Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Niña Mora, Crystal Spring, Mary Beal Trails
0.5 to 2 mile round trip trails
Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, which includes Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve, is a 5,900-acre island of state park land surrounded by the 1.6-million acre Mojave National Preserve.
A trio of park trails offer an excellent introduction to the Providence Mountains, one of the dominant ranges in the eastern Mojave desert.
Experience the grandeur and isolation of the Providence Mountains, as well as grand vistas, by hiking the short (0.5 mile round trip) Niña Mora Trail. The path ascends the summit of one of a pair of hills known as Camel Humps.
Atop the hump, gaze out over some 300 square miles of desert. Clear-day views include Arizona’s Hualapai Mountains, located about 100 miles to the east.
The trail was named for the niña (child) Mora, daughter of a Mexican silver miner who toiled in the region’s diggings in the early 1900s. A miner’s life—as well as that of his family members—was often a short one. And so it was with little Mora, who died at a very early age and lies buried in a grave near the trail that bears her name.
From the campground, the path leads over a barrel cactus- and yucca-dotted ridge, and past the grave marker of Niña Mora.
In no time you reach trail’s end and a viewpoint which offers a good per¬spective on the weathered rhyolite crags of the Providence Mountains loom¬ing to the west. Below is Clipper Valley and to the east is Table Mountain.
Crystal Spring Trail (2 miles round trip with a 600-foot elevation gain) leads into the pinyon pine- and juniper-dotted Providence Mountains by way of Crystal Canyon. Bighorn sheep often travel through this canyon.
Crystal Canyon is walled with limestone and rhyolite, a red volcanic rock. High above the canyon, castle-like formations of this rhyolite crown the Providence Mountains.
The steep and rather rocky trail offers both an exploration of an inviting high-desert canyon and engaging vistas of the spire of Providence Moun¬tains peaks and a slice of Arizona. Hikers enter a unique desert landscape framed by bold rhyolite outcroppings. Pinyon pine joins a veritable cactus garden of barrel, cholla and prickly pear varieties.
About 0.5 mile out, keen-eyed hikers may spy the pipeline Jack Mitchell built in the 1930s to supply his tourist attraction in-the-making. The path crosses to the canyon’s right side and continues a last 0.25 mile to the end of the trail, just short of willow-screened Crystal Spring. Intrepid hikers may pro¬ceed on fainter trail to the spring and on to a viewpoint a short distance farther.
Pick up an interpretive booklet from the park visitor center and walk the Mary Beal Nature Trail (0.5 mile round trip), which offers a great introduc¬tion to high desert ﬂora. Cliffrose and blue sage share the hillsides with cholla, catsclaw and creosote.
The trail honors Mary Beal, a Riverside librarian who was “exiled” to the desert by her doctor for health reasons. For a half-century this remarkable woman wandered through the Providence Mountains and other remote Mojave Desert locales gathering and classifying hundreds of varieties of wildﬂowers and other plants. The trail was dedicated in 1952 on Beal’s sev¬enty-ﬁfth birthday.
The path meanders an alluvial plain. Prickly pear, cholla and assorted yuccas spike surrounding slopes. Benches offer restful places from which to contemplate the cacti, admire the volcanic boulders and county the speedy roadrunners often seem scurrying across the trail. Also savor views of the Providence Mountains and of Clipper Valley.
Directions to trailhead: See Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve.
For the Niña Mora Trail, join the signed path at the east end of the park’s tiny campground; for the Crystal Spring Trail, join the signed trail ascending the slope near the beginning of the Mitchell Caverns Trail; for the Mary Beal Nature Trail, walk the road north of the visitor center to the signed start of the trail.
© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author. To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.