Skip links
Owl Canyon-Rainbow Basin-byJess Beauchemin 2

Owl Canyon

[content courtesy of the Outdoor Project]

Features: Located in the Rainbow Basin Natural Area (and recently designated as a California Desert National Conservation Land), Owl Canyon is a big bang-for-your-buck hike. In only 2 miles you’ll discover a myriad of geological formations, scramble through a little slot canyon, enjoy seasonal wildflowers and end up at an expansive view of the colorful basin.

Owl Canyon cuts through several layers of volcanic and sedimentary rock. Each layer, with various colors and textures, contrasts with its neighbors, making a spectacular backdrop for this hike. With each curve of the canyon you’ll see something new: cracked mudstone, conglomerate studded with multicolored rocks, and bright green clay. Visit the canyon in the spring to see even more colors: yellow prince’s plume, red paintbrush, and purple phacelia.

Driving Directions:

  • From Victorville, CA, take I-15 N about 28 miles to exit 181.
  • Turn left onto L street.
  • In 0.5 miles, turn right onto Main St.
  • In 1.8 miles, turn left onto N 1st Ave.
  • In 0.9 miles, after crossing the train tracks, turn left onto Irwin Rd.
  • Continue 6 miles to a sign for Rainbow Basin. Turn left onto gravel Fossil Bed Rd.
  • Drive 2.9 miles and take a right on Rainbow Basin Rd.
  • In 0.3 miles, turn right at a pointer for Owl Canyon Campground. Continue another 1.4 miles to the campground.

Trail Directions: Find the trailhead at the north end of the campground and drop down into the canyon. From there, explore as far as your heart desires. There are several side canyons and caves worth exploring if you’ve got a sense of direction and a sense of adventure. Bring a headlamp and walk through the tunnel about a half mile up the canyon. See what other surprises you can find. Bring plenty of water and sun protection, as you won’t find much shade. And check the forecast. If there’s any rainfall predicted, stay out of the canyon. A flash flood would be dangerous here.


Caution: Weather and road conditions can change in an instant. Always check with the managing agency before embarking on a trip. Always hike with a friend and carry a cell phone for emergencies. Bring plenty of drinking water, food, and clothing for changing weather conditions. Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to be back. Remember, California’s wild places are beautiful but they can also be dangerous to the unprepared and unwary. The California Wilderness Coalition assumes no liability if you intend to visit any of the wild places featured in our materials.