles below for more information.
If you ever run into Josh, please say high, he is a very friendly person and is always happy to have a new person join the group.
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