Perhaps California’s most beautiful and diverse wilderness terrain, Clipper Mountain Wilderness, is located just 28 miles east of Ludlow, California. This majestic mountain wilderness contains deep canyons, seeps, hidden springs, snow-capped peaks during winter, and vast alluvial fans.
Towards the northeast of this 35,731 acre BLM land, a group of volcanic mountains rises, the tallest of which, Clipper Mountain, sits at 4,625 ft. This is the most iconic landmark in this vast wilderness area that is home to abundant wildlife and a unique and diverse ecosystem.
In February of 2016, Clipper Mountain Wilderness was included as part of the Mojave Trails National Monument, located in San Bernardino County, California. The wilderness region is essentially a large mesa surrounded by canyons, hills, and volcanic mountains and lies on the eastern side of the Mojave desert.
Nature lovers looking for a scenic, remote and rugged wilderness landscape for hiking, camping, climbing, and other outdoor recreational activities should set their GPS to Clipper Mountain Wilderness for the adventure of a lifetime!
Clipper Mountain Wilderness lies about 28 miles east of the small town of Ludlow, California or 50 miles west of Needles, California. The wilderness region is situated between Interstate 40 and Route 66. If driving from Needles, CA, take Interstate 40 and drive west for about 25 miles. Take the exit to Mountain Spring Road and exit south to National Trails Hwy. Head west for about 20 miles to BLM Route NS203. Turn right here and continue on for another half a mile to arrive at your destination.
The southern boundary of the wilderness can be accessed from Route 66, from Ludlow, CA on to Danby Road. This dirt road heads north for over two miles to the intersection of the South California Gas Pipeline. You will need a high clearance vehicle if you plan on taking this route and parking is strictly prohibited here so you will have to get dropped off and picked up.
Clipper Mountain Wilderness is managed by the Burea of Land Management that helps preserve this region’s fragile ecosystem, wildlife, and natural habitats. While camping anywhere along Clipper Mountain Wilderness always try to choose a campsite that has been used before and adhere to the seven standard Leave-No-Trace principles. Primitive camping is allowed for 14 days at a stretch. Pets are allowed in the wilderness area as long as they are leashed.
Located on the fringes of the Mojave Trails National Monument lies Afton Canyon Campground. The campground has 22 primitive campsites for tents, RVs and trailers. The campground offers little in terms of modern amenities. It is largely meant for those that enjoy primitive outdoor camping with basic facilities such as picnic tables, bathrooms, garbage disposal, and fire rings provided at the campground. Afton Canyon campground is one of the few places in the Mojave Desert where water flows almost all year round. The campground is also managed by the Burea of Land Management and is family-friendly. The campground also welcomes pets and is open all year round.
Hiking is permitted throughout the wilderness area and is perhaps the most popular activity here. Nature lovers young and old come to experience and explore this exotic wilderness region, often with their pets, enjoying the many sights and wonders it has to offer.
One of the most popular hiking trails often trekked by visitor traces is aWorld War II-era trail that rises seven miles up into the Clipper Mountain Range. The trail often rewards hikers with sightings of the bighorn sheep that the area is renowned for.
If you prefer exploring nature on horseback, Clipper Mountain Wilderness will not disappoint. The entire region permits the use of horses and this is perhaps one of the best ways to explore large areas of this beautiful wilderness. Make sure to pack all supplies for both you and your horse, as vegetation and water are sparse in the region.
Clipper Mountain Wilderness is home to plenty of wildlife. A variety of flora and fauna species thrive in the region. The area's thin plant cover is typical of what you would expect, being in the Mojave desert. Creosote bush scrub occupies the lowlands, with mixed desert scrub in the upper regions.
However, when the lower alluvial fans or washes are wet enough, they give life to brittlebush, palo verde, catclaw, ocotillo, and other desert wildflowers. Wildlife is also plentiful here. The wilderness region is home to a herd of desert bighorn sheep and is also considered essential habitat for the now endangered desert tortoise.
Hummingbird Peak is another towering peak amidst the cluster of volcanic mountains. It rises to an elevation of over 3,600 ft. and is about a mile west of Hummingbird Spring. This is a freshwater spring, among the very few in this region, so it is a great spot to restock on water supplies in case you are running low.
Clipper Mountain lies at the center of the small rugged volcanic mountain range that stretches from the northeast to the southwest region of the wilderness area. The mountain range is characterized by yellow and dark brown horizontally striped mesas. Clipper Mountain rises up to an elevation of 4,625 ft. of a long narrow ridge that simply drops off from both sides.
A famous landmark in the region Castle Dome rises to an elevation of nearly 3,300 ft. and is the only named peak in the range. It also offers perhaps one of the best hiking experiences in the Mohave desert, and the area is quite remote.
The hike itself is both challenging and rewarding. The summit of Castle Dome looks like a mess of spires and quite a daunting challenge, but appearances can be deceiving. It is not as hard to summit as its looks might suggest, provided you are in decent shape.