Ranger on assignment confiscating contraban Geological formation known as a syncline at  Rainbow Basin Bighorn sheep poses atop terrain at Afton canyon Aerial view of Dumont Dunes Fire crews and a fire truck working on a local wildfire
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Barstow Field Office

Afton Canyon Natural Area

Afton Canyon Natural Area is located 37 miles northeast of Barstow along Interstate 15 between the Afton Road and Basin Road exits. Afton Canyon is designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern to protect plant and wildlife habitat, and to preserve scenic values of the riparian area within the canyon. Early western explorers passing through this area included Jedediah Smith, Kit Carson and John Charles Fremont. The route following this road, known as the Mojave Road, is a rugged 4-wheel-drive scenic tour running from Fort Mojave on the Colorado River near Needles to Camp Cady near Harvard Road.


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, hunting, camping, nature study, rock hounding, horseback riding, and vehicle touring.  Since the campground is recessed into the canyon and shielded from light it is a poular destination for star-gazing. Check local weather forecasts before visiting the area. Thunderstorms can result in flash floods in canyons and washes. Tell a friend or neighbor where you are going and when to expect your return. Bring sufficient water, food, clothing, tools, and first aid supplies for your activity.

The Afton Canyon area is a mix of public and private lands including those held by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Please respect the rights of private land owners. Land status can be found on Desert Access Guide maps covering this area and can be purchased at California Desert BLM offices.

Hiking and Sightseeing:
Bring your camera and binoculars! Afton Canyon has a diverse landscape of hills, canyons and washes. Multicolored rock walls and changing light conditions make for many photographic opportunities. Washes and stream channels are good hiking trails and excellent for experiencing natural conditions.

Wildlife viewing is best during early morning and evening hours. In the canyon, birds tend to gather in thick vegetation. Along washes and streams, vegetation is critical for wildlife food and shelter. Many routes in Afton Canyon have been closed to vehicle travel to protect these wildlife habitats.

You can hunt dove, quail and chuckar but season and bag limits vary. Call the California Department of Fish and game at (310) 590-5132 for current hunting information. Hunting in the immediate vicinity of wildlife waters, guzzlers included, is limited to 30 minutes (California Fish and Game Commission, title 14). Hunting is permitted with shotguns only (shot shells, no rifled slugs) in the area. Recreational shooting of all guns is not permitted within the boundaries of the Afton Canyon Natural Area or shooting of any kind is not allowed within ½ a mile of the designated campground.

Get permission before using firearms on private land. On public lands, all county, state and federal regulations are in effect. Please note that firearms use within 150 yards of livestock or buildings is not allowed (San Bernardino County Ordinance 22.011).

Motorized Vehicle Use:
Within this Area of Critical Environmental Concern, routes are posted with "OPEN ROUTE" markers. Routes have been selected to allow access to the area and to the Mojave Road while preserving riparian (stream-side) environments. Use of all vehicles is permitted only on designated open routes.

  • BROWN markers with route numbers indicate an OPEN ROUTE for use by motorized vehicles.
  • No marker indicates a CLOSED route.
  • Within the Afton Canyon area, travel is restricted to designated OPEN ROUTES.

Camping is permitted only in the Afton Canyon Campground. This campground is a first-come first-served fee area. There are tables and fire grates at each campsite. Pit toilets are located in the center of the campground. Backpacking is welcome, however campfires are not permitted outside the designated campground.

afton canyon map

 On this map, it is 3½ miles from the Afton Rd. Exit to the campground.

Weather extremes and poisonous snakes are desert hazards common to this area. Afton Canyon has a flash flood risk as well. Avoid low-lying areas during storms and remember that storms upstream can result in flooding, even though it is not raining in your immediate area. It is advised to carry at least one gallon of water per person per day when in the desert.

 Rules and Regulations:
Private land owners, legal grazing allotments, and mining operations with Operations Plans on file with the BLM within the Afton Canyon area have rights of access. It is not the intent of BLM to affect private rights or interests in the area. (This does not imply any BLM jurisdiction over private lands within the area, unless authorized by the land owner.)

  • Camping and campfires are not permitted outside the designated campground.
  • Vehicles are restricted to posted open routes.
  • State and federal hunting regulations are in effect during small game bird hunting seasons.
  • Recreational Shooting is not permitted in the Afton Natural Area.
  • All applicable county, state and federal laws and regulations apply.


Camping Opportunities

afton canyon - railroad bridge
Afton Canyon Railroad Bridge

Route crossing the Mojave River in Afton Canyon
Route crossing the Mojave River

afton canyon campground
Afton Canyon campground

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
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