What? : The Mojave
National Preserve has many locations with Native American Petroglyphs rock art.
The Cow Cove Petroglyphs site contains many well-preserve petroglyphs scattered
across a basalt boulder field. You need a 4x4 car to get to the trailhead of the
3 miles out and back hike.
Where? : The trailhead
is located on one of the side-roads along Aiken Mine Road (see my detailed blog
about the Aiken Mine Road drive). Parking is at mile 17.57 if taking the south
to north ride (8 miles if you are starting at Cima Rd, I-15 Exit 272). You need
4x4 car to get here.
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. This is only 3 miles hike (out and
back) but the days can be very hot.
Due note 2: Few notes about off-road
For any long off-road
driving activity, you must plan a head and know what you are doing!
driving abilities and your car limitations and analyze the driving conditions
all the time. Think what if I need to turn around, can I make it back out.
Do not think “if
I can pass it?” but rather “what I will do if I get stack?”.
Things can “just”
happen, you may have flat tire or other car malfunction, you can get stack in “simple”
to pass places, in mud, deep sand or river bad, the road can be un-passable, or
you may even lose your way in the desert.
It is not about
pride, if the road gets too rough for you, turn around!
In the event of
an emergency, for un-trained people, staying with your car is probably the most
important thing you can do.
Make sure you
have a proper map and that you know how to navigate.
Know how to use
your gear, change flat tire or how to drive in deep sand or mud conditions.
satellite phone is always good to have with you for emergency and map.
Do not travel
cross-country or create new routes. This rule is strictly enforced; violators
will receive citations. Driving in washes is not permitted.
National Preserve, Groups of more than 7 vehicles or 25+ people require a
Special Use Permit.
Important Notice: ATVs and UTVs
Not Permitted in Mojave National Preserve at all!
Due note 3: Drive with enough
fuel, no gas station in Mojave National Preserve
Due note 4: 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 5: 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 6: There are no
bathrooms, no pit toilets, and no trash cans. Please pack everything out.
Due note 7: 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: I enjoyed this
2-hour hike, stretching my legs on an all-driving day-trip. The Petroglyphs are
nice and interesting and relatively easy to spot on the black rocks. The nice
thing is that the chance you will be here along are very high, you will have
the place all for yourself to explore… during my half day long-weekend drive I saw
only one other car…
The petroglyphs of Cow Cove are highly
protected and that tampering with, destroying, or removing any petroglyph at
such a historical Native American site is a federal crime.
Please do not touch or walk on any
Follow the rules of: Leave nothing
behind, make only memories and take only pictures.
What is a petroglyph:
A petroglyph is
an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking,
carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. We do know that people were living
in the California Desert 10,000 to 12,000 years ago and this is the dating of
the old petroglyph.
This site is
rich with patterns and designs that were etched onto the volcanic rocks by a
primitive Native American people.
trailhead parking (see above description) the hike to the petroglyphs of Cow
Cove is easy with only a slight downhill grade to the ridge where the
petroglyphs are. Overall, this is 3 miles hike out and back on a sandy trail, you
do need to easy climb on boulder to see the petroglyphs up-close.
your vehicle off the road, walk past the “gate” and follow the old, abandoned
but clear dirt road as it heads towards a series of short ridges in the
As you progress you can identify your destination as darker color
old lava flows hills.
As you get
closer to the lava ridges the trail turn left and start to get less visible to
nonexistent. At some point I lose the trail, but the destination was nearby and
At this point
you'll reach the low spot along you route, and you will cross a dry riverbed
where the rocky black hills and cliffs are just on the other side and to the
Once you reach
the rocky ridge and boulders you may see signs indicating that this is preserve
are easy to spot on the black rocks, head west (to your left) and keep looking
for more drawing. The drawings are spared on 500 feet stretch along this bluff.
Most of the Native American rock art images are abstract, though some looks
like actual items.
After 30 min of
discovering petroglyphs and climbing the boulders, I decided to hike back to my
car and continue with my trip.
out and back took me 1.5-hour (3 miles), but you can stay longer if you set a lunch breaks near the petroglyphs or invest more time with finding additional drawings.
I really enjoy
this place during my winter visit but at hot summer day the expose to sun hike
can be tough (make sure you have enough water with you).