Johnson Hill Desert Exploration Route

Total Miles


1,615.43 ft


1.25 Hours

Technical Rating



Best Time

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Trail Overview

The Johnson/Gordy's hill area is known for its extremes. Most people come here either to do the very accessible Quebradas Backcountry Byway or the more challenging climbs through the arroyos. This route is for those looking for something in between. Along the way, you will find sweeping desert vistas, fast washes, and a little bit of mild rock crawling. The route starts on the northern split, heading towards Johnson Hill. While maps make it appear you can just go straight from a split, private landholders have closed off the easy start to this trail. However, shortly after taking the northern split, there are multiple tracks crossing back to this route. Getting over to the desert exploration route is one of the more technical portions of the trail, with some short steep climbs and narrow paths. Once onto the main route, the trail starts weaving into and out of an unnamed arroyo. A couple of crossings here require some mild articulation, but most of this is great for those wanting to do a little high-speed desert driving. The route turns South as you reach the back of the OHV area near Cerrillos de Coyote. Here towards the back, you will hit a gate that is a bit of fence drawn across the road. It is not locked and is primarily for cattle on the sections of BLM land. Use gloves if you have them, and make sure to close the gate behind you. The road finishes crossing up and down several hills until it rejoins Quebradas backcountry byway.

Photos of Johnson Hill Desert Exploration Route

Johnson Hill Desert Exploration Route
Johnson Hill Desert Exploration Route
Johnson Hill Desert Exploration Route


While the trail has a few short steep grades that might push it towards a 4, I would not hesitate to do this trail in a stock 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler. In these vehicles, there are a couple of places you will need to stop and think about what you are doing, but you aren't likely to get stuck/high centered/etc. There is also only one place where there is any real risk of slipping off the side of a hill or similar, and it's at the very start.

Technical Rating


Status Reports

Kc Byrd
May 11, 2024
Encountered one deep deteriorated rut - I was able to skirt around the side. Encountered a steep downhill section, stopped, got out and picked a safe line. Both of these encounters were approximately 70% into the trail from starting point. If I had to make it up that same hill from the opposite direction it would have been very difficult.

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