Providence Mountains State Recreation Area

Update (Feb. 1, 2021): With the Regional Stay at Home Order lifted, State Parks is reopening campground sites for existing reservation holders. The department will be using a phased approach to reopen other campground sites for new reservations, starting January 28. The public is advised that not all campground sites are open to the public due to the pandemic, wildfire impacts and other issues. Additionally, group campsites remain closed. Day use outdoor areas of park units currently open to the public remain open.

As State Parks increases access to the State Park System, it is critical that Californians continue to recreate responsibly in the outdoors as the pandemic is far from over.

Please take the time to read the information contained on this webpage to find out what is open and closed, and the COVID-19 guidelines for Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.

What is open now?
  • Parking is open for day use
  • Hiking, bicycling, picnicking

What is currently closed at this park and throughout the State Park System?
At this park:
  • Mitchell Caverns, including all tours
  • Visitor Center
  • Campgrounds
  • Special Events involving gatherings (except as permitted by State Guidelines)

Statewide:
  • Some park units and campground sites continue to be temporarily closed due to the pandemic, impacts from wildfires or other issues. Please visit the webpage of your local outdoor destination to find out if it is open.
  • High public-use indoor facilities, including museums and visitor centers.
  • Special events and tours continue to be canceled until further notice.

Are there any new visitor guidelines?
State Parks has implemented the following guidelines to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors:

  • Stay Local: Stay close to home during this pandemic period. If you or anyone in your household is feeling sick, please remain at home and plan your trip for another time. 
  • Plan Ahead
    • The ongoing pandemic response continues to be dynamic and fluid. Prior to leaving home, check the webpage of your outdoor destination you plan to visit to find out if it is open, if parking is available, and what visitor guidelines are in effect.
    • Learn what safety precautions you should take when exploring the outdoors at parks.ca.gov/SafetyTips.
    • SNO-PARKS: Make sure your vehicle is snow ready. A permit is required for each vehicle parked at a SNO-PARK site. Parking is on a first come, first-serve basis at all SNO-PARK sites. The public is advised that parking lots are filling up early in the day. Illegal parking is prohibited. More information can be found at ohv.parks.ca.gov/SNOPARKS.
  • Stay Safer at Six Feet: No matter the recreational activity, maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Your guests should only include those within your immediate household. This means no guests or friends, and no gatherings or parties. If there are too many people to maintain the required physical distance, please visit us on a different day. 
    • Boating: Do not raft up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to other recreators.
    • Off-highway Vehicle Recreation: Do not ride next to others or pull up next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others. Stage 10 feet or more from each other during unloading and loading.
  • Keep Clean: Be prepared as not all services may be available. Some restrooms will be temporarily closed to keep up with cleaning schedules. Bring soap/hand sanitizer. Please pack out all trash. Park units are experiencing heavy use and you can help alleviate the impact on park facilities.
  • Stay Covered: The state requires you to wear a face covering when you cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet or more. Individuals must have a face covering with them at all times.

Although law enforcement entities have the authority to issue citations, the expectation is that the public is responsible for adhering to the advice of public health officials, visitor guidelines and closures.

California State Parks continues to work with local and state officials on a phased and regionally driven approach to increase access to state park units where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. However, the situation remains fluid and park operations can change at any time. For information on statewide current closures and available services, please visit parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve.

Phone Number

(760) 928-2586

Park Hours

Open Year-Round: 8 am to 5 pm, Friday-Sunday and Holiday Mondays.
Closed: Tuesday-Thursday, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

Dogs Allowed?

Yes
Dogs allowed only in the historic grounds, parking lot, and picnic area of the park. Dogs not allowed inside Mitchell Caverns, the visitor center, or on trails. Dogs can not be left unattended in vehicles or other areas of the park.

Driving Directions to Providence Mountains SRA

The recreation area is located in the eastern Mojave Desert, 56 miles from Needles on Interstate 40, 116 miles east of Barstow, and 16 miles northwest of I-40 near Essex Road. Located at an elevation of 4,300 feet, the park is surrounded by one of the newest National Parks, Mojave National Preserve.

Online reservations are not available for this park.

Upcoming Park Events

No events scheduled at this moment.

TRAIL USE
Hiking Trails
DAY-USE ACTIVITIES & FACILITIES
Historical/Cultural Site
Picnic Areas
Env. Learning/Visitor Center
Exhibits and Programs
Guided Tours
Interpretive Exhibits
Vista Point
Nature & Wildlife Viewing
Geocaching
OTHER FACILITIES & VISITOR INFORMATION
Parking
Restrooms

Mitchell Caverns 3D Tour

 Although physical tours of Mitchell Caverns are temporarily suspended, you can still experience this extraordinary place.

After being closed for nearly seven years due to major infrastructure upgrades, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area reopened on November 3, 2017.

Outdoor enthusiasts will once again be able to enjoy one of the most iconic and time capsule parks in California. This unique and remote travel destination offers a frontier experience of timeless landscapes and breathtaking views. The park is also home to the beautiful Mitchell Caverns, a diverse habitat full of limestone cave formations and unique wildlife - everything from bats to tiny pseudoscorpions and more.

We invite you to visit this iconic state recreation area. There are a number of day-use activities available for the public including tours of Mitchell Caverns and park trails. Also, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area is located within the Mojave National Preserve. Visitors can visit Providence Mountains early in the morning and explore the other wonderful sites within the Mojave National Preserve including camping under the stars. 

Fees

  • Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle   I   $9 for seniors/per vehicle

Tours - Tours are currently closed due to COVID 19

  • Tours: To ensure the natural integrity of the caverns and animal habitats, only two tours per day will be given, or one in summer.
  • Tour Details: The tour involves a 1.5 mile strenuous roundtrip hike to/from Mitchell Caverns and an hour guided tour of the cave.
  • Costs:
    • Individuals: $10 per adult   I  $5 per child (16 and below)   I   $9 per senior 
    • Payment options: Credit card or cash. Note: Because of the remoteness of the park, CARD IS PREFERRED.
  • Available Tours:
    • October-May: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fridays through Sundays (and Holiday Mondays).
    • June-September: 10 a.m. Fridays through Sundays (including holiday Mondays).
    • Park is closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
  • Reservations: Required. Tour reservations for the Mitchell Caverns, will be taken by phone only on Mondays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m..  
    • We accept up to 15 people per tour.
    • You must speak with a staff member to make a reservation at (760) 928-2586. Phone messages and emails will not be accepted.
    • For school and group tours, please call during reservation hours for more information.
    • Do not expect to get a spot on a cave tour without a reservation. Space is limited and tours fill up very quickly.
  • Arrival Instructions:
    • Make sure to arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to journey to the park as road conditions are primitive and subject to delays.
    • Reservation holders must arrive and pay for their tours at least 15 minutes before they are scheduled to depart.  

Mitchell Caverns

Cavern Image

About the Caverns

  • Jack and Ida Mitchell ran a resort from 1934 through 1954. Activities included tours of the Mitchell Caverns.
  • In 1972, the caverns and the reserve became part of Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.
  • The caverns include two main caves named El Pakiva (The Devil’s House) and Tecopa (after a Shoshonean chieftain).
  • Rimstone dams formed around edges of ancient pools of water.
  • Curious formations of helictites are seen throughout the caves, which take random gravity-defying shapes wander in various directions.
  • Spectacular and intricate limestone formations found include stalagmites, stalactites, helictites, lily pads, draperies, curtains and cave coral.
  • The trail to the caverns is only accessible to those taking tours.
  • The most popular months to visit are October through November and February through April.
  • Temperatures inside the caverns vary slightly from chamber to chamber but generally range in the 60s.
  • The location and the natural state of the caverns do not allow for trails to be ADA accessible. Also, the cavern formations create areas as low as 62 inches and as narrow as 14 inches. For those that cannot make the hike, a video tour of the caverns is available for visitors to watch at the visitor center.
  • If you are planning to enter the caverns, please be make sure that shoes, clothing or gear have not been in contact with the White Nose Syndrome (WNS) that affects bats. It is important not to bring clothing or gear that was previously used in a WNS-affected site. WNS is a fungal disease killing bats in North America. For more information about the WNS, visit the National Park Service website.

Trails

Two trails are available to the public at Providence - Mary Beal Nature Trail and Niña Mora Trail.

  • Mary Beal Nature Trail located near the park's visitor center, is a self-guided half-mile moderate walk through a diverse array of desert plants. 
  • Niña Mora Trail is named for the child of a Mexican silver miner who worked here in the early 1900s. The half-mile moderate trail passes near the child’s grave marker and offers matchless views of desert grandeur.

 Viewing of Wildlife and Vegetation

Wildflower Image

Providence Mountains is home to a variety of wildlife and vegetation. They are integral parts of the ecosystem and natural community. As such, they are protected by federal, state and park laws.

Help us keep this outdoor setting natural by:

  • Staying on designated trails.
    • Vegetation that you may encounter includes pinon pines, junipers, wildflowers (during the spring), Mojave and banana yucca, cholla, and barrel cactus. Be aware most of these plants protect themselves with thorns or spines.
  • Viewing animals from a respectful distance. Never feed or touch wildlife. Do not approach or attempt to move sick or injured animals. Please report encounters with aggressive, sick or injured animals to a park ranger.
    • Wildlife living at Providence includes bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, Antelope squirrels and cottontail rabbits.
  • This area is home to rattlesnakes. While not aggressive, they are venomous. If you encounter a rattlesnake, leave it be and maintain a safe distance.

Native People History

The Chemehuevi people, a branch of the Southern Paiute, have lived in the Mojave Desert for thousands of years. Among the local resources used for foods were pinon pine nuts, agave hearts, yucca, and even chuckwallas.

For more information on the Chemehuevi people, visit their websites below:

 Providence History/Fun Facts

  • Long Eared Bat ImageThe Chemehuevi people, a branch of the Southern Paiute, lived in Providence Mountains for at least 500 years. They migrated into the area about 1,000 years ago.
  • The Providence Mountains were named by travelers who believed the abundant water sources had been “sent from Providence.”
  • Jack and Ida Mitchell ran a resort from 1934 through 1954. Activities included tours of the Mitchell Caverns.
  • The historic home of Jack and Ida Mitchell is now the visitor center at Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.
  • In 1972, the caverns and the reserve became part of Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.
  • Excavation in the Mitchell Caverns found the upper arm bone of a giant Shasta Ground Sloth that has been dated as being over 10,000 years old! 
  • In the caverns, the small amounts of groundwater overtime became saturated with dissolved calcium from the limestone parent rock and created the thin layers of calcite crystals.
  • Starting in the 1860s, prospectors arrived in the area, seeking their share of silver, lead, gold and copper.

Safety Tips

If you are planning a trip to Providence Mountains, you will need to take some extra preparation and special precautions to make sure you will be able to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Keep the following factors in mind:

  • Make sure to have plenty of water, more than you think you would need.
  • Bring food. There is none available at the park or within 25 miles.
  • Bring sunscreen and use it.
  • Cell phone coverage is spotty or nonexistent. Bring a map and know your route before leaving home.
  • Dress appropriately. Bring layers of clothing. The desert can be very warm or very cold, and weather patterns can often shift within the same day.
  • Wear appropriate shoes for hiking such as close-toed shoes.
  • Fill your car’s gas tank. Nearest town with amenities is 56 miles away.
  • Know symptoms and treatment of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
  • Watch out for snakes, scorpions, spiders and other animals. Also be aware that most desert plants have thorns or spines for defense.
  • Pack a first aid kit and become familiar with it.


Location/Directions
The park is located in the eastern Mojave Desert off of Interstate 40, 56 miles west of Needles, 116 miles east of Barstow, and 16 miles northwest of the Essex Road exit. Located at an elevation of 4,300 feet, the park is surrounded by one of the newest National Parks, Mojave National Preserve.

Caution- be prepared to travel in the desert!  The nearest fuel station to the park is 24 miles away in Fenner.  Carry water in your vehicle in case of an unexpected situation.  Food is not available at the park, so plan ahead for meals.

Seasons/Climate/Recommended clothing
The best weather occurs in the Spring and Fall, but, because of the 4,300 foot elevation at the visitor center, temperatures usually remain moderate throughout the year.

PARK VIDEOS

 

Graphic on how to make a Reservation

 

Protecting Our Bats

Graphic on the White Noise Syndrome Decontamination Procedures

Mitchell Caverns - White Nose Syndrone

Decontamination Procedures

If you are wearing clothing or footwear that have been in any caves, mines, or lave tubes in the last 10 years:

  • If possible please change your clothing or shoes.
  • If not ask the park staff for Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) wipes to decontaminate your clothing, shoes, and gear. 

Thank you for helping to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome. For more information , visit www.whitenosessyndrome.org.

Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
The Providence Mountains State Recreation Area contains the oldest rocks in the state park system and some of the most spectacular limestone caves in all of California. The caves are important to visitors for their spectacular beauty, but they also provide abundant information about the geologic and climatic history of the region.

Providence Mountains SRA
(Photograph by California State Parks)

The full Geo Gems report  |  Geological Gems of State Parks

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