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Get Schooled At Mormon Rocks Trail (On Your Way to Vegas)

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By David Lockeretz of Nobody Hikes in L.A. / Special to LAist

History, botany, physical education and geology…lots of geology…are part of the curriculum on the short but scenic Mormon Rocks Trail in the Cajon Pass.

Many SoCal residents know the Cajon Pass as the eastern route out of the L.A. Basin, driving through it on the way to Las Vegas, Mammoth Lakes or Death Valley. However, if you have an hour or so to spare, Mormon Rocks is well worth a visit.

The Cajon Pass has been a vital artery for travel from long before I-15, Route 66 or Las Vegas. Freight trains such as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and passenger lines such as the Super Chief, the Southwest Limited and their modern descendant, Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, have been making their way through this gap since the late 19th century. The Mormon travelers after whom the rocks are named made their way through the pass in the 1850s, around the time of California’s statehood.

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However, the real history of the area is in the ancient rocks, pushed up from the San Andreas Fault. Like the formations of Vasquez Rocks and the Devil’s Punchbowl, Mormon Rocks showcases some terrain that many may find hard to believe is just over an hour from downtown Los Angeles. The mile-long nature trail tours the diagonal slabs, also taking in nice views of both the eastern end of the San Gabriel Mountains and the western San Bernardinos. From the top of the loop, you can see the railroad. Plant life en route includes yucca, Manzanita and sage; hawks hover overhead.

Getting to the rocks couldn’t be easier. From I-15, take the Highway 138 exit and head west for 1.6 miles. The Mormon Rocks Fire Station and the nature trail are on the left. If there’s any downside, it’s that the fascinating formations on the north side of the highway—known as the Rock Candy Mountains—are inaccessible, but the nature trail offers some great views. The trail climbs about 200 feet and should be easy for almost everyone, even small kids. The only caveat is that there is virtually no shade and the area is notoriously hot during the summer. Try to go earlier in the day or later in the evening. Bring a sunhat, sunblock and plenty of water.

For more information about the Mormon Rocks Nature Trail, click here.

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