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 Forest.


Related blogs:

Mojave National Preserve – Aiken Mine Road (4x4 drive)

Mojave National Preserve – Cow Cove Petroglyphs

Mojave National Preserve – Drive from Cima Rd to Hole-in-the-Wall

Mojave National Preserve – Hole-in-the-Wall

Mojave National Preserve – Kelso Depot

Mojave National Preserve – visit planning, 2 days trip itinerary

Mojave National Preserve – Visit Planning


Where? : The road start at I-15 Exit 272 (there is a Shell gas station at that exit.

Google Map Link


When? : Late fall, winter and spring is the preferred time to visit the Mojave desert, summer is just too hot.

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.


The visit:


Joshua trees:

Joshua trees 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.


Cima Dome:

The 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.

The volcanic 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.


The fire:

In August of 2020, a 43,273-acre wildfire burned through the Joshua Tree woodland of Cima Dome.

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 acres.

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.

Unfortunately, Since 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.


The Drive:

The drive 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 years back.


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.