AREA DESCRIPTION: When spring is in the air it is time to head to Short Canyon and its spectacular wildflower displays! After a wet winter, the canyon explodes with bright yellow coreopsis, orange California poppies, white buckwheats, purple gilias and vivid blue phacelias. In addition to these, over 290 different species of plants have been described within this relatively small Eastern Sierra Canyon. Within the span of less than an hour, you can experience three distinct ecotones - the Mojave Desert, Great Basin and Sierra Nevada - all in an area covering less than 1,200 acres.
WHAT TO DO: The Short Canyon trail is located within the 74,640 acre Owens Peak Wilderness and is open to hikers and equestrians throughout the year. From the trailhead at the edge of the wilderness, the 3/4-mile long hiking trail leads into the main canyon above a 20 foot high waterfall that flows after a wet winter. You may find the first 300 feet of the trail a bit steep, but eventually the trail levels off as it follows the edge of the stream. At the far west end of the canyon this maintained trail leads to a network of unmaintained routes that follow the north and south forks of Short Canyon. These are worth exploring on a day trip or a short overnight backpack.
GETTING THERE: Short Canyon is located approximately 20 minutes northwest of Ridgecrest. From the intersection of US 395 and SR 14 travel north for 1 mile to the Leliter Road exit. On the west side of the highway follow the Short Canyon signs, and take the graded dirt road west to the Powerline Road and then travel south for 1/2-mile to the intersection with BLM Route SE138. Follow this graded dirt road all the way to the parking lot and trailhead. The access road is graded and usually passable in a 2-wheel drive vehicle.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Primitive camping for up to 14 days is permitted within Short Canyon and the Owens Peak Wilderness. Please park or set up camp in previously disturbed sites.
Hunting is popular during the fall upland gamebird season which starts in October. However, during established hunting seasons, the BLM is encouraging all hunters and recreational shooters to use lead free non toxic shot and bullets. Proven safer, non toxic shot significantly reduces the risks of accidental lead poisoning of wildlife and will have minimal impacts on the environment.
In addition to wildflower viewing, spring is also an excellent time for bird watching when neotropical migrant songbirds make their way up the flanks of the Eastern Sierra after a winter in Central and South America. The canyon is also a good spot for observing wintering birds who move down out of the Sierras during the months of December to March.
To protect this special place for your next visit and for future generations be sure to practice these Leave No Trace principles:
Plan Ahead and Prepare Camp and Travel on Durable Surfaces Pack It In, Pack It Out Properly Dispose of What You Can't Pack Out Leave What You Find Minimize the Use and Impact of Fires
Within the Owens Peak Wilderness the use of mechanized or motorized vehicles or equipment is prohibited.
A useful map: Ridgecrest Desert Access Guide has additional information.