Approximately 35 miles past Barstow on I-15 (about 200 miles from L.A.). Take Afton Canyon exit and drive for about 4.5 miles along an unpaved road to the campground. The campground has stoves, toilets, and water (be prepared for the symphony of toads and the occasional train at night). Shortly after the campground the road gets tricker and is probably best suited for 4WD vehicles.
- What to see
For most of it's 127 mile length the Mojave River flows below ground. Afton Canyon is the last point it flows along the surface before the river is lost in the sands of the Crucero Plain at the other end of the canyon. A wide range of desert life can be seen in the immediate area, but the real attraction is the landscape. Often described as 'the Grand Canyon of the Mojave', Afton Canyon has a number of advantages over it's larger relative... the small number of visitors ensures that wonderful desert silence, while the small size of the area makes it easy to experience an amazing range of sights within easy walking distance.
The main canyon is about 4 miles long and is over 400 feet deep in parts. It was previously named Cave Canyon due to the presence of two large caverns. These caverns have been used for centuries by travelers as they provide the only significant natural cover in this region. I usually go exploring the smaller side canyons and recommend exploring a little further down from the buttes that can be seen opposite the campground.Go for a wander anywhere, I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
Afton Canyon has been formed by the erosion of the natural barrier at the meeting of the Cave and Cady Mountains.I haven't been able to find out too much about the geology of the area but both magnesuim and iron have been mined here. This is a good area for rockhounds although I'm not sure of the status of the area due to the weird politics of the California Deserts.
The first european sighting of the canyon was by the missionary Francisco Garces in 1776 and became part of the Old Spanish Trail. Two of the notable early visitors were Jedidaih Smith and Kit Carson. For a time homesteading took place in the valley as after significant floods the land becomes quite fertile. This could not be sustained and little evidence remains of habitation. Some debris and graves can be seen on the far side of the railroad tracks under the first buttes. Bighorn Sheep and Wild Horses have been reported in the canyon (1950's) but I think it's unlikely any remain.
There was another large cavern in the canyon before the railroad was put through but it was destroyed by the 542 ft tunnel built to bypass the river's loop. The railroad was built in 1905-6 and links Los Angeles with Salt Lake City.