The Holey Spirit

Hike Hole in the Wall Rings Loop in the Mojave Desert

hiker going up a ring cable in Hole in the Wall Rings Loop Trail in the Mojave Desert

Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Loop Trail serves up the best parts of the Mojave Desert, all in a 1.3-mile loop: vista views, rare geological features, and even a climb through a slot canyon. The trail name is one of the most literal ever, taking you around and through Banshee Canyon, which is full of—yes—holes and rings.

Hiker heading up to hike through a canyon in Hole in the Wall Rings Loop in Mojave Desert

Hiker going up between canyon walls at hole in the wall canyon Mojave desert

Hiker coming out of a canyon at Hole in the Wall Rings Loop Trail Mojave Desert

A violent volcanic eruption is the cause of this trail’s particular features. Ash and debris flying at supersonic speeds crashed through the landscape. The mixture of gasses and heat created air bubbles in the molten rock walls, which left behind countless caves and created Banshee Canyon’s Swiss-cheese-like appearance.

Hiker standing and looking at the holed sand formations at the Mojave Desert

Hiker sitting on a large rock under a cavern in Hole in the Wall Rings Trail Mojave Desert

Hiker in a canyon feeling the sandstone formation at hole in the wall rings trail at Mojave Desert

This loop has two options to start from. The better of the two starting points is from the parking lot of the Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center. From this point the trail is like a three-course feast for the eyes; it gets better and better as you go along. The first section follows the outside of the canyon. You’ll pass through a designated opening in a barbed-wire fence and walk along a small sandy wash lined with sagebrush, creosote bushes, and cholla cacti.

As you gradually turn right on the loop, a panoramic view of the Mojave’s flat-top mesas along a large valley will appear. At almost 1 mile in, you will come to the entrance of Banshee Canyon. The trail starts to become rugged and the canyon walls draw in tighter. Stick to the left side of the canyon and you’ll see the climbing rings after bounding over some boulders. There are two sets of rings that will take you to the crest of the canyon. From there you can follow the dirt road through the Hole-in-the-Wall campground back to the visitor center.

Hiker using ring cables to go up a canyon at hole in the wall rings trail loop in the Mojave Desert

Hiker standing on a giant boulder overlooking the Mojave Desert

While you’re taking a break in one of the micro-caves, be sure to also stop and take a closer look at many of the rocks that still retain petroglyphs from the ancient Mojave people. From big views to small canyon slots, this adventure highlights the best of the Mojave!

BONUS: If you take a right turn and follow the lookout signs at the end of the rings loop, you’ll come to a hidden canyon lookout.

From the I-40 east of Barstow, take Exit 100, Essex Rd. After 10 miles turn right onto Black Canyon Rd. After another 10 miles turn left onto a dirt road at the sign for the visitor center. The road is paved well enough for any car to make it to the parking lot.

Story and photos by Ben Replogle, @big-mountain_moose

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Hiker on the SCA trail in Marin Headlands with view of the Golden Gate Bridge

    Headlands Over Heels

    People come from all over the world to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Get a dramatic and novel view of the bridge without all the people on this moderate 6-mile hike in the Marin Headlands.

    View
  2. Hiker at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve hiking amid lupine wildflowers

    Hidden Wilds of Healdsburg

    When you arrive at Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve, you may wonder what could possibly be tucked behind a subdivision. But within minutes of hiking in this 155-acre preserve, the beauty reveals itself: majestic oak trees, wetland, spring wildflowers, and wowing views of the Mayacama Mountains and Russian River.

    View
  3. Hiker on a trail with beautiful green hills and wildflowers on the grasses at Carr Ranch in Contra Costa County

    Carr Ranch

    Can’t decide between an epic hike or a relaxing nature walk? The 8.3-mile Carr Ranch Trail loop in the East Bay’s Contra Costa County is the perfect hike for rugged adventurers with a soft side.

    View
  4. Two women at the entrance of the Lavender Labyrinth at Bees N Blooms in Santa Rosa

    Lavender Labyrinth

    Labyrinths are meditative meanders. Add fragrant organic lavender and you're at Bees N Blooms at the foot of Taylor Mountain near Santa Rosa, experiencing their “ancient pathway of peace” and more.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Urban Hike to the Shakespeare Bridge in LA

    Shakespeare Bridge + Secret Garden

    Romeo, Romeo, we all know how this goes, but do you know how to go to the Shakespeare Bridge and secret gardens? We’ve got the online do-it-yourself hiking route for you.

    View
  2. Hiker overlooking Bear Gulch Reservoir at Pinnacles National Park near Monterey

    Pinnacles of Spring

    Why hike at Pinnacles National Park? Spring's a beautiful time of year here. And you might spy the magnificent California condor soaring while you gain soaring views from the High Peaks Trail.

    View
  3. Hike Mount Tamalpais into Muir Woods

    Muir Woods Through the Backdoor

    A backdoor entrance into Muir Woods? Hike a tranquil trail that starts in Mount Tamalpais State Park and quietly leads into Muir Woods, letting you avoid the busyness of the main parking area.

    View
  4. Hikers by the reservoir at Triunfo Creek Park near Thousand Oaks

    Triumphant in Triunfo

    Go on a hike with a peaceful reservoir, charming meadows, and beautiful spring blooms at Triunfo Creek Park near Thousand Oaks.

    View