Afton Canyon

Barstow, California (San Bernardino County)
Last Updated: 02/03/2018
5/5 (2 reviews)
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 3-5
Length: 10 miles
Highest Elevation: 3000 feet
Duration: About 2 hours
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Barstow
Nearest Town w/ Services: Barstow
Official Road Name: Afton Canyon
Management Agency: BLM
District: Barstow Field Office
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Highlight: Afton Canyon

Afton Canyon is many times thought as one of the last amazing landscapes of California. With majestic views and one of the only places the Mojave River flows above ground, Afton is not just a wheeling destination. It must see in ones lifetime. When traveling through Afton Canyon, you will find Sand Stone Canyons, Slot Canyons, Sand Stone Natural Caves, Abandon Mines, Deep Water Crossing, and even the Mojave River flowing above ground year around. Thus pack up the 4x4 and experience some of the best camping and scenic off-roading of your life.


Route Information

Technical Rating: (3-5)

Rutted and/or rocky road. No shelves. Rocks up to 12" and water crossings up to 12" with possible currents. Passable mud. Moderate grades to 15 degrees. 6" holes. Side hill to 20 degrees. 4WD required. No width problems.

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Afton Canyon is one of few places where the Mojave River flows above ground making Afton an ideal location for bird and wildlife viewing. The area is ideal for hiking, camping, nature study, rock hounding, horseback riding, overland expeditions, and vehicle touring. The main reason the trail is rated a 5 is because the trail has several water crossing that can get over 3 feet deep in spots on a regular day. Please drive slow. Besides the deep water, there is also a lot of very soft sand that an aired up 4x4 can easily get stuck in. If you are up for the adventure, Afton Canyon provides 500 foot tall 2-foot wide sand cliffs along with some natural caves and several abandon mines. Unfortunately, within the last few years, people have stolen a lot from out there. At one point there was the ore car tracks and ore cars which you were able to tow them up the hill and ride them down to the bottom. Please note: It does get over 120 degrees out there in the summer and there is almost no shade, so plan accordingly and always travel with a group. Also, the water is toxic, do not drink it. This area is also prone to flash floods and has no escape route. Never go down Afton Canyon if rain is anywhere in the area including up in the Mountains of Big Bear.
The water is toxic, do not drink it.

Seasonal Information

Spring:The days can be warm to hot with mild to cool nights.
Summer:The days can easily get over 110 degrees with the nights still being hot.
Fall:The days can be warm to hot with mild to cool nights.
Winter:The area is in the high desert meaning it can get very cold out there when a storm comes through, besides that, the days are usually warm with cold nights.


1. Exit Freeway

Exit 15 Freeway at Afton and go east

2. Campground (3.5 mi)

Afton Camp Ground was just freshly remodeled. They now have many nice amenities such as fire places, bathrooms, bbq, and shade.

3. First Water Crossing (Long) (3.7 mi)

First Water Crossing, this one is a long one and can be very deep. Make sure you are going slow and if the water is moving at all. Do not attempt.

4. Old Train Bridge (4.3 mi)

There are two train bridges you can drive on. Be warned they are not maintained.

5. Second Water Crossing (Currently Dry) (4.6 mi)

Second Water Crossing (Dry). In 2015 there was several flash floods that went through the area depositing a lot of additional sand in this crossing. Because of this, the crossing is currently dry. As time goes by, the sand will work its way out of this crossing thus the crossing will become wet once again. 35.031151, -116.366902

6. Drop in spot into Afton Canyon (5.2 mi)

You can drop into Afton Canyon here. This will be the first right turn that drops down into the canyon. Do not enter any earlier because the is a chance of Quick Sand behind the fences.

7. Large Canyon (5.6 mi)

One of the large Slot Canyons you can drive your vehicle up and in. This one is easier to access and many people choose to take their lunch here because of the ample shade. Please note, the mileage will be off from this point and on due to the many paths going through out the area.

8. Spooky Cave (7.7 mi)

Spooky Cave is just on the North side of the tracks. This slot canyon turns sand cave is something worth seeing. Just make sure you don't touch the walls or it might cave in. When you get back into it, it gets very narrow and if you have a rope you can climb all the way out the top. Make sure you bring flash lights

9. Train Car (9.5 mi)

Old derailed train car

10. Grave Site (9.7 mi)

Gravestones indicate they are for: T-Bone Albright David M Conahey Roland W. Humeston

11. Train Bridge (8.9 mi)

Another popular spot to take a break out of the sun and have a nice breeze. If you can wait for it, trains seem to pass every 45 minutes or so. When they do pass over you it is something you would never expect to feel.

12. Old Mine (9.5 mi)

Old borax mine that is fun to explore and drive around on where the old ore tracks were.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 35.069484, -116.411238

Starting Point: Yermo, CA

Exit Highway 15 at Afton Canyon 35.069484, -116.411238 and go East


There is a campground in Afton Canyon near the entrance of the canyon before the water crossings. Outside of that, you are allowed to dispersed camp in the Afton Canyon area. But with that said, there is no one spot that is better than another, just make sure you stay out of the wash and away from the sand cliffs. Please see link for more information. It has out houses, fire places, camp grills, tables, and some spots have shade. , Bureau of Land Management, Barstow Field Office, 2601 Barstow Road, Barstow, CA 92311, Phone: (760) 252-6000, Fax: (760) 252-6098, Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F,
Camping: Afton Canyon

Writer Information

Josh Noesser

Mapping Crew - California
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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.


Questions & Answers (1)

Q: What is the best way to top of mine ? #9606?
–Randall Burke (12/07/2017)
A: I am not familiar with the numbering, but I believe you are talking about the mine that is up on the hillside. From the people I know who have hiked it, they climbed up the mnt from the river wash floor to the mine.
–Josh Noesser (12/07/2017)

Trail Reviews (4)

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
What a blast... The weather was perfect and the river was flowing. It did get a bit deep at one point. Roughly 3 1/2 feet deep. Which was about mid doors on my Jeep. The bad news was my drain plugs were removed which meant my jeep filled up with water as I crossed.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Another beautiful day on the trail. Afton Canyon was run 1 day within 9 days of adventure for a small group of us. The weather was great and the drive was enjoyable. Although nothing incredibly technical, it was a good day. Spooky Cave was definitely the highlight of this trail. There are ropes once you get deeper in to allow you to reach the top. Climb at your own risk!

Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Music 'A horse with no name,’ by America (decent Rock n Roll from 1971). On this beautiful day that the Lord had made, my ‘first ministry’ (my wife) and I enjoyed an off road excursion through Afton Canyon.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Great Place. Looks like some serious flash floods went through the area. All of the original paths are gone and it is hard to even get to the popular spots. The first river crossing was over 4 feet deep in spots making it a little nerve racking as we went through it. The second water crossing was all filled in with sand.