Painted Rocks – Barstow, California - Atlas Obscura

Painted Rocks

The cluster of boulders near Fort Irwin is covered in military insignia. 


Shields, castles, mottos, and mustangs adorn a mound of stones in the Mojave Desert.

The pile of painted rocks represents United States Army units from various locations. They stand against an otherwise empty landscape (even the base is about six miles down the road).

The pile is next to the main gate of the Fort Irwin National Training Center. The boulders feature the insignias of the units who have trained there. Command Sergeant Major Victor Martinez calls them “symbols of pride and allegiance,” and it’s become a tradition to paint them on the rocks to mark the end of a unit’s tenure.

Many of the rocks change from year to year, but some have remained the same. The current oldest insignia is an alligator representing Fort Hood, Texas.

Know Before You Go

Fort Irwin Road is about 37 miles long so it's a long drive with not much to see. Along the road you will see many white crosses for those who did not make the drive.Painted Rocks is located outside of the security checkpoint for the Fort Irwin base, so no permission is needed to visit.

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