Mojave National Preserve – visit planning, 2 days trip itinerary


What? : This blog will describe my recommendations for 2 days trip to Mojave National Preserve.

I wrote many blogs about places and nature attractions in Mojave Desert, in my blogs I provide detailed information about each location, see this link to my main blog.


The below trip recommendation does not require 4x4 car and can be done with any car (most of it can also be done with RV). I have additional 2 dedicated blogs describing my 4x4 trips.

Where? : My trip description start at Baker that on the Highway I-15 but you can also start it from other I-15 or I-40 entrance to the Mojave National Preserve.

Google Map Link


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.

There are 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.

Trip Itinerary:

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.

Off-road drives:

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 Depot.

Impressive old 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.

When visitor 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.

Our next 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 hiking.

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.

Instead of 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.


Our next 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.

I highly 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.

Hopefully you 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 dune trailhead.

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.