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Geology on the Mormon Rocks trail

Mormon Rocks Nature Trail

  • Location: High desert, near the Cajon Pass.  From I-15, take the highway 138 exit and go west for 1.6 miles.  The parking lot is at the fire station on the left.
  • Agency: San Bernardino National Forest
  • Distance: 1 mile
  • Elevation gain: 200 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Suggested time: 1/2 hour
  • Best season:  Year-round (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: Telegraph Peak, Cajon
  • More information: here; here; trip report here; photo essay here
  • Rating: 6

If you live in the Inland Empire, you don’t have to drive to the Devil’s Punchbowl or Vasquez Rocks to see interesting, earthquake-formed geology.  This short loop hike is an easy way to stretch your legs if you are driving on highway 138 (or even on I-15 to Vegas) and can be easily combined with longer back-country hikes such as Mt. Baden-Powell or (as I did) Big Horn Mine.  Although it is an area where triple digits are common during the summer, the hike is short enough that it can be easily done with an early start–or as a late evening walk.

The formations, also known as the Rock Candy Mountains, are sandstone outcrops thrust up from the San Andreas Fault.  The name “Mormon Rocks” probably came from the a group of Mormons who traveled through the area in the mid-19th century.

From the parking lot, follow the signs for the loop.  (If available, pick up a free brochure that will describe the scenery; even without the brochure, the numbered sign posts help keep you on track if there’s any confusion about the route).  You come to a junction and can go either way, but this description takes you to the right.  The trail makes a few switchbacks and arrives at a ridge, where you get nice views of the Angeles National Forest back country, as well as the desert to the east.  As the trail begins its descent back to the fire station, you see a closer view of some of the geology.  (For the best up-close views of the rocks, you need to head across the street).  You finish by crossing a dirt road and returning to the parking area.

Like most trails located close to a highway, this one won’t give you a true sense of wilderness, but it sure beats being stuck in I-15 traffic in the Cajon pass.  And unlike the Vegas slot machines farther north on I-15, this hike won’t take your money.

Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities.  By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail.  Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

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