The Trona Pinnacles is one of the most unusual geological features in the California Desert Conservation Area. The unusual landscape consists of more than 500 tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, rising from the bed of the Searles Lake. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin, and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate (tufa) that formed underwater. They now sit isolated and slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.
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Scenic Sites


El Paso Mountains

El Paso Mountains

The roads and trails of the El Paso Mountains will lead you into a region known for its dazzling multihued canyons, historic mining areas and primitive desert landscapes. This area is managed as a Limited Use Area by the Bureau of Land Management and is open to motorized vehicle use on existing routes and trails (unless posted closed). The El Pasos offer great opportunities for exploring with a sport utility vehicle, dual sport motorcycle, mountain bike, on horseback or on foot.

 

Fossil Falls

Fed by the rains and snows of the last Ice Age, the Owens River once flowed from Owens lake down through this narrow valley between the Coso and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. Several times during the last 100,000 years, the discharge from the Owens river has been great enough to form a vast interconnected system of lakes in what are now the arid basins of the Mojave Desert. The rugged and primitive features of Fossil Falls are the produce of volcanic activity. As recent as 20,000 years ago, lava from the local volcanic eruptions poured into the Owens River channel. The erosional forces of the Owens River acted upon this volcanic rock, forming the polished and sculptured features that now can be seen at Fossil Falls.

Indian Wells Canyon

Indian Wells Canyon

The area is bounded by the Owens Peak Wilderness, and located at the southern portion of the wilderness. Vegetation at lower levels is creosote desert community. Joshua trees, pinyon-juniper woodland with sagebrush and digger/grey pine at the upper elevations. This canyon provides access to the Pacific Crest Trail, and also to Owens Peak. The area offers a variety of wildflowers in the spring. A 4-wheel drive vehicle with high clearance is recommended as there are a couple of streams to cross. The streams provide a nice area to take a break. The visitor to this area can travel to the end of the canyon to a parking area to hike to Owens Peak or Pacific Crest Trail.

 

Rademacher Hills

The Rademacher Hills Trail is a 8.5-mile trail which extends through desert terrain on the south side of Ridgecrest. This trail is open to hiking, jogging, horseback riding and mountain biking. Most of the trail is closed to vehicles to avoid conflicts with non-vehicular users and nearby residents. This area is within the Ridgecrest city limits, and is closed to all shooting by city ordinance.

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

However it may appear to you, a visit to the Trona Pinnacles will be a journey into one of the most unusual geologic wonders in the California Desert. This unique landscape consists of more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. These tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, were formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley.