Doran Canyon

Barstow, California (San Bernardino County)

Last Updated: 03/08/2021
5 / 5 ( 12 reviews )
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Typically Open: Year Round
Difficulty: 7-10
Length: 2.82 miles
Highest Elevation: 3200 feet
Duration: About 3 hours
Shape of Trail: Connector
Best Direction to Travel: North
Nearest Town: Barstow
Nearest Town w/ Services: Barstow
Official Road Name: Doran Canyon
Management Agency: Bureau of Land Management
District: Barstow Field Office


Highlight: Doran Canyon
Doran Canyon of the Odessa / Doran Loop of the Mojave Desert is one of the most difficult off-road rock crawling trails near Barstow, California next to the Calico Ghost Town. When traveling this area, you will notice that the mostly desert landscape is very different than its counterpart Odessa Canyon. Even though these two off-road trails are near the same in difficulty throughout the main body of the trail. Doran has one big difference when it comes to the trail drive, that is "Doran Gatekeeper". Doran's Gatekeeper is an insanely difficult off-road obstacle with rocks larger than your vehicle. The holes between the rocks are so large that it is common for people to put their vehicle on its side between the rocks. It's a spectacle to watch extreme off-road enthusiasts try this legendary obstacle as the rocks look like they are swallowing the vehicle whole. It is common for a Jeep Wrangler or Toyota to disappear in the gap only to receive massive body damage when trying to recover the vehicle out of the holes. But the rest of the trail is no walk in the park, with several large waterfalls and many off-camber tight areas, Doran Canyon will test your driving skills and vehicle to its limits.


Route Information

Advanced Rating System

Recommended Vehicle:
Highly Modified 4X4 (Big Lift, Locker(s), Larger Tires)
Even though the trail has many hard obstacles outside of the Gatekeeper at Waypoint 2, Waypoint 5 is the hardest required obstacle at a 5+ foot pretty much verticle waterfall in a tight area. Body damage is common in this spot and long wheelbase vehicles are not recommended.

Technical Rating

Rocky or undulated road surface. Rocks and less than 54" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 54" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 10' foot. Tire placement not good. Can be steep and off-camber.
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Community Consensus

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Doran Canyon is a rock crawling trail for the experienced drivers with built rigs. The trail offers a 6-foot waterfall, a narrow off-camber canyon just wider than your Jeep, and the hardest obstacle in the area... Doran Canyon's Gatekeeper. There is no right vehicle for Doran Canyon. Short wheelbase Jeeps will be able to maneuver the tight obstacles better while the longer wheelbase vehicles like JKU's and Toyotas will do better on some of the waterfalls. Either way, there is something on this trail that will be hard for almost any offroad vehicle.
Be careful for flash floods, the area is prone to it and there is very little places to escape it. Also, please do not stack rocks in the gatekeeper, keep this obstacle a challenge for the next. If you can't do it, please take the bypass. The lower rating does not include the gatekeeper at the south end. This is an optional obstacle and should only be done in built vehicles with very experienced drivers.


1. Bypass Around Gatekeeper Trailhead and Mud Caves (0 mi)
If the Gatekeeper isn't for you, then there is an alternate route to Doran Canyon that is much easier. It is easy to miss but can be found right before the Mud Arches on the west hill. The bypass around Doran Canyons Gatekeeper can be found here at Doran Gatekeeper Bypass Trail.
2. Doran Gate Keeper - Optional (Extreme / Hard Alternate Trailhead) (0.12 mi)
Doran's Gatekeeper is easily in the top 5 list of the hardest obstacles that a vehicle can do under its own power in the United States. With rocks and holes larger than Jeeps, it is easy to see why the only way up is to put the vehicle on its side a few times. If you have a built rig, a strong roll cage, and don't care about a repair bill, then this obstacle is for you. ***DO NOT MOVE OR STACK ROCKS IN THIS OBSTACLE, IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO MAKE THIS OPTIONAL OBSTACLE UNDER YOUR OWN POWER, TAKE THE BYPASS. DO NOT RUIN THIS SPOT FOR THE NEXT PERSON.*** The bypass around Doran Canyons Gatekeeper can be found here at Doran Gatekeeper Bypass Trail.
3. Off-Camber Area (0.19 mi)
Once you drop into Doran, you are introduced to your first obstacle right away. This narrow but off-camber and articulated area is a lot of fun but can also be costly on the repairs. Just past the off-camber area on the right is the trail that takes you up to Doran Canyon Flats. This area has some remote dispersed camping for those looking to get away from the crowds.
4. Doran Canyon Flats / Bypass Around Narrow Canyon - Stay West (0.23 mi)
The trail heads off to the left and enters a narrow canyon. If you go right you can go up to the flats where you can bypass the narrow canyon. Now, if you are needing to bypass the narrow canyon, it would be best to turn around as the trail only gets harder ahead. If you are looking to camp somewhere unique and away from people, this could be a good spot. But note, there is no soft level ground. The area is a rocky floor meaning no soft surface to rest on.
5. Narrow Canyon (0.4 mi)
This one section can either be easy or a nightmare. Since there is only enough space for one line, you have to hope there isn't anything you can't clear on the path. Make sure you have good under armor because there is a good chance you will use it here. Just past the obstacle on the right side is the exit of Doran Canyon Flats (Dispersed Camping Area).
6. End of Doran Flats / Bypass Rejoins - Stay West (0.43 mi)
The end of the bypass, the trail above drops back in right here. Stay to the west to stay on Doran Canyon. The 3rd photo is the way you want to go if heading down the canyon. If you are looking to camp somewhere unique and away from people, this could be a good spot. But note, there is no soft level ground. The area is a rocky floor meaning no soft surface to rest on.
7. 5 Foot Waterfall (0.72 mi)
Probably the second hardest obstacle on the trail, this 5-foot waterfall is a doozy. Since the wall is near 90 degrees with sand on top, some rock stacking may be required for even the most built rigs.
8. Bismarks Back Door - Stay East (0.75 mi)
An optional ending to Doran, Bismarcks Back Door splits off and heads up a narrow canyon. The trail is easier than Doran but if you made it this far, you might as well finish Doran Canyon. Now if you are coming down the trail by accident, this is your option to get back up to the top the easier way. Stay to the east to stay on Doran.
9. Hard Spot - Optional Harder Route (0.81 mi)
The trail that keeps on giving. This is the 3rd waterfall from the bottom. This obstacle offers two lines - the easy route and the hard route. The hard line requires you to navigate a vertical V notch and then make a hard left over another V notch. Be ready for the body damage because it is on its way.
10. Hard Spot - Easier Route (0.81 mi)
The trail that keeps on giving. This is the 3rd waterfall from the bottom. This obstacle offers two lines - the easy route and the hard route. The easy line (if you want to call it that) has many large 36 inch plus boulders in the path and a 4-foot waterfall that is off-camber. If you take your time and have a little help from a spotter, most vehicles can make it through without body damage.
11. Northern Trailhead to Bismarks Backdoor - Stay East (1.55 mi)
Bismarks Backdoor rejoins the trail here. From here you head east towards the Bismark Mine.
12. Bismarck Mine (1.72 mi)
One of the larger mines in the area, the Bismarck Mine was closed (dynamited) to prevent any incidents inside. Even though it was closed, there are still plenty of areas to explore. As always with mines, travel in pairs, make sure people know where you are and have a flashlight.
13. North End of Doran (2.42 mi)
On top of the hills above Doran, this spot provides a great 360-degree view of the area.
14. Odessa Canyon Connector (2.74 mi)
The trail connects to Odessa Canyon.

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: Barstow, California

From Highway 15, exit the second Ghost Town Road off-ramp. Take Ghost Town Road north roughly 2.5 miles passing Mule Canyon on the right. Turn right onto the dirt road (Odessa Canyon), and you will see a sign just off the road with a map (34.939767, -116.858813). Enter Odessa / Doran Canyon and stay on the dirt road for roughly 3/4 of a mile until you reach a Y in the canyon, then go left. Please note, the canyon splits to the right. This is where you will find Odessa Canyon.


The trail is very difficult and doesn't really offer any ideal camping spots while on the trail. People do dispersed camp at the trailhead or near the Bismark Mine. The trailhead is a good spot and in an open-ish area inside the Odessa Canyon. The Bismark Mine is a dangerous place to camp due to the many open verticle mines. Outside of that trail, Calico offers several types of camping. The area around Calico Ghost Town is BLM land. This allows you to tent camp anywhere you like with wood campfires. Please keep in mind that there are lots of trails out there and try not to camp on a trail. Also, remember to pack up all of your trash and take it with you. For those who enjoy something a little more comfortable, you can easily drive RV's & 5th Wheels into the canyons Odessa, Doran, and Mule. If roughing it isn't your thing, Calico also offers a campground with hookups and cabin rentals. You can find more information about the campground and cabins at
Camping: Doran Canyon

Trail Reviews (18)

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Writer Information

Josh Noesser

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.
For individual use only, not to be shared.