Mojave National Preserve – Cima Dome & Joshua Tree Forest
What? : Once, this
area was the world’s largest Joshua tree forest but as result of the 2020 fire
that rage through the area 25% of all the trees were burned.
When you drive Cima
road you will see the dead standing Joshua trees, mainly to the right side of
the road all the way to Cima Dome in the horizon. There are some areas that
escape the fire and there you can see and enjoy the view of large Joshua Tree
When? : Late fall, winter
and spring is the preferred time to visit the Mojave desert, summer is just too
Due note 1: Water - Always take
more than what you think you need, this is desert and temperature can be hot,
in summer this is extremely hot environment.
Due note 2: Drive with enough
fuel, no gas station in Mojave National Preserve
Due note 3: No cellular reception
in Mojave National Preserve (you may have receptions near the main Highways). If
you are using cellular map with GPS make sure you download the map in advance
where you have cell reception (Wi-Fi connectivity is preferred).
Due note 4: Only few paved
roads cross the Mojave Desert, most main dirt roads are in good conditions, but
some may be impossible to pass after heavy rain. There are many off-road, 4x4 only
trails, make sure you know what you are doing and what your car can handle safely.
Due note 5: During winter
month, bring with you few warm cloths, you may get warm during the day and the hike,
but you will need them once the sun is going down in a cold evening.
My thoughts: We “discovered”
this section of the Mojave Desert by mistake… It was winter day just before Christmas
and we were heading to Las Vegas, on our way to Utah. There was a major accident
on Highway I-15 and they close the northbound traffic for few hours. The google
map advise us to exit the highway and get into Cima Rd.
When we drove there,
we were impressed by the amazing Joshua Tree Forest on both side of the road, so
we stop for a short hike and took few pictures.
I set to myself
a mental note to come back again and explore this desert.
Since then, I drove
through this road few times, always enjoying the Joshua Tree Forest with it
impressive large trees all the way the eye can see, and then the 2020 fire hit.
I did not want
to publish any blog about this section of the Mojave Desert before visiting here
again after the fire, I finally manage to visit here again on Jan. 2022.
The fire almost
completely burned the entire Joshua Tree Forest on both sides of the road and all
the way south to Cima dome. Sad to see this view and to understand that this
area will need many decades to recover itself.
are not actual trees, but members of the yucca family. Joshua trees only grow
in the Mojave Desert. The Mormons who named the trees thought their
outstretched branches resembled Joshua raising his arms. These trees are
confined to altitude rage of about 2,500-6,000 feet above sea level, so they
can’t grow in lower valleys or high mountain slopes, and they do need sandy
soil to flourish.
near-perfect symmetry round shape of Cima Dome rises 1,500 feet above the
surrounding desert and control the landscape. The top of the dome is located
west of Cima Road near the Teutonia Peak Trailhead.
Although it significant
size, because the Lava spread evenly into all directions, we do not see a “classic”
shape of volcanic cone.
activity in the field happened between 3 and 1 million years ago and recently,
10,000 years ago, there are newer eruptions mainly at the north section of the
lava field creating around 30 black cones near the town of Baker.
In August of
2020, a 43,273-acre wildfire burned through the Joshua Tree woodland of Cima
It was started
by a lightning strike in a wilderness area near Deer Springs.
On August 16,
the fire conditions became extreme and a fast rate of spread developed. When
the fire was fully contained, 10 days later, it had burned a total of 43,273
Much of Cima
Dome is now a graveyard of Joshua tree skeletons. It is estimated that as many
as 1.3 million Joshua trees were killed in the fire, about 25% of the
contiguous Joshua tree forest burned at that event.
the Dome Fire was so hot and instance it fully scorched and touched most of the
plants, it’s unlikely that many of the 1.3 million Joshua trees will recover.
There are some
activities to revive this area, but it will take many 10’s of years for even to
get initial recovery.
itself is simply taking I-15 Exit 272. At first the Joshua trees are not harmed
by the fire but after few miles you will get into the burned section.
You will see the
burned Joshua trees skeletons standing in the yellow sandy ground all the way to
Cima done to your right.
At some point
the fire did manage to cross the road and spread into the left section of the
forest all the way to the mountain foothills.
Things to do nearby:
You can still
hike in the dead forest to Teutonia Peak, Trailhead is near the White Cross
World War I Memorial bolder section near the road. This is around 3.5 miles out
and back trail that will take you through the dead forest, few deserted mines
to Teutonia Peak.
If you have 4x4
car you can explore the many old and deserted mines that are in the area, most mines
are located to the north of the road in the mountain section.
I will recommend
doing a half day trip driving the 25 miles long Aiken Mine Road (must have 4x4
car, see my detail blog). Here, in the west section of Coma dome, you will
visit large area of the Joshua Tree Forest that was not affected by the fire,
and you can enjoy their beauty, as it was in the rest of this area up until few
Keep driving on
Cima road all the way to where it ends at the junction with Kelso Cima Rd (and
the train tracks). At the road junction, if you turn right, you will reach Kelso
Depot and if you will turn left you can head to Nevada and Las Vegas.
Note about Desert Tortoise:
The listing of
the desert tortoise as a threatened species under the federal Endangered
Species Act was key for the establishment of Mojave National Preserve. It is good
to learn that their habitat is located lower in the valleys that were not affected
much by the 2020 fire.