Before I dive into my hike to abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB, it’s important to note that you can’t access the base or the planes unless you have a military ID. They are located inside the gate and there isn’t a way to access them without coming on Edwards Air Force Base.
Near Rogers Dry Lake Bed are two B-52s and a B-58. I actually didn’t know what the B-58 was until further research. Obviously, the abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB were just placed there and did not crash. But why are they even there? Unlike most hiking posts, this hike to the abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB has lots of plane facts too.
About the abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB:
There are two B-52s and 1 B-58.
About the B-58:
Nicknamed “Snoopy,” The B-58A was the sixth B-58 to be built and delivered to the Air Force in 1958. It was used to test radar systems for the GAR-9/AIM-47 missile for the F-108 Rapier and YF-12A.
It was modified for flight and radar testing in the 1960s. The last B-58 launch took place in early 1964. After the program concluded, the modifications were taken off. From there, it was used as a variety of things, including on the photo test range. Now it sits peacefully for us hikers. When hiking to the abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB, I wasn’t 100% sure what the third airplane was or did. Just by looking at it, you’d never guess the B-58 was nuclear.
About the B-52s:
One of the abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB is an RB-52B-30-BO Stratofortress and was transferred to AFFTC in 1965. This airplane was used extensively for “Barrier Tests.” It was retired and now sits at the Rogers Dry Lake Bed. You’re able to walk right up to it, and you can tell it’s been used and abused.
The other B-52E-55BW was loaned to General Electric for engine tests in the 1960s. Now the plane just sits in three different pieces near Rogers Lake Bed. This airplane was actually used to test the General Electric TF-39 for the Lockheed C-5A “Galaxy” program.
The short answer about the abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB, was they were used for barrier tests. But what are barrier tests? Tests when aircraft of various types and sizes are caught in a net when landing. The Navy uses barrier systems in aircraft carriers to catch jets that miss the cables when landing. So they don’t go over the side of the ship.
Barrier landings are used for inflight emergencies in the Air Force and at Edwards. There are already 68 miles of runway at Edwards, but there are also two aircraft arresting systems. These systems have twice saved jets at Edwards.
After the tests were completed, the planes were retired. In 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) aimed to reduce “Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicles.” As part of the treaty, the US destroyed over 350 B-52s. C, D, E, F, and G models.
*We still have H models*
Satellites verified these destructions, and B-52s were left sitting for 90 days so Russia and Ukraine could verify they were destroyed. One day, it was noticed there were 2 B-52s that by satellite appeared they “could be operable.” So they were blown up at Edwards. The planes were nowhere near operable, but that couldn’t be verified on satellite.
Now the abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB just sit there, waiting for viewers.
My Experience Hiking to the Abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB:
As mentioned, you cannot hike to the abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB unless you have military base access. We parked on the side of the road.
The coordinates for parking for the abandoned B-52s at Edwards AFB are 34°49’09.7″N 117°52’17.5″W. You can also view my Strava. You’ll see a sandy trail and even from a mile away you can see the airplanes. Don’t leave the trail.
The entire hike round trip was about 2.8 miles (including me walking several laps around the airplanes). You can probably get it down to 2.4 or so. You’ll be walking on a sandy trail. The trail is flat and had almost no elevation gain, but it is sandy. Think like walking a mile or two on a sandy beach. It’s easy to follow and hard to get lost. In fact, from the start of the trail, you can see parts of the airplanes, and you just need to follow them to the planes.
On a fairly windy day, we hiked to the abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB. Desert wind can be brutal, and I would probably pick a day it isn’t “too hot” or “too windy.”
You’ll first come across the B-58 about a half-mile down. It looks mostly in tack. Then you’ll continue to follow the trail another .5-.6 miles down, and you’ll see the B-52s at the edge of Rogers Lake Bed. It’s important to note Rogers Lake Bed is off-limits since planes do land there.
The two B-52s are much more destroyed than the B-58, with one of the planes in three different parts. You’re able to walk around them, even touch them. There are a lot of frayed and sharp edges, which we were just mindful of.
The abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB, is fun and interesting. Plus, it’s an easy hike with kids but essential to be mindful of all of the frayed pieces of the plane.
Questions for you:
Have you ever hiked to abandoned B-52s at Edwards, AFB?
What is your favorite airplane?