Exploring the Mojave National Preserve in California


This visitor publish is by Monica Chapon, a California-based desert fanatic:

The Mojave National Preserve have to be precisely what the Wild West seemed like way back – uncooked, rugged, and untamed.

This wild stretch of comparatively unknown, protected land sits nestled between Los Angeles and Las Vegas – a dry desert tucked away from civilization.

This protect covers greater than 2,000 sq. miles, making it the third largest in the US National Park System in the contiguous United States.  I’m unsure why, however this huge space is commonly ignored and forgotten in favor of Joshua Tree or extra in style parks.

From Joshua Tree forests to rugged mountains to sand dunes, The Mojave National Preserve gives so many sights simply ready to be explored.

Is it Namibia? Nope it’s California!

What To See

Before visiting, be sure you obtain offline maps, together with the official park map.  GPS and cell sign are unreliable all through the park.

Cinder Cone National Natural Landmark

Kelbaker Road meanders all through the western third of the park.  While driving, hold your eye out for jagged pink and black rock cones jutting out from the desert flooring.  These volcanic rock mounds are known as cinder cones, they usually fashioned as much as 7 million years in the past!

The Joshua Tree Forest

The Mojave National Preserve is simply over one hour north of the better-known Joshua Tree National Park.  The Preserve homes its personal massive Joshua Tree forest at Cima Dome.  In truth, this forest is bigger and denser than these discovered inside Joshua Tree National Park!

Monica in front of Joshua Trees and mountains in the Mojave National Preserve.

The Mojave Cross

The Mojave Cross was constructed in 1934 as a warfare veteran memorial. Though not the most visually spectacular monument I’ve seen, it’s a nice tribute.  Check it out at sundown for a fiery view.

Kelso Dunes

The Kelso Dunes is certainly one of my favourite stops in the park! 

The whole sand subject is very large, and sits on the southwest fringe of the park.  The dunes themselves tower over guests.  In some areas they’re over 600 toes tall; a few of the tallest dunes discovered in the United States.

There is a climbing path into Kelso Dunes.  It begins low, with desert brush and flat strolling areas.  The path regularly dissipates, and hikers can take numerous routes up and over the dunes. 

This is certainly one of the solely dune areas in the Mojave Desert that’s accessible with out a four-wheel-drive car.

The Lava Tubes

The Lava Tubes are a must-see sight when potential, however verify their standing earlier than you drive to the Preserve.  Occasionally, this space is closed off to guests.

To attain the Lava Tube, autos must drive on an unpaved street known as Aiken Mine for a number of miles.  The ceiling of the lava tube is collapsed, making it the excellent (albeit considerably sketchy) level of entry into the tunnels. 

Enter at your individual threat!  The park doesn’t keep the Lave Tubes.

The Lava Tubes at the Mojave National Preserve.

Hiking Trails in the Mojave National Preserve

Though the Preserve is huge, it lacks a sturdy path system.  However, a handful of trails are scattered all through the park. A number of of them are standout hikes which might be greater than price the bother.

First, a phrase of warning. 

Part of the great thing about the Mojave National Preserve is how empty and desolate it’s.  You can go to for a full day and see only a few different hikers.

However, this additionally implies that guests ought to take warning.  Cell service could be weak or nonexistent, and the solely fuel and repair stations are situated outdoors of the park.  Make certain your car has a full tank of fuel earlier than getting into the park. 

Also, the Mojave National Preserve will get HOT.  It’s distant, it’s rugged, and it’s the true California desert.  If you aren’t nicely versed in desert hikes, be completely certain to learn up on the acceptable desert climbing gear wanted.  Dehydration and even dying are actual considerations on treks like these.

In all of my time in the Mojave National Preserve, I’ve solely seen a park ranger car one time.  You could really be by yourself.  Be sensible and ready, and also you’ll get pleasure from your time right here.

The Kelso Dunes at Mojave National Preserve.

Kelso Dunes

If you hike the full path, you’ll stroll a Moderate 2.5 miles on the sandy floor.  If you’ve by no means hiked on sand earlier than, be ready for a exercise!  The summit is hard to achieve however the reward is an unlimited view throughout the sand dunes.

Hole in the Wall Rings Trail

The Rings Trail is a 1.3 mile Moderate loop via skinny canyons with pock-marked partitions.  At some factors, rock scrambling is required. Make certain you’re up for the bodily problem!

The street to the trailhead requires a excessive clearance car.

Rock Spring Loop

The Rock Spring path is situated close to the heart of the park, and is a Moderate 1.6 mile loop.  The well-maintained path typically hosts colourful wildflowers in spring.  There are ruins from an previous brick home which might be fairly enjoyable to analyze.

Monica walking the Mojave desert in California.

Where is the Mojave National Preserve?

Mojave National Preserve is situated in San Bernardino County, California.  It sits very near the Nevada border, between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40, and is roughly 2.5 hours from Los Angeles.

What is the Mojave National Preserve?

Mojave National Preserve, in addition to different preserves in the USA, are just like National Parks, besides that they might enable looking and fishing on website.  The National Park Service manages each kinds of protected land.

Established in 1994, the Mojave National Preserve is notable for its vast open areas and few indicators of civilization.  Scattered throughout the protect are remnants of the Gold Rush period, in addition to from the Native Americans who lived right here beforehand.

This land feels untouched and wild.  Many of the roads are unpaved in this 1.6 million acre park, and the truth that only a few guests make their approach right here provides to the feeling of isolation.  Freight trains nonetheless rumble via the space, however passenger trains had been halted in the late 90’s. 

It actually is a forgotten piece of desert.

The Mojave National Preserve entry sign.

Camping in the Preserve

Two designated campgrounds are located close to the heart of the park.  Both of them are first come first serve, and price $12 per website.

The Mid Hills Campground options juniper and pinyon pine timber, and is a cooler spot to camp resulting from its increased elevation.  The unpaved street makes this campground more durable to achieve, although.

The Hole-in-the-Wall Campground is decrease in elevation and has 35 designated websites.

Both campgrounds have pit bathrooms, potable water, fireplace rings, and picnic tables.  Be certain to convey your individual meals, as there may be none accessible for buy inside the park. Click right here for extra data on tenting in the Preserve.

The sand and brush at Kelso Dunes.

When To Visit

The Mojave National Preserve is in the excessive desert, with elevations starting from 1,000 toes upwards to eight,000 toes. Like most of the California deserts, the cooler months are the perfect time to go to for having fun with day-long adventures.

Spring (March – May):  Temperatures are delicate, sometimes between 40-85 levels.  Wildflowers carpet the hillsides, giving a shiny pop of colour to the sometimes dry panorama. The springtime is a wonderful season for climbing.

Summer (June – September): Sweltering warmth invades the Preserve, exceeding 100 levels a lot of the time.  Hiking could be depressing (and harmful!) presently of 12 months. Start earlier than dawn and end by 10am.

Fall (October – November): The fall months imply few guests and falling temperatures, again into the 40-85 diploma vary.  The cooler nights make tenting extra comfy.

Winter (December – February): Winter is usually a breathtaking season in the Preserve, and occasional snowfall can blanket the areas in increased elevation.  Though cool and cozy, the solar will heat you up whereas climbing.  Winter rainfalls could happen, so verify forward to keep away from flash floods.

If you’re a primary time customer, I like to recommend visiting the park throughout a weekend, ideally in Spring or Fall.  You can discover a number of hikes, camp in a single day, and take a look at the uncommon rocks and trails. 

The Mojave National Preserve is an often-overlooked, wild and rugged place the place you possibly can expertise solitude at its finest.  It is a harder drive and a much less in style park, however the hidden gems inside the Preserve make it so price the effort!  Come ready and you should have an unforgettable time.

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