California Ride Spot Jawbone Canyon

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California Ride Spot: Jawbone Canyon

February 26th, 2007
By: Staff Report

 A group of us rest along the #103 trail. We found it to be a very popular place for riders to take a breather. In the distance from our pit stop you can see a fence that was put up by a neighboring rancher. Be on the look-out for the occasional Big Mac walking out of his territory, one local rider told us they do get through from time to time.

If you live on the west coast, in southern California to be specific, not only do you have better looking sunsets due to the LA smog, but you also have many great opportunities for desert riding. We found one such place on a recent trip west when Polaris introduced their 525 Outlaw. To be honest, we liked it so much; we went back a few weeks later to see what we could find on our own time. We rode some great trails and found some cool stuff that we never thought we’d find on a trail ride in the high deserts of California.

The Jawbone OHV Open Area riding area is near the city of Mojave, about 20 miles north on State Highway 14, which is Northwest of Edwards Air Force Base. If you time your visit right, you might be able to see a space shuttle land. You might also see a few fighter jets overhead practicing a few dog fighter moves. We did see a few aircraft when we there during the Polaris 525 intro.


This OHV area covers so many square miles, it’s actually broken-up into a few sections. The Jawbone area alone covers over 7,000 acres. Red Rock Canyon is also one part of this riding area and is actually bigger and the Sequoia National Forest is even bigger yet! (Make note that many of the trails in the forest are single track only, no quads). And remember, this is a desert facility…there are very few restrooms scattered throughout the property and none of them have running water, however, they are kept clean.


This 75 yard section of hill climb was one area that we found to be a full “three” on the pucker scale. (Three being the most)

We bought a map at the Ranger station which is just of of Hwy 14. If we counted right, the area has over 300 square miles of potential riding. This map had all the trails listed, including those that are single-track trails for dirt bikes and some that are wide enough for jeep 4×4’s. It also lists a few restricted roads, as there are only a few paved roads thatare restricted to OHV’s. A group of us found a nice camping area at the base of a big hill climb that was five miles into the canyon. From here we found a 31 mile loop that took us a couple hours to ride. We should probably warn you now, trail #176 is loaded with whoops…beware. And on a better note, the #103 trail has a few areas that are flat and pretty fast. Some in our group hit speeds of over 50 mph.

If your rig is loaded heavy, or if you have a big unit like a long 5th wheel trailer, you may not want to go too far into the

Most of the trails are at least this wide. 

canyon. But if you’re just in a truck or small trailer, you can find some really remote camping spots that can make tent camping pretty impressive. One of the best things about this ride spot area is, someone thought of building a small convenience store on hwy 14 near the entrance to the canyon. This saves you driving 10 plus miles to get those last minute things you may have forgotten or helps in a pinch if you run out of gas! Just be prepared to pay a little extra for that out in the middle of nowhere convenience. And best of all, there is a trail that will take you to the back of the store. 


 We only found one trail crossing that wasn’t clearly marked.

On the trails that we rode, we didn’t find any markers that indicated how difficult the trail was, but we did notice on most trails if you got to a spot that was tough, you could turn around and go back. In the two days of riding, we only came across one trail that would have been rated a black diamond (for expert riders), we did, however, see many short hill climbs that only went to the top of a hill and then back down the same trail. And some of those should only be attempted by expert riders with plenty of horsepower.

One thing we noticed about this west coast ride spot is, they tend to share their trails


Headed out on sunset trail ride

a lot more than some trail systems on the east coast. While on one “pit stop” we saw a 4-seater buggy like you’d see in a SCORE race in Baja and later that day we saw a couple old VW beetles with knobby tires and beefed up suspension that was stopped at the side of a trail. As we said before, some of the trails are big enough for these larger vehicles and luckily they are all marked as to what vehicles can be used on them. Regardless, it’s best to use extreme caution, because there were many blind corners where you could easily have a head on collision. On busy weekends, you’d obviously want to be on alert.


Just off Hwy 14 is the Ranger station where you can get info and maps.

If you’re coming from out of state, you’ll need a valid permit/registration from an off-highway vehicle program from your home state if one exists. If your home state doesn’t have one, you’ll need to purchase a non-resident OHV permit that is available at the Jawbone Ranger station. For further questions related to BLM regulations, the local field office is located in Ridgecrest. That number is (760) 384-5400 and the Jawbone Ranger station’s number is (760) 373-1146. Keep in mind the riding season in So Cal. is from Halloween to Easter, when most of the country is riding in snow or rain. This area would make a nice place to go during one of the holidays where the kids are out of school. And best of all, there is ATV rental on location!

Fun Time Rentals (760) 373-1730 has ATV and Rhinos available in 2,4 and 8 hour packages. They have a choice of six quads, four dirt bikes or a Rhino to rent. Other options are renting a camper or RV. Call  Extreme Camping (661) 433-7775 or 4 RV Fun (661) 296-1972 to see what is available when you’d want to visit.

 At the bottom of a long decent on trail #136 we came across this group of friends in their Baja bugs.

Our first visit may not have really counted since it was in the middle of the week, but on both of our return trips we met people who had been coming here for many years. Some say they have ridden all the trails available. We’d guess to say that if you came out twice a month over a weekend and rode ten hours per weekend, it would take an average rider 2 months (maybe a little more) to see all the trails. Most of the people we talked to were there with groups of friends or family. Group sizes ranged from 6 to 30 and in two cases we passed 15 riders at one time on a trail. The use of hands signals are very important to use here. The leader should try and tell any oncoming traffic how many people are behind him (every rider in the train should also practice this technique) and the last riding should always hold up a solid fist, indicating he is the “caboose”.  

If you build a fire, be responsible and don’t leave it burning or let it get too big. We know it’s commonly done and in some places it’s legal to do, but think twice before bringing entire wood pallets to burn. The left over nail could easily find their way to a future riders tire or worse…foot. We’d like to ask that you take the nails out and throw them away properly.                                     


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