Known for its delicious date shakes, unique history and incredible beauty, this desert oasis is also one of the best places to hike in Death Valley.
China Ranch has become one of my favorite places to visit in Death Valley.
So I was super excited to head back there this past January for an entire weekend to celebrate the birthday’s of three of my nearest and dearest friends & family.
If you plan on spending the weekend in China Ranch there’s only one place to stay and that’s at Cynthia’s. The three 22 foot wide tipis and 1920’s ranch house fit our group of 11 quite nicely.
There are six official trails located around the property for hiking. On our last trip, we hiked most of the Slot Canyon Trail, which is “the longest and possibly most rewarding of all the hikes,” according to the China Ranch Date Farm’s website. That hike is approximately 4 miles and includes several interesting historic sites, including an old assay office and saloon from the early 1900’s and the remains of the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad (T&T) bed, which used to run north from Ludlow, CA and into western Nevada.
On this trip, we decided to conquer two of the other hikes mentioned on their website, The Ranch View and Badlands trails. The map above highlights the route we took for the the Ranch View Trail.
All six trails start at the gift shop, which is a great place to pick up some water and/or other provisions before heading out on your hike.
Over 1,500 fruit-bearing date trees make up the family owned farm.
The land was first farmed by a Chinese rancher named Ah Foo around the 1890s, who grew food for the local miners.
The date grove was planted from seed in the early 1920’s by Vonola Modine. Approximately half of the trees are male and produce only pollen. The females bear in the fall, yielding from 100 to 300 pounds of dates in a season. The grove sits on 25 acres of land and produces 15 different varieties of dates which can all be sampled for free back at the gift shop.
The beginning of the trail follows a small dirt road that runs down the middle of the canyon.
Pipes and tanks used to irrigate the farm can be seen along this section of the hike.
After a mile of hiking, we came across the reservoir that is used to store water for the ranch.
After a short hike along the flood levee, we climbed up and followed the trail that runs along the ridgeline of the hills located northeast of the gift shop. If you’re lucky, you may be able to catch a glimpse of the small waterfall that trickles down into a narrow canyon filled with cottonwoods.
The small creek eventually meets up with the Amargosa River further down the canyon.
The views along this section of trail are pretty spectacular.
There are numerous side trails that are also fun to explore if you have the time.
They don’t call it the Ranch View Trail for nothing. The current owners of China Ranch completed the adobe house in 1991 after 5 years of work. 18,000 hand made adobe bricks, manufactured from native materials found from around the ranch were used to build it. The 4500 square foot home includes four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
Catching a glimpse of the tipis were we spent our weekend.
After finishing the Ranch View Trail we decided to continue our hike into the badlands.
We didn’t find the clump of wild date trees but we did find lots of pieces of gypsum coming out of the clay.
Soon we were heading up into the golden hills located east from where the gift shop is located.
Hiking to the top provided a completely different view of the ranch than the one we had earlier.
The landscape was otherworldly.
Following a well worn game trail, we made our way back down the mud hills one by one.
Once we reached the bottom, we decided to follow the wash into one of the back canyons.
Wildlife in the area includes coyotes, foxes, bobcats, badgers, over 100 species of birds, and many varieties of reptiles and it was fairly obvious that this canyon is frequented by at least of few of these native species.
As the canyon narrowed into a slot canyon, we began to scramble above and below obstructions in order to see how deep we could go.
The soft, loose soil made for an interesting hike.
We eventually got to a point where we determined that going any further could be risky (crawling through caverns made of mud/clay that could easily collapse), so we turned around and started making our way back to Cynthia’s.
On the way back, we came across this old wrecked junker semi-buried in mud.
Just looking at it reminded me that we would soon be on the road again but unlike the person who was driving this wrecker, we all made it back home safely.