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California’s Rings Trail features a thrilling descent

Visitors to the Rings Trail in California’s Mojave National Preserve descend a narrow, steep slot canyon by using metal rings bolted into the rock along two sections.

The descent is a bit tricky. The easiest and safest way down is to face the wall, grab the first ring of four, then drop one foot down to rest atop one of the bolts holding lower rings. Then grab hold of a lower ring, step on a lower bolt, and so on. Once off the first set of rings, walk around the corner and you’ll find another set. This time there are six rings and a longer drop.

With an adult up top and another below to help, children can maneuver the rings and usually find it a thrilling adventure.

Once down the slot, the terrain opens up and the walking is fairly easy. You will find hundreds of fascinating formations full of holes, windows and odd shapes.

The place is called Banshee Canyon, because when it’s windy you might hear peculiar sounds from the rock, like the mourning call of the banshee of Irish legends.

History: This area was formed about 18 million years ago when volcanic eruptions occurred. Gas trapped in the ash formed the odd-shaped holes, which enlarged over time from wind and rain.

Directions: From Las Vegas, take Interstate 15 south about 50 miles. Exit onto Nipton Road and go east 4 miles. Take a right onto Ivanpah Road and drive 3.1 miles. Go right onto Morning Star Mine Road and drive 22 miles. Go left onto Cedar Canyon Road for 5.8 miles. Go right onto Black Canyon Road and follow for 10 miles to a right turn at the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center and Rings Trailhead.

Length of stay: A day trip.

What to pack: Bring water and food for the day. Wear hiking boots, long sturdy fabric pants and a warm jacket that won’t tear on the rock. At an elevation of about 4,288 feet, be prepared for temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than Las Vegas.

Rough road: Some portions of Cedar Canyon Road and all of Black Canyon Road are gravel, but usually well maintained, and suitable for high-clearance vehicles with good off-road tires, except after or during heavy rain or snowfall, when you might need four-wheel drive. The Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center is temporarily closed for repairs. 760-252-6100, nps.gov/moja

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