|GPS||N35 40.89′ W117 23.44|
|Season||Year round: best Oct.-May|
|Terrain||Roughly graded, deep, loose sand|
|Required Vehicle||4 wheel drive. With stock tires it’s better to air down a bit in the soft sand.|
Directions: To get to Trona Pinnacles, you exit onto a well-marked graded road off of CA 178, 1.8 miles south of the town of Trona. The road is marked RM-143 suitable for 4WD, ATVs and motorbikes.
Site Location and Description: Trona Pinnacles is the area where the remake of Planet of the Apes was filmed as well as many other science fiction films. It is made up of “other worldly” spires and rocky pinnacles. As you travel down this packed dirt road, you can see the pinnacles a few miles down the road. There are some fun trails around the pinnacles to explore as well as primative camping opportunities. Follow RM 143 past the pinnacles and you will cross a paved road. It is part of the China Lake Naval Weapons Center and there is no public access so cross it and remain on the 143. A short while after the crossing you will get to a smaller trail; 7A. This has very loose, deep sand and climbs through a wash, past numerous Joshua Trees in the Summit Range. Truly an out-of-this-world adventure and beautiful as the stars and moon come out at night with the pinnacles in the forefront. Great photo ops. We had a lot of fun driving around the area. It is owned by the Bureau of Land Management and runs alongside the Sapangler Hills OHV Area, where there are a lot of fun trails and open areas for off-road vehicle exploration. To the south you will see the Golden Valley Wilderness, a hiking horseback riding area, with it’s Lava Mountains. TAP Note: Do not head out to Trona when it’s wet. Vehicles can easily get stuck in the mud.
The history of Trona Pinnacles: The Pinnacles formed 130,000-35,000 ago and are made of tufa or calcium carbonate deposits on Searles Lake floor. The lake was up to 600 feet deep and the area was lush and tropical. There are more than 500 tufa spires over an area of about 13 square miles some reaching up to 140 feet above the dry lakebed.
John and Dennis Searles discovered borax in the lake in 1863 and saline production started about 10 years later. This approximately 12 square mile area, once a lush tropical lake is now a mix of mud and sand to the northeast of the Trona Pinnacles Trail. It now contains salt crystals; potassium salt, boric acid, borax, lithium carbonate and bicarbonate all in near pure form. There is a processing plant you can see from afar in the town of Trona. Trona is the name of a mineral that consistes of sodium carbonate and bicarbonate. The wagon route used by the Searles brothers to transport the borax to the railroad in Mojave is now the route of the current railroad.
In 1986 Trona Pinnacles were designated as a National Natural Landmark. This area has been the backdrop for many movies, including Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Dinosaur, and Pitch Black as well as the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes.