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Courtesy of David Seibold

Burro Schmidt Tunnel

Burro Schmidt Tunnel
See a wacky-weird 32-year effort to dig through a mountain—by hand

If there was ever a road to nowhere, this route through the heart of a remote mountain in the vast Mojave Desert might just be the most head-scratching route you’ll ever visit. The tunnel is a roughly 2,000-foot-long tube dug out of solid rock by miner Burro Schmidt; it starts at his still-standing cabin compound, then heads through Copper Mountain to emerge on the other side, on a remote ledge at an elevation of 4,000 feet. What’s even more bizarre is that Schmidt, who started the tunnel in 1902 and kept digging for more than three decades, scooped it all out by hand, with just a bit of help from a few well-placed explosives.

The site, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is about 40 miles north of the town of Mojave. Follow State Highway 14 northeast for 20 miles, then, at the fork, keep right on Redrock Randsburg Road. (Redrock Canyon State Park is on your left.) Continue 11 miles northeast to Mesquite Canyon Road (a dirt route best travelled via high-clearance 4WD), then left onto dirt EP15 for 2.7 miles to the half-mile spur road that leads to the fenced but visible Burro Schmidt Tunnel and homestead. “We don’t encourage people to go in the structures or the tunnel,” says BLM field manager Carl Symons, “but you can see his cabin and where he was trying to get through the mountain—no one knows why.” The BLM office in Ridgecrest offers informative flyers and can share details on road conditions and access; stop by or call (300 S. Ridgecrest Rd.; 760/384-5400).

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Southern California

Discover the Deserts

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33
July
Average (°C)
June - Aug
41°
High
21°
Low
Sept - Nov
37°
High
16°
Low
Dec - Feb
20°
High
6°
Low
Mar - May
33°
High
11°
Low

The strike of a golf club, the hum of the wind buffeting towering sand dunes, the splash of a dive into a perfect pool. The desert region is a sensory feast. 

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Death Valley National Park holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded (54°C in 1913), while the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park have giant boulders and alien-like yucca plants. At Anza Borrego, California’s largest state park, discover amazing spring wild flowers. The oasis like Palm Springs region (two hours’ east of Los Angeles and three hours north east of San Diego) has golf resorts, mid-century modern architecture and every spring, the epic Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

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