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Wilderness Watch: Mecca Hills Wilderness, CA

Hikers on a ladder in the Mecca Hills Wilderness, CA

Hikers in the Mecca Hills Wilderness

Bureau of Land Management, public domain.

The San Andreas Fault dominates the geologic landscape of southern California. While there are plenty of spots in the state where this feature is visible on the surface, hiking the narrow canyons of Mecca Hills Wilderness reveals the impacts of the fault below ground. In this landscape, one can travel back in time over 500 million years as the shifting fault and erosive action of the desert sands expose layers of ancient stone and signs of past tectonic activity.

Designated in 1994, this wilderness of over 26,000 acres shares a border with the Orocopia Mountains Wilderness to the east; both are managed by the Bureau of Land Management's Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office. The area is a hotspot for desert wildlife as the craggy landscape, eroded caves, and water pools provide space for an abundance of reptiles. Bighorn sheep from the neighboring Orocopias can make their way into this wilderness ocassionally as well.

While this stretch of the Mojave is remarkably dry, the slot canyons and stony landscape mean even slight rains can cause serious flash flooding. Many of the trails throughout the canyons are not officially maintained, making scrambling up rocks, ducking below them, and seeking safe footholds a necessary danger in exploring this area.

The incredible geologic features make the trip worth it, though, as countless examples of tectonic, volcanic, and erosive forces line the walls.

Learn more about the Mecca Hills Wilderness here!


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