Beyond the trails maintained by the park, numerous peaks in Mojave National Preserve can be reached with off-trail hiking and scrambling. One worthy candidate is Fountain Peak.
Fountain Peak is located near Mitchell Caverns whose parking lot in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area provides a serviceable base camp. Before setting out, download the USGS topographical map of Fountain Peak. Making your own trail is a rewarding feeling, but hiking off-trail should only be attempted with preparation and precaution.
Head north from the visitor center by Mitchell Caverns through cactus-filled desert. Meet a gully that runs down the eastern side of Fountain and turn left. start up the canyon or the ridge on the south side (which should prove to be easier). As mentioned, there is nothing even resembling a trail, so the path is yours to make.
Approaching the summit via the main wash directly to the east will lead hikers to a position that required about forty feet of near vertical climbing. Obviously, this is not the suggested route. Before things get to steep, gain the ridgeline on the left side of the canyon and approach the summit from there.
The rocky summit of Fountain Peak has panoramic views. Look east over an expansive desert. Look up the rugged ridgeline to the north toward Edgar Peak, the highest point in the Providence Range. To the east, you can look down over the Kelso Dunes or admire Silver Peak in the Granite Mountains.
The terrain is slow going and scrambling is required in several places, but the views from 6,996 feet made it all worthwhile. From the parking lot to the summit is about 5 miles round trip with 2700 feet of elevation gain.
To get to the trailhead: From Barstow, head east on Interstate 40. Take exit 100 and go north on Essex Road. Take this road for 16 miles to Mitchell Caverns at road’s end.
Trailhead address: Essex Road, Essex, CA 92332
Trailhead coordinates: 34.9432, -115.51268 (34° 56′ 35.5″N 115° 30′ 45.6″W)
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