The Grass Valley Wilderness Area is a BLM managed area of public land in the county of San Bernardino in southern California. Part of the Mojave Desert region, the wilderness terrains are comprised of a harsh desert environment with low, undulating hills and extensive scrub-covered prairie. The wilderness lays geographically central to several national parks and forests. To the north of the wilderness is the Death Valley National Park and the Sequoia National Forest, to the east is the Mojave National Preserve and to the west the Red Rock Canyon State Park.
The Grass Valley Wilderness Area is an arid location remote from any major towns or cities, but even with no surface water, it's still one that's scenic in its own, unique way. The most picturesque aspect of the Grass Valley Wilderness is the multi-colored rocks with their hues of reddish-brown and ochre and the odd Joshua tree. Hiking and horseback riding through the wilderness is a real outback experience. There is one roadway running through the center of the area that while it has a very rough surface, could serve as a trail if you prefer not to wander across open country.
Because of the lack of water in the wilderness, animal life is sparse though you may spot desert tortoise, lizards or some ground squirrels. Raptors fly over the wilderness in search of food and the most common big bird sightings are of turkey vultures, eagles or, scooting along the ground through the creosote bushes, a roadrunner.
The only camping permitted in the wilderness is dispersed tent camping. The closest campground for RVs is in the Red Rock Canyon State Park which is approximately twenty-five minutes' drive from the Grass Valley Wilderness.
If you've chosen to pitch camp with your RV in the Red Rock Canyon State Park, you'll have a short drive along the CA 14 southbound until you can join the Redrock Randsburg Road. After driving a few miles east, you'll be able to turn off onto the CA 395 toward the rural community of Red Mountain. From the CA 395 south of Red Mountain there are several county roads leading across country to the boundary of the wilderness. On these roads, all vehicles should be left at the boundary and be parked at least thirty feet back from the boundary signs.
There is a roadway running through the heart of the wilderness. It's a boulder-strewn dirt track that can also be traversed in a suitable vehicle. The vehicle should be a four by four or at minimum have a high level of ground clearance. The roadway can be reached via county roads leading off the CA395 between Red Mountain and Atolia. None of the roadways are suitable for RVs. Any vehicle using the track running through the wilderness must stay on it at all times. Off-roading across the wilderness area is not allowed.
If you've been down in the south of the state RV camping in the Angeles National Forest, you can hit the CA 395 northbound just east of Victoriaville in Adelanto. The drive to the wilderness will take you around an hour. If you're heading down to the Grass Valley Wilderness from the north after being pitched up in your RV in the Inyo National Forest, you can join the CA 395 southbound in either Bishop or Big Pine. From there, expect to be motoring for about another two and a half hours.
The Ricardo Campground at the Red Rock Canyon State Park is the most convenient campground for visiting the Grass Valley Wilderness. The campground is located just off the CA 14 a few miles north of Rancho Seco. The campground is open all year and operates for the entire twelve months on a first-come, first-served basis. The busiest times are in the spring and fall especially at weekends and while there are fifty campsites, the campground is often full.
The campsites are distributed around a dirt-surfaced field at the base of a cliff. Access roads to the campground are narrow dirt tracks not recommended for RVs longer than thirty feet. All sites are primitive with no hook-ups for water, electricity or sewage. Most campsites are furnished with fire rings, grills and picnic tables with benches. Generator use is permitted only from ten in the morning to eight in the evening.
There are no on-site amenities whatsoever so all campers should take their own water and firewood. The campground visitor center is only open seasonally during the busiest months of spring and fall.
The Grass Valley Wilderness is a dry and dusty place to go hiking at any time of the year. Its one good point for trekkers is that the terrains are mostly flat and any elevations there are, are slight. If you head out on foot into the wilderness make sure to put on some sturdy hiking boots as the ground is covered with lots of small stones and rocks which could easily cause a twisted ankle.
The best time to hike through the wilderness is when the temperatures are low and the bushes are in flower. The buds of bright yellow add a much-needed burst of bright color to what is otherwise in general a drab landscape.
The level plains of the Grass Valley Wilderness make it an ideal place to get in some cross country horse riding. While there's no specific parking area where you can leave your trailer, you can pull up on the side of the road by the boundary signs.
There are no streams or creeks running through the wilderness so you'll need to carry a decent supply of water for your horse and for yourself. Riding in the wilderness will be a solitary experience so be prepared to feel like the Lone Ranger as you guide your mount over the desert.
The city of Barstow is just a short drive south of the Grass Valley Wilderness and there you'll find the Route 66 Mother Road Museum. The museum is full of memorabilia connected to the iconic highway including a collection of lost wheel rims, antique vehicles, signs, and photographs.
The museum opens three days a week from Friday through to Sunday from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon.
If you're visiting the Grass Valley Wilderness around the beginning of September, there's one big street party you won't want to miss. The Old West Day is an annual one-day event held in Randsburg. It starts off with a huge pancake breakfast then continues throughout the day with lively Bluegrass music from local bands, cowboy costume contests, food stalls and all manner of things relating to the Old West. It's one long jamboree from morning to night.
The area around the Grass Valley Wilderness was once part of a large mining district. Stop off in Randsburg for a visit to the Rand Desert Museum and you'll be able to find out all about the mining history of the town and several others in the vicinity as well as the people who settled there. The museum only opens at weekends between eleven in the morning until four in the afternoon or by pre-arranged appointment.
Rockhounders will be pleased to know the Grass Valley Wilderness is not far from Searles Lake, one of the best places in California for rockhounding. The twelve-mile-long dry lake is rich in minerals and hounders can pick up some amazing stones there. You could add some hanksite, trona or halite to your existing collection.
If you're visiting the wilderness on the second weekend of October, don't miss the Gem-O-Rama. It's a major rockhounding event held at the lake every year that attracts about three thousand people.