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March 15, 2007

Carey's Castle

This past Sunday was a Great Outdoors hike to Carey's Castle in Joshua Tree National Park. It's located in the less popular southeast part of the park. Getting to the trailhead means driving from Chiriaco Summit along Colorado River Aqueduct roads to a parking spot on the border of the national park. From there, the hike to the castle is about four miles up a series of canyons which require some significant rock scrambling in a couple of places.

The castle itself is a nook under some typically huge Joshua Tree National Park boulders. Carey was a miner and bricked in this sub-boulder nook, furnishing it with a few basic items. Little to nothing is known about Carey himself, but the interesting thing is the castle itself and the contents that remain there.

If you take a look at this Google satellite image, you'll see Carey's Castle right at the arrow. It's that big boulder casting the big shadow.

Here's a site that has a good writeup on Carey's Castle.

Some people want to obscure the location of and access route to Carey's Castle. Patty Furbush in her book won't tell you where it is. Philip Ferranti tells you where it is, but his description of the route is (as usual) sadly inadequate. I've read comments on websites from hikers who want to knock down cairns along the route, which I find especially offensive. Apparently the cairn-knockers have had their way, as no cairns were visible at most of the significant forks in the canyons, although we did see many useless ones along stretches where the only choice was to follow the canyon or ascend an impossibly steep, rocky canyon wall. On our hike out we restored some cairns at some of the forks. Unless it has rained recently (ha!), the human footprints are your best guide. There's been heavy traffic in those canyons, and they're all heading to the same place you want to go. Even in the rock-scrambling bits you can see where some rocks have been rubbed by thousands of hikers.

Carey's Castle is not the sort of site that needs to be hidden from the public. It's not an especially sensitive environmental area (not a bighorn birthing place, for example), not especially dangerous (no crashed WW2 aircraft leaking fuel, for example), and it's not private property. The hike in is hard enough it should serve well enough to screen out the casual, beer-swilling, fire-starting idiot.

So I'm sharing with whoever wants it, my GPS track from Chiriaco Summit to Carey's Castle. BTW, my GPS maps (and probably USGS maps as well) do identify Carey's Castle, but they are pointing to his mine which is about a tenth of a mile west of his castle. If you follow the trail to the mine, you'll go right by the castle and you'll see Carey's rubble around the castle before you see the door to the castle itself.

I don't know what GPS format is universal, so here is the .GDB format and here is the .MPS format.

You can see the whole set of photos here, and here are samples:

Carey's Castle (3)
Carey's Castle (2)
Carey's Castle (1)
Carey's Castle is right in the center of the panorama above.

Carey's Castle (6039)Carey's Castle (5115)Carey's Castle (5114)
Carey's Castle (5100)Carey's Castle (5101)Bruce Checks The Route (6029)

Filed under California,Photography | permalink | March 15, 2007 at 09:15 AM


Has anyone copied the register from Cary's Castle? As I recall, the list was interesting. The place went years between visitors when we were there in '91 or '92.

Posted by: Greg Fowler at Apr 18, 2015 11:21:55 PM

I had a great hike in to Carey's Castle today. Thanks for posting the route. It worked perfectly. I left it as I found it and really appreciate you offering up the chance to visit a piece of Joshua Tree history.

Posted by: Gordon at Apr 26, 2012 8:25:35 PM

Thanks for posting the route. I have wanted to take my Girl Scouts to find this for several years. We just completed our hike there yesterday. We followed the advice of others and started from the private right-of-way off of Hayfield Road then followed the rest of your route. It was an outstanding hike and we owe it all to you! Thanks very much!

Posted by: Lisa at Feb 19, 2012 6:46:00 PM

We (my brother, his wife and myself) researched this hike for clues and GPS coordinance for about 3 weeks before we finally just went for it on 2/26/2011 which was not the best weather to be trekking through canyons and washes with black storm clouds looming above but we only had about 30 minutes of actual rain come down on us but nothing too heavy. We used GPS to mark the forks in the canyons which was a good back up if trail travel was not evident which in some areas was pretty obvious. We made it to the Castle in just under 3 hours including one snack/rain break and it was well worth the hike and the weather. Finding this place was as exciting for me/us as it surely was for Carey finding his first nugget (assuming Gold was his quest). Truly gives a great appreciation to the hard work and struggles to survive back in the day as seen by the evidence of all Carey's acomplishments while he resided at his desert Castle. I understand the wanting to keep this place mostly under wraps but it's truly a shame that we have come to this point as a society that we cant trust others to preserve history without the use law enforcement and fences or even secrecy. We left it exactly as we found it (including closing the door) and we hope everyone that has the pleasure of finding this historic mystery will do the same.

Posted by: Steve L. at Feb 28, 2011 2:12:11 PM

Nice write-up Ron. I agree with you regarding sharing the location. It's on the USGS topo for goodness sake. Not a secret. Hiked to the "castle" today and enjoyed very much.

Posted by: Florian at Mar 21, 2009 6:05:07 PM

You're saying Phil Ferranti needed to be shown the Skyline Trail?!

Are cairns the only directional tools that you discourage others from using, or do you have a short list of acceptable tools?

Posted by: Ron's Log at Jan 2, 2009 10:25:05 PM

Looking forward to my next trip to the castle to knock down any cairns left standing. If you can't find the proper route without cairns, you should stay home.

I'm sorry I showed Phillip Ferranti how to get here (along with the Skyline Trail) and never would have if I knew he was putting it in a book.

Posted by: halhiker at Jan 2, 2009 8:53:17 PM

my familey owns the carey castle ya me

Posted by: at Oct 5, 2008 2:35:50 PM

I have done this hike several times. You can also take the Hayfield road exit, turn left until you come to a fork in the road, take the left fork (there is a sign there that says that it is a private road), it really isn't. Go about 1 1/2 miles and the trailhead will be on your right.

Posted by: Chris V. at Jun 16, 2008 9:05:58 PM

Great! Glad to hear it worked.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Sep 27, 2007 6:25:23 PM

thank you so much a group of us are going for my birthday.
we have scouted it out twice. and your gps google really helped us
track the "trail".

we look forward to this hike its been 3 years searching for it and
wanting to do it.

Posted by: jacqueline christie at Sep 27, 2007 3:23:05 PM

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