Nightmare Gulch Loop Trail

MODERATE 5 reviews

Nightmare Gulch Loop Trail is a 8.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Ricardo, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

8.8 miles
1328 feet

dog friendly



nature trips



wild flowers


Nightmare Gulch is a colorful and highly scenic canyon and is a must see cross-country route in Red Rock State Park. Nightmare Gulch in Rock Canyon State Park attracts many raptors. In order to protect the raptor nesting sites, the gulch is closed to hikers and vehicle travel yearly from February 1 to July 1. The cross-country route starts just a half mile north of the entrance to the park at a small turn out on the east side of the highway. The route travels north then east around ridge tops offering panoramic views of the gulch and the Southern Sierra Nevada, then descends and turns south to the entrance of Nightmare Gulch. The gulch is filled with side slot canyons just waiting to explore. After exiting the gulch turn north to head back to the trail head. BEST TIME TO HIKE September - January 31 (can be very hot during the middle of summer) the area is closed February 1-July 1

11 days ago

I did this hike counter clock wise , first went along the scenic canyon. At the beginning, there were nice rock formations, but later on, in my opinion - this walk along the canyon was monotonous and boring. Also , walking (or struggling to walk) on the sand is hard and the advancement is slow. The 2nd half of the trail, goes on a ridge - which, in my opinion, is much nicer. The views are good and in the end you reach a dry waterfall. The trail goes next to jeep roads , sometimes you use the jeep road to switch between ridges - but don't walk them for long. If you find yourself walking on jeep roads too long , then you made a mistake - look at the app and correct yourself back to the trail plan. The hike took me , in total about 4.5 hours , but I spent an additional hour on the last highest place on the ridge , to watch the sunset. All and all - it's an OK hike.

3 months ago

Only hiked part of this trail since the canyon was closed for the raptors. Interesting desert hike but trail is not well marked. Definitely bring lots of water.

6 months ago

10 months ago

A 5 hour hike with beautiful rock formations in parts of the trail. Perfect for winter but would be way too hot other times of the year. A bit of easy rock climbing along the way. Some of the hiking is through soft sand. One long uphill climb. Trail is not clearly marked so come with a printed map since there is no cell service and your phone might not hold the charge for the whole route. We saw very few other people along the way so if you don't like crowds this is the trail for you!
Bring plenty of water and enjoy the scenery.

10 months ago

approximately 4 to 5 hours hike. first half in the Canyon is beautiful. The second half is less to see.