If you are looking for a quick and relatively easy hike, I have just the place for you. I have heard this place referred to as Mushroom Canyon, but it is not labeled on a map. It is in the Little Creek Mountain area, which is the mesa that sprawls westward and south from the large cinder knoll just before Apple Valley. This is a whimsical little adventure that features a large stone, marking the end, resembling a giant mushroom. There is no marked trailhead, but it is relatively easy to find.
Turn off SR 59 at the Little Creek Mesa Road. Keep following this road, which winds past the cinder knoll. Immediately upon passing the cinder knoll, there is a cattle guard and a large sign which clearly says Little Creek Mountain. There is a small dirt road to the left, which is quite rough and will require a high clearance vehicle. For those in passenger vehicles, you can park by the road and walk from there, it is not too far. This little road forks; if you are in a car, this is the stopping point. Start hiking down the left fork.
You will immediately drop into a small sandy wash, which runs southward. Follow this wash until you see a small trail on the left. This trail gently rises from the wash. Be sure to bring good shoes because the gravel is loose in some areas. Eventually, the trail will lead to a confluence, and you will find yourself on the north bank of a creek running east/west. This portion of the hike is neat because there is a spring or seep that provides a lush blanket of reeds at the bottom. Large cottonwood trees find their roots in the creek as well. You drop into a lush garden in the middle of an extremely dry pinion and juniper forest.
The canyon deepens as you go along, and the geology becomes more interesting as the handiwork of erosion begins to become more prominent: giant rippled sandstone, with large pebbles from ancient river beds variegated throughout. This section is a rock hounds-dream! The canyon seems to be a nesting place for many birds and is likely the main water source for many animals. At several points during the hike, I startled dazzlingly colored birds, who I am sure were less pleased to see me than I was to see them. The trail seemed more heavily trafficked by deer than humans. This poses a slight difficulty when navigating. The trail breaks off in some places and disappears behind trees and large boulders. I found myself down by the reeds after following a deer detour path. Just remember head east. The trail will reappear, giving the canyon a sense of whimsy and adventure that only add to the experience.
You will stumble abruptly on the end of the hike when you see a giant stone shaped like a mushroom. An indication you are close is an old barbed wire fence, which is downed. I examined the map more closely to see if it was on private property; it doesn’t appear to be, and there is no sign suggesting that it is. Respectful hiking is important regardless of the ownership status of the land so be sure to leave the place better than you found it. I found this little gem by accident after hearing of the neat formation. It may prove a little difficult to navigate, at times you get the sense that you are off track, but that makes it more fun. This is a spectacular little hike that deserves to be appreciated.