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Mojave National Preserve – Lava Tube
What? : A short Lava
Tube (about 150 feet long) located in the Mojave Desert at a cinder cones field
not so far from the city of Baker. This attraction is accessible for standard
car (no need for 4x4 drive) and the hike from the car parking to the cave is
Where and driving directions? :
If you are
coming from Baker, CA (exit 245 on I-15):
Rd. southeast, drive 20 miles on the paved road until you will reach a left turn
(This road has a small street sign marking the intersection).
Turn left into Aiken
Mine Rd, this is a well-maintained dirt road and drive for 4.6 miles, make sure
to keep left at the fork 4 miles into the drive.
Driving right at
the fork will take you to Aiken mine, this road is definitely for 4x4 cars only.
left on the fork you will soon see old cow corral to your left and the end of
the road is right after.
You will reach to
a small roundabout; this is the parking lot. Park your car here and do not
drive on the 4x4 trail after this point (even if you can).
If you are
coming from Kelso Depot Visitor Center: Drive 15 miles north of Kelso on
Kelbaker Road; turn north (right) onto Aiken Mine Road.
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: although not related
to this location there are few notes about off-road driving:
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 untrained 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 send or mud conditions.
satellite phone is always good to have with you for emergency and map.
Make sure you
have a basic First-Aid kit and that you do know how to use it.
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: The NP website
state the following “A high-clearance vehicle is recommended. Low-clearance
vehicles are not advised.” But I think that if it is not muddy than the 5 miles
drive to the Lava Tube trailhead are in excellent conditions and can be done by
Due note 7: There are no
bathrooms, no pit toilets, and no trash cans. Please pack everything out.
Due note 8: How Lava Tube are
formed: molten lava keeps flowing underneath colder lava surface and created
Due note 9: 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 already
visit many more impressive Lava Tubes and this one is relatively small and not so
impressive but because it is not so far from the main road, I decided to see
Not so far from
Aiken Mine 4x4 Rd. that is heading north and the hike from the parking lot is very
short, so it is fun place to stop on your off-road trip.
south from Baker to Kelso Depot the relatively flat skyline of Cima Dome is
interrupted by dozens of well-preserved volcanic cinder cones and black basalt
lava flows north of the paved road.
The earliest eruptions
in this area began about 7 million years ago and eruptions continued until at
least 10,000 years ago, near the end of the most recent ice age.
When reaching the
trailhead park your car.
trailhead, hike 0.18 miles up a jeep trail. At some point you will see a
single-track trail leading right onto a small hill section, soon you will pass
two holes in the ground and reach to the lava tube entrance.
A metal ladder
has been placed to enable easy access to the tube below.
Once you are
down you will see the entrance to the actual cave to your left.
The lava tube
is short (about 150 feet long), taking only a minute or two to reach the far
the first low passage the cave widens to a small chamber. Here there are few small
holes in the rock ceiling that illuminate the cave.
When the sun is
up, at mid-day, ray of light get into the cave, I visit here early winter morning
so not sunlight rays…
can take you no longer than 30 min, this is nice and easy hike so although not impressive
it is fun place to visit as part of your Mojave Desert road-trip, especially if
you are traveling with kids.
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