Mojave National Preserve – Lava Tube

Introduction:

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 very short.





Related blogs:

Mojave National Preserve – Baker

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

Mojave National Preserve – Cow Cove Petroglyphs

Mojave National Preserve – Cima Dome & Joshua Tree Forest

Mojave National Preserve – Kelso Depot

Mojave National Preserve – visit planning, 2 days trip itinerary

Mojave National Preserve – Visit Planning

 



Where and driving directions? :


If you are coming from Baker, CA (exit 245 on I-15):

Take Kalbaker 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.

After taking 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.

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: 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!

Understand you’re 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.

Garmin 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.

In Mojave 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 any car.

 

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 lava cave.

 

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 it.

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.

 


The visit:

When driving 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.

From the 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 end.

After passing 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…

 

Overall trip 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.

 

www:

https://www.nps.gov/moja/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/lava-tube.htm

 

Map:

https://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/upload/mojamap1.pdf

https://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/upload/cinder_cones_sb_bl_lowres.pdf

 

 

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