Visit the Leslie Gulch Wilderness Study Area to hike through sandy washes to reach panoramic amphitheaters of stone and sage.
Over 200 bighorn sheep live in Leslie Gulch, along with mule deer and Rocky Mountain elk. Bird watchers can look for chukar, California quail, northern flickers, white-throated swifts, and many more song birds and raptors. Early summer months bring Indian paintbrush, lupine and arrowleaf balsamroot to the hillsides, as well as these rare perennials found at a few isolated sites in the canyon: Grimy ivesia, sterile milkvetch, and Owyhee clover. It’s also the only place you’ll find the endemic Packard’s blazing star and Etter’s groundsel.
The hike into Juniper Gulch, 1.6 miles round-trip and 400 foot elevation gain, is a straightforward stroll that follows a narrow sandy wash up gigantic, overhanging cliffs. This hike offers the best chance to see the largest herd of California bighorn sheep in the country that call this area home, and the certainty of seeing many wildflowers and plant species. After a slight ridge, the trail comes to an end at an orange cliff of “honeymoon” rock. The natural amphitheater offers opportunities to scramble around some of the amazing red-rock “hoodoo” formations before heading back down.
Timber Gulch offers a moderate challenge at 1.2 miles round-trip and 350 foot elevation gain. The canyon splits about 0.3 miles in, and enters into an amphitheater of sheer, pinnacle cliffs that rise more than 200 feet straight up. These intriguing “hoodoo” formations have a natural cathedral feel, and it is an excellent place to rest and take in the warmth of the red rock, while adventurous folks will find plenty of opportunities to scramble.
For an additional challenge (difficulty level 5):
Exploring Dago Gulch is an open scramble and canyoning experience, roughly 1.6 miles round trip with 190 foot elevation gain. After hiking a closed road for 0.8 mile, you’ll pass the cliffs with columns and fluted green ash and you can try your hand at navigating the narrow slot canyons.
Notes and Advice:
- The nearly 25 miles of gravel dirt road down into Leslie Gulch is navigable by almost all passenger vehicles, but only in dry conditions. Rainfall can cause flash flooding and make the road impossible to navigate except for four-wheel-drive vehicles. In all conditions, large RVs are best left at home, as negotiating the steep grade with boat traffic can be dicey.