Orocopia Mountains

The first weekend of March kicked off the annual Sierra Del Sol event in Ocotillo Wells and Truckhaven. Thousands of vehicles, vendors, side-by-sides, campers, you name it make the haul to the desert to partake in one of the biggest off-road events to take place in Southern California. We usually make it out there every year, but this time we decided to skip it due to how crazy it’s getting.

Instead we’d be just east of TDS, on the other side of the Salton Sea. A few trails are scattered throughout, most notably the Bradshaw Trail, a overland gold route created in 1862 that started in Riverside County and ended at the shores of the Colorado River in LaPaz. Our focus would mainly be on the Orocopia Mountains that lay south of Joshua Tree National Park.

Before making our way to camp, we made a slight detour down a dark desert highway to check out Hotel California.

From a written post in the journal that used to be there – Source – DzrtGirls.com

“The story we have heard was that two couples (good friends) built this place and used it for years. Then one of the couples killed their spouse, then the police couldn’t find him, they asked their friends, who disclosed this location. The police came and apprehended the suspect.”

“In 1991 – we met the couple that knew the 3 couples – they were here during hippie times & all went back to college, graduated from Berkeley & Santa Barbara. One is a scientist, doctors, all with good jobs & they use to come back for weekends”.

It was also reported that within the last couple of years someone had purposely destroyed the roof and wrote about it in the journal as well. Bummer!

Kids learning some new language…

Unlike what Eagles sang in their song, you can infact leave this Hotel California. We stopped by Chiriaco Summit to top off on fuel, then a few miles on the freeway to Hayfield Rd. Headed south to find our camp for the night.

My pre-planned camp spot was to be along the foothills on the other side of the mountain but that was thwarted by a wilderness boundary sign. Although there wasn’t any form of trail blockage and it seemed well traveled we decided against proceeding. Instead of backtracking and finding another route we setup camp right there before the signage.

Kids finding out that the wilderness sign made for a great pebble catapult.

In the morning it was the usual routine. Coffee, breakfast and cleanup.

This can be sort of a grey area but I tent to side with caution. From research I’ve done, established routes can be ok to travel on as long as there is no obvious man-made barrier or specific signs that that specific trail is closed. There were two different posts here stating the wilderness boundary and decided not to be “that group”.

Looking south to where the trail leads.

Ended up having to backtrack the way we came, thankfully it was a short drive. We’d now be taking Red Canyon Jeep trail down to the Bradshaw. Fun and scenic, it worked out to be a great detour.

Looking down into Red Canyon

Once down at the bottom we headed into one of many slot canyons in the area and had lunch.

Current favorite. Pairs well with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Our next destination would be a quick stop along the Chuckwalla Mountains to explore some old mines in the area. To get there we hoped on the Bradshaw trail for a few miles to reach a gas line utility road. The portion of the Bradshaw we’d be traveling used to have some old dummy ordnance scattered along the sides, but it seems it has all been removed since our last visit.

When we arrived to the Echo Valley Mine, a group of people were already there on the hillside so we stopped down below to give them their space. This worked out pretty good since one of Ryan’s KO2’s picked up a few hitchhikers and it was good a spot as any to remove as much as possible.

Teaching the little ones about mine safety and how they work. As generation Minecraft, they are really interested in this stuff.

Echo Valley Mine adit

Looking west to the Orocopia Mountains.

We all agreed that getting to camp early would be a nice change of pace, so another group of mines in the area were skipped. We headed back to the Orocopia Mountains in search of a old mining cabin tucked back in the hills.

Remnants of the Eagle Mountain Mine railroad.

First thing we came across was what looked like a old tin sided shed. In rough condition and inhabited by wildlife.

And finally, our camp for the night. The only bit of research I could scrounge up was old claim documentation which listed it as the “Karen Kayla”. While we were setting up, two gentlemen pulled up in a Jeep and we got to talking about the place. Turns out the guy has been visiting for over 30 years but has never met the owner. Mentioned that some family and friends frequent the old cabin and looks like the new plywood siding had been done in the last month or so.

As always, if you happen to stumble upon this place, do not destroy it! Don’t carve your initials, don’t spray paint your art piece, don’t put bullet holes in it, don’t light it on fire, don’t leave your trash or make a mess. Leave with more trash then you brought, fix any little things that need attention, respect it and take only pictures. It’s the only way neat desert oddities like this will survive.

Once we all got situated and camp setup, it was time to relax with some rockets, target shooting, RC crawlers and a killer dinner around the campfire.

Jacob hooked up the generator to see if the electrical worked… Sure did.

Nighttime rocket launch. Glow stick attached to be able to easily find it in the dark.

In the morning it was to be a straight shot home with no stops along the way. But before leaving we did our part in cleaning up the area as much as we could since it was absolutely covered in bullet casings and shooting trash around the vicinity. In the end, we all left with about 3 bags of trash each and it still didn’t make much of a dent in how much is still there. If everyone who visited took just one bag out with them, the place would be spotless in no time. But that’s wishful thinking…


Passing all the TDS traffic on the way home through the S2 and Anza Borrego

Until next time!

By | 2017-03-27T09:55:45+00:00 March 10th, 2017|Trip Reports|1 Comment

About the Author:

Desert explorer. Photographer. Vehicle enthusiast. In constant pursuit to find something new. Mining history buff.

One Comment

  1. Marty January 7, 2018 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Looks like Hotel California has recently been repaired. Also heard another version of the story about it being built by a draft dodger. Love the site, happy travels!

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