Wildhorses at Sand Creek Barrel Springs Byway at sunset.  Photo by Laurie Sada Upper Wall Canyon creek.  Photo by B. Parrott Windmill at Sunset in Surprise Valley Sunset reflection on Upper Lake in Surprise Valley.
BLM>California>Applegate>Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon NCA
Print Page
Applegate Field Office

Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails
National Conservation Area

High Rock Desert High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area logo

The National Conservation Area (NCA) was designated in 2000. BLM completed a Resource Management Plan for the area in 2004. With the exception of the High Rock Canyon road and other road corridors, the High Rock Canyon area is within portions of three designated wilderness areas.


Horseback rider in Little High Rock Canyon
Covered wagon in High Rock CanyonTrails used by Native Americans through High Rock Canyon was first followed and recorded by Captain John Fremont and his expedition that included legendary mountain man Kit Carson in 1844. The Applegate brothers guided emigrant wagon trains through the canyon on their way to Oregon's Willamette Valley in 1846. In 1849 it became a well beaten path to the gold fields of California. The sixteen mile-long canyon is a fine place for hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and horse back riding. The emigrant signature sites and "Post Office" cave are about five miles from the east entrance of the canyon.

This is wilderness country, and except for Stevens Camp, there are no facilities of any kind in or near the canyon. When the road is dry, passenger cars can travel a gravel road to the cabin at Steven's Camp. The hike up Upper High Rock Canyon just west of Stevens Camp enters a unique desert oasis. High Rock Canyon today is very rugged and can be driven only in high clearance four-wheel vehicles with good off-road tires by experienced and well equipped explorers. The High Rock area is very isolated. Be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return before entering the area. For road conditions contact the Surprise Field Office in Cedarville at 530-279-6101.

Traveler's safety information.

Scenic view in Little High Rock Canyon