Red Mountain Hike Mojave Desert Featured
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Hikes Around Mt Whitney

Red Mountain Hike (Mojave Desert)

  • 5.5 miles - Hard Effort
  • 3-5 Hours (Total)
  • 1,900 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 5,261 feet
  • Leashed Dogs Allowed

The Red Mountain hike, although "normal" on paper, really packs a punch. Red Mountain, a volcanic cone rising over 2000 feet above the surrounding Mojave Desert, has steep slopes, harsh terrain, and a challenging trail. And with great effort comes great payoff: the summit offers sweeping views and an interesting history.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions to hike Red Mountain (Mojave Desert)
  • Getting to the Trailhead for Red Mountain
  • Tips and Recommendations for the Hike

Where is Red Mountain?

Red Mountain Hike Directions 2
The volcanic Red Mountain dominates the skyline for miles as you drive towards it.

First of all, don't just type in "red mountain" and go. There are 96 named "red mountains" in the USA, and 18 in California. And it gets even trickier because the area where you will park is on a dirt BLM (Bureau of Land Management) road. Getting to the trailhead can be a challenge, use these initial coordinates, which are right off of historic Rt 395 in Red Mountain, CA:
35.367173, -117.619459

Once you get to that spot, you're going to follow the dirt roads to a small parking area where you can start hiking. I've included the track to the parking area in the map below, and you can also use these coordinates:
35.36555, -117.60978

Red Mountain Drive
It's about 0.75 miles from 395 to the area where I recommend parking (the red line). If you have this GPX track loaded on your GPS, use that to navigate to the parking area. A traditional (street) mapping app might take you somewhere else.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 1
The drive in is mostly sand and gravel, with a few rutted sections that can be crossed by going slow.

The road to the parking area is sand with some washboarding, but doable in a sedan if you go slow over the bumpy parts. Otherwise you can park at the initial coordinates off of 395 and walk in. There is another trailhead listed in earlier Sierra Club guides, but I found the road very challenging in anything non-4x4.

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Where I park isn't an official parking area; there aren't any out here. It's just a nice spot off the road to clear any OHV through traffic. You can certainly park anywhere else that you'd like to that doesn't block the roads.
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Just above the parking area is a mining structure.

There's no fee to park here, and also no facilities. This is also BLM land, so you are allowed to camp and overnight pretty much anywhere.

Gear For the Hike

This is a rugged hike in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The landscape is harsh and unforgiving, the terrain is rugged. Bring a full hiking kit including your essentials, sun protection, and at least 2L of water. Trekking poles are a must on the extremely steep slopes.

This is the desert. When temps are high, conditions are extreme and deadly. Save this one for times when the forecast high is below 80F.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2Hit SOS or just tell loved ones that you're running late where your cell phone has no service.  Review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The best hiking footwear I've ever owned. No blisters. Get them wet, they dry quickly. Lots of cushion and comfort.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProHiking maps, route info, and fitness stats on my wrist. Review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26Lightweight, carries all your gear, and your back doesn't get sweaty. Oh yea, it's also one of the most inexpensive packs you can get.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated July 2024)

Red Mountain Trail Maps

The trails on this hike are a mixed bag. In the beginning, you'll be on old mining roads, now used by OHVs. When you leave the roads, the trail is faint, non-official, and sometimes bifurcates. I highly recommend bringing the GPX track loaded onto your GPS unit or phone to cross-check where you are. The track below (and in the GPX) is one that I hiked. There are other trails that will split and rejoin, so if you find something solid and it's going in the right direction, stick with it over the GPX file.

If you don't feel comfortable with your GPS, navigation skills, or following faint trails, you should probably give this hike a skip.

Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Red Mountain Elevation
On paper this hike doesn't look too bad. But the harsh conditions, steep slopes, and faint trails make it tougher than it looks. Expect a slower pace than a trail with comparable stats.

3D Map

Red Mountain 3d Map
The first part of the hike gets you up to the ridge on the old volcanic peak. Then you follow the ridge over a false peak, down, and then up to the Red Mountain summit.

Hike Brief

Red Mountain Hike Directions 40
Normally I'm not a fan of scrawled initials in the wild, but this one, from October 22, 1908, is an exception. It was put there by Frank Lee Hess, who surveyed California in the early 1900s looking for mineral deposits.  There is also graffiti from USMC visitors in 1907.

Red Mountian Hike Directions

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Head to the intersection where the hike starts (from the parking area) and make the left.
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There are many OHV roads crisscrossing each other. We're going to stay on RM 108 until we get up to the saddle. When in doubt, look for these signs.
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After the turn, keep left on RM 108.
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And start gently climbing, again, staying on RM 108.
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You'll see some trails leading off to the left. Stay straight on RM 108.
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Now the trail gets steeper as we climb towards the saddle ahead.
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If in doubt, there are regular RM 108 signs along the route to the saddle.
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Off to the left is a big red dome, which we will be next to when we gain the saddle.
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We've got another steep and rocky section of climbing.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 14
Almost there.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 15
Avoid the road that goes off to the right and keep heading up toward the saddle.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 16
One last steep climb and we'll be at the saddle. You can see the steepness of the trail ahead.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 17
At about 1.25 miles you'll reach a saddle with views to the east. Go straight.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 18
And then make the quick right turn and continue uphill.

Just before the dirt road, there's a single track that you can also take up the hill. I've marked it in the GPX file and map. I generally take it, but it can be very hard to spot. The road is steep but easy to find.

Red Mountain Hike Directions 19
This road is incredibly steep, almost not walkable.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 20
After a little breather and a downhill, you'll have another last section of uphill.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 21
And then you reach a big clearing that, according to USGS topographic maps, sometimes sports a small pond. Go straight through and uphill.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 22
Okay, this part can get tricky. We're leaving the roads behind. Just before you crest the last hill, look for a pile of rocks and a faint trail on the left.
Red Mountain Saddle Turn
Here's where the turn is on the map. You pass the dry pond, go uphill, but not all the way.
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After you turn, you'll have a steep climb up the ridge. It's steep, and there is a trail, but it can be hard to see. There's not a ton of foot traffic around here. If you look closely in this picture you can see it going straight up the middle.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 24
The climb is a bit of a "choose your own adventure" and the trail often splits and reforms. If you look closely though, you can always see a trail.
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Some sections require climbing over the volcanic rock, but there are no sections where you are doing intense scrambles or bouldering. It's all Class 2 or less.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 26
When you get to the top, the trail turns right and follows the ridge on the western side.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 27
The trail becomes easier to spot.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 28
And then the lava rock thins out, leaving the trail among shrubs.
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This is another section where the trail can be hard to follow and bifurcates often. There are cairns here to help you along the way.
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When you reach the summit of the false peak, you'll see the proper summit ahead.
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Hike downhill along the ridge.
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And then climb up along the left (east) side of the ridge.
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Similar to the earlier sections, the trail can be tricky to see, but there is a route.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 34
And then you'll clear the rocky section and see the summit.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 35
As you approach the summit you'll see the cross.
Red Mountain Hike Directions 36
And here you are! 5261 feet above sea level.
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You'll see the graffiti and wreckage I mentioned earlier around the summit area.
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To the west you can see the Sierras and Owens Peak, the highest point in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains at 8,452 feet.
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To the north is Telescope Peak, and the flat-shaped mountain ahead is Pilot Knob, south of Telescope Peak.
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And that's it. From here, get your trekking poles ready, and start heading down the steep slopes back to the beginning. And if you don't have trekking poles, pray at the cross for help in getting down without falling.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.