The Mountains of California
Goffs Butte • Piute Mountains
• Mojave Trails National Monument
• San Bernardino County

Goffs Butte and the service road

The summit rocks


View of a very long train below, and the town of Goffs

Looking down the road, my car is down there somewhere

Another road shot and a view of Goffs

Goffs Butte from where I parked

A train I was racing, two views of Goffs and the benchmark at the summit

Date: February 1, 2021 • Elevation: 3,612 feet • Prominence: 872 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 1 hour & 20 minutes • Gain: 850 feet • Conditions: Gray and overcast, but mild temperatures


We were in Laughlin for a short two-day getaway, part leisure and part business. We arrived Sunday and left Tuesday. The slowest times at the casinos are Sunday night through Tuesday, so we got an amazing deal: two nights at Harrah's for $67. Plus, no one was there, so we could wander about the casino without being too close to anyone to catch their germs.

Monday ended up being an open day, so I had time to tag a peak. I had to be back by noon for some phone-call meetings, so I did not have long. I selected Goffs Butte, about 50 miles away near the town of Goffs in California's Mojave Desert. I left the hotel about 8:30 a.m., the sky a solid gray and overcast, although temperatures were mild, in the 50s.

From Laughlin, I drove westbound on NV-163 to US-95, then southbound to the train tracks where Goffs Road angles right (west). The tracks parallel the road into Goffs, and massive trains run these rails daily, three or four per hour at any given location. Goffs the town was (and is) a railroad town, notable for being at the apex of the railroad grade as it ascends westbound from Needles at a 1% grade, which is steep for trains, so they say. Today, Goffs still exists, a relic of the old Route-66 days, and as an access-point into the southern Mojave National Preserve. The town's population is just a couple dozen people. I was here once before, back in 2011.

Goffs Butte lies a couple miles south of Goffs, and today hosts a batch of communications towers. It is a volcanic peak with steep slopes of basalt rock, and a crown of cliffs. However, to service the towers, a steep road was blasted into the mountain. It is ugly, but would allow for an easy ascent. The butte lies set apart from the north end of the Piute Mountains. From Goffs, Mountain Springs Road rumbles southbound past a couple homesteads to a soft apex east of the butte. The road is paved but barely, old crumbly asphalt laid down years ago and left to decay since then.

The access road to Goffs Butte starts at this apex. I drove in about a hundred feet and parked in a small pullout. It was about 9:30 when I killed the engine. I went light, just a couple bottles of water and my camera, and started walking without undue delay. It had warmed into the 60s, but was still heavily overcast. The sun shone through the gray but was muted enough to where I could actually look at it. The surrounding colors, already limited to various shades of black, brown and tan, were muted even more by the obscured sun.

I walked the road, gently pitched at first. I could have driven the Forester in a little farther had I wanted to. The road gets a little steeper and then momentarily very steep as it surmounts the first switchback near a couple small buildings and a gate spanning the road. My car would probably have strained to get here, but most trucks and Jeeps with good engines would be fine.

All along, above me was a guy driving a work truck to the summit. He was going very slowly and I could hear the engine groan as he inched up the steeper segments. The gate at the first switchback said "no trespassing" but I went in anyway. I was gambling that this worker probably does not care if a hiker comes up, as most workers usually don't.

This section of road is much steeper and roughly paved in asphalt to guard against erosion. For hiking, it was easy, but very steep, to where I was walking on the balls of my feet for most of it, really blasting those calves. Some smaller sections of the road seemed to be between a 25 to 35% grade. I marched up this segment to the second switchback. Here, the road marches upward, as steep as before. I got up about half this segment when I heard the guy driving down, so I squeezed myself into the rocks beside the road. When he saw me, he seemed genuinely surprised. But he did not stop or say or wave or make any motions that suggested I had to leave. As I had hoped, he did not really care much about some old guy like me.

Once he was gone, I walked up the remaining road, past one more switchback and up to the top. The highest point is in the rocks about 50 feet southeast of the tower. I walked to the highpoint rockpile and found a register, the first to sign in for over a year. I found the benchmark in a lower rock about 20 feet from the highpoint rocks, and stood upon one other nearby rockpile that looked possibly highest too. The views were pretty good, as I could see ranges about 40 miles away. The sky was still gray so my images are not colorful at all. Hiking down, I watched a massive train heading westbound through Goffs. I could hear the low rumble from the train up here.

The downhill hike went well, but the steepest segments of the road were a little dicey. A layer of loose gravel lies atop the asphalt, acting like ball bearings at times. I baby-stepped down these slopes. Once on the gentler grades, I walked at a faster pace all the way back to my car. I had been gone a total of 80 minutes, the hike covering about two miles round trip and 850 feet of gain. I drove back to Goffs itself for a couple photos but did not linger. I needed to be back in Laughlin soon for some mid-day phone meetings. It is a workday, after all.

We spent the rest of the day vegging, plus losing money at the slots and video poker. We drove back home Tuesday afternoon. I was happy to hike this peak. It was fast and something to do with little advance planning. I wish it had been sunnier for better views, but I'll take what I can get sometimes.

The town's name "Goffs" does not appear to have been named after anyone named "Goff". The town's original name was Blake, then renamed Goffs about a hundred years ago. Various railroads at the time had the practice of naming their sidings alphabetically, which seemed practical. Looking at a map of old Route-66 through eastern California, which largely paralleled the railroad in places, this is evident: There is the town of Amboy, then moving eastbound, the towns or locales of Bagdad, Cadiz, Danby, Essex, Fenner, then Goffs. These days, these places vary from being nothing (such as Fenner, which only "exists" as a road-side rest stop on Interstate-40), to tiny yet still-inhabited villages like Essex and Goffs. From Goffs moving east, Homer comes next (nothing there), then ... Bannock, which is obviously out of order, and also, completely empty of anything. Next up is Ibis (once a military camp during World War II), which is signed along US-95. Then Klinefelter comes up next, also on US-95. Then there's Java, so these are out of order. The nomenclature seems to end here. Needles is just a few miles farther, but probably not part of the naming scheme. I've seen this elsewhere, e.g. Kit Carson County in Colorado. What is surprising is that I had not noticed this here until researching things about Goffs, even though I've been to or through each locale before.

(c) 2021 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience. .