When? : Late fall, winter
and spring is the preferred time to visit the Mojave desert, summer can
probably be too hot.
Spending the night:
You can’t cover
all the locations and main desert attractions in one day so you will need to
plan for spending at list one night, camping or at nearby hotel.
almost no options for nearby hotels, I saw online that you can find some night accommodations
options at Nipton, the next closest hotels are at Primm, Nevada or farther away
to the west at Barstow CA. another option to sleep is at Needles CA (not far
from Arizona border on the I-40).
I highly recommend
spending one night camping, you have 2 Developed campsites and many undeveloped
options to select from.
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).
My thoughts: One of my favorite
desert destinations in southeast California, compare to Death Valley or Joshua
Tree NP, here you will see less people, but it is not less impressive.
I will describe
my trip starting at Baker (Exit 245 on Highway I-15).
From Baker take
Kelbaker road and drive to Mojave Desert Lava Tube, on your way you will see
the black volcano cones that exist in this section of the reserve.
From the paved
road turn left into well maintained dirt road and drive to the trailhead (see
the dedicated blog).
Although the lava
cave is not long the visit itself is short and fun, especially if you are
coming with kids.
From the Lava
Tube drive back to the paved road, turn left and keep driving all the way to Kelso
and preserved train station depot that today act as the main Mojave National
Preserve visitor center. Unfortunately, as of Jan 2022 the visitor center is
close and will reopen in 2023.
center is close not a lot more to do here.
From here I will
recommend driving and see the Cima area and the remaining of the huge Joshua Tree
area that was burned in the 2020 fire. This is 25 miles drive north and then
left into Cima road.
you can have
few hikes there but unfortunately this section of the largest Joshua Tree
Forest on earth burned by the fire.
destinations will be Hall-in-the-Wall and if we are planning to camp we can do
this in one of two the nearby campgrounds.
From Cima area drive
back south on Kelso Cima Rd for 4.7 miles, turn into Cedar Canyon Rd. You can
find detailed information on this road at the following blog: Mojave National
Preserve – Drive from Cima Rd to Hole-in-the-Wall.
After spending the
night in one of the 2 campgrounds near Hall-in-the-Wall, it I time to do some
There are 2
options, the first is the short one-mile hike near the visitor center that will
lead you through the hall in the wall climbing, The second hike is much longer,
6 miles hike surrounding the mountain mass, this loop hike can also climbing through
the hall in the wall.
From here I will
recommend driving to the nearby Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell
Caverns that is located at the north-western end of Essex Road. I never visit
here but from reading online it looks like it worth the time. Make sure to
check prior your visit about opening hours and tour reservations at:
Around noon it
is probably a good time to drive to Kelso Dunes, this is almost 1 hour drive (54
miles). You need to drive out to I-40, drive north 21 miles and then turn right
into the preserve at Kelbaker Rd and drive another 15 miles.
taking the long road I did a 4x4 drive, straight line from Essex Road all the
way to the dune, crossing the mountain range, see my blog on this drive.
destination Kelso Dunes (see my blog) is one of the best dune sites I ever
visit in California and top attraction at Mojave National Preserve.
recommend visiting the dunes just before sunset, do not forget to take to the
hike flashlight, and warm cloth at winter with you.
Before sunset make
sure you see and remember the direction of the parking lot (visible from the
dune top). Once you are in the lower sand dunes the parking area is not visible
and at darkness you can miss the right path.
manage to stay here for the sunset and now it is time to look for where to stay
for the neigh. There is an official primitive campsites one mile west from the
If you are planning
to sleep in Barstow (west) or Needles (east) this is the time to start your
driving out of the reservation.
If you are
driving from here to Joshua Tree NP than this is 84 miles drive (at list 1-and-a-half-hour
drive), south through the small town of Amboy (you can find here a gas station)
all the way to 29 Palms and the national park entrance.
I hope that this
itinerary blog as well as the other more detailed blogs help you to plan your
visit in Mojave National Preserve.