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A fantastic desert run that has a little bit of everything.

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2,904' 885 m


259' 79 m


2,711' 826 m


2,711' 826 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (8°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Wilderness Area This trail is for winter use only when snow covered.


An out-and-back run that takes you ten miles deep into the rugged yet beautiful Martinez Canyon. Your end-goal will be the remote and mystical Jack Miller Cabin.

Need to Know

The drive into the canyon, on the dry wash road takes a lot longer than you would anticipate! Even with a good 4x4 vehicle you'll be driving down a pretty sandy wash with a couple of tricky rocky areas. You'll need to allow adequate time to get to a decent parking spot to start your run early.

Long sleeves, a hat, sunscreen, and long pants are highly recommended for this run. I also had a pair of gloves for the brush sections. Almost every plant in the desert wants to rip your skin apart; be warned (a pair of tweezers are also highly recommended just in case!). Depending upon the time of year, I would recommend taking a headlamp also.

I rated this trail as Intermediate/Difficult due to the rocky/loose sand surface you'll be running on and the overall unforgiving terrain you'll be venturing through.

Do NOT try this trail after April and probably before October as you'll be ascending/descending from 600 feet to approximately 2,900 feet in the desert!

Runner Notes

I'm a trail runner also but I think this would be a pretty hard canyon to run!


This route will take you into one of the desert's longest navigable canyons of the Santa Rosa Mountains Wilderness Area.

Depending on where you park in the desert wash, the first 4 miles are basically a sand slog on the jeep road into the actual Wilderness canyon area. A 4x4/high clearance vehicle is extremely desirable to get you as close as you can to the actual signed 'trailhead'. The further you can drive south, from the paved 66th St./Van Buren St. junction, through the farm fields and then the desert wash, the less you'll actually have to run!

Once you get into Martinez Canyon proper you cannot really get lost. However, previous cross-country navigation and travel experience is recommended by at least one person in your party! Also, a map of the area and a GPX file would be extremely helpful. Remember, this is not a trail per se; you'll be running in a rocky and sandy desert wash.

You'll need a lot of water along with electrolyte-type replacement fluids and food to complete this trail and to stay in decent shape to complete it. You do not want to start cramping ten miles in. As an experienced wilderness hiker and ultra runner, it still took me 8.5 hours to cover the 21 miles RT to the car parked in the wash. That's an average of 3 miles per hour. Also bear in mind there is approximately 2,900 feet of elevation gain/loss on this trail.

There is one area in the canyon, about 7 miles in, that is almost completely blocked by cottonwoods, tamarisk, catclaw and bamboo vegetation. On the way up the canyon, just stay as far RIGHT as possible... in some places you'll literally be hugging the rock cliff face and/or climbing small shale rock ledges to miss the worst of the vegetation. Do NOT go to the left or try to go through the middle of this brush as you'll get torn apart. Once through the first major brush section you'll hit another, much less dense, section within a half mile up canyon from the first section. The best way to navigate this area is to stay LEFT. Obviously, you reverse these instructions as you return DOWN canyon.

About 10 miles in, not far from the cabin, you'll come to a couple of rock (dry) waterfalls. These are easily navigable with a little bit of scrambling. Once you reach the cabin there is quite a bit to see and investigate. It is quite hard to imagine living in such a remote location. Don't forget to sign the register book on the table inside. Congratulate yourself as this place doesn't see many people!

Flora & Fauna

Lots of typical desert plants from mesquite to all kinds of cacti.

History & Background

There are some Native American archaeological sites along the way and herds of bighorn sheep on the mountain sides once you get into these remote canyons.

Apparently, Jack Miller built a road up the canyon, back in the day, but it washed out in a big flood in 1976.


Shared By:

Pete Kirkham

Trail Ratings

  5.0 from 1 vote


  5.0 from 1 vote
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in California


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2,253 Since May 2, 2018
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Approaching the thick brush, stay right!
May 3, 2018 near Vista S…, CA
No more vehicles, you're now entering Wilderness!
May 2, 2018 near Vista S…, CA
Finally getting close to the car, 8.5 hours later!
May 3, 2018 near Vista S…, CA
You know you're on the right track when you finally see this sign!
May 2, 2018 near Vista S…, CA
Rear view of the cabin.
May 3, 2018 near La Quinta, CA
Approaching Jack Miller's cabin.
May 3, 2018 near La Quinta, CA



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