Mojave National Preserve is located in the heart of the Mojave Desert and was established in 1994 through the California Desert Protection Act. It is a must for any outdoor enthusiast and a great way for the entire family to spend some time in the great outdoors.
Visitors can explore nearly 1.5 million acres of desert landscape with its, majestic mountains, jumbled rocks, desert washes, dry lakes and a variety of indigenous vegetation that blankets the desert floor.
The topography is by far one of the most diverse of all the southern California parks, and visitors will appreciate the solitude that is found among the rose-colored sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, and pinyon pines.
Here you will discover desert tortoises burrowing in creosote bush flats, the black and yellow Scott’s oriole nesting in the Joshua trees, and the mule deer and bighorn sheep roaming among the bright red rhyolite in the higher elevations.
Cima Dome Forest
Upon entering the Preserve off Interstate 15 at Nipton Road, you’ll drive along the edge of the Cima Dome forest, one of the largest and densest groves of Joshua trees in the world.
Cima Ghost Town
The main highway continues alongside the tracks of the historic Union Pacific Railroad and eventually, you will end up in what’s left of the town of Cima, where there are a post office, general store, and a small cafe. Cima is located at the crossroad of Kelso Cima Road and Cima Road. Be sure to take a look at the abandoned outbuildings that remain from when the town served as a railroad siding and a commercial center for ranchers and miners.
Hole-in-the-Wall Ring Trail
Continuing south you will want to take a short side trip to the Hole-in-the-Wall. Aptly named after a rock formation created by a series of volcanic eruptions nearly nineteen million years ago. Many of the unusual rock formations can be viewed from the platform atop the canyon, but for the more adventurous, metal rings anchored in the rock make it possible to climb down into the canyon and walk along its floor. Located off Black Canyon Road. Small campground and seasonal visitor center.
Mojave Desert Lava Tubes
A metal ladder takes you down into an ancient lava tube cave. Inside there is enough room to stand up and take some pictures. In the afternoon light shines through a hole in the roof of the cave and gives off an eery glow. Four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended if you decide to visit the Lava Tube. From Baker, Kelbaker Road 19 miles. Turn left on Aiken Mine Road, 5 miles. From here look for the marked “Lava Tube Trail”.
Kelso Depot Mojave National Preserve
From the Hole-in-the-Wall, you will have to backtrack to the main highway where you will reach the town of Kelso, home to Kelso Depot — one of the most-photographed landmarks in California.
The Spanish-style Western Union railroad depot was built in 1924 and is now the primary Visitor’s Center for the Mojave National Preserve. The center is home to a variety of unique exhibits describing the cultural and natural history of the surrounding desert. 90942 Kelso Cima Rd, Kelso, CA 92309. website.
Mitchell Caverns Providence Mountains
The area is great for hikers and for exploring nearby Mitchell Caverns in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. The caverns are the only limestone caves in the California State Park system and boast spectacular limestone formations including stalagmites and stalactites. Tours of the caverns are by reservation only. website. 38200 Essex Rd, Essex, CA 92332.
Kelso Dunes rise almost 700 feet high out of Southern California’s East Mojave desert. These spectacular dunes are the remains of mountains long worn away. Winds created the dunes as they blow sand particles across the Mojave River sink resulting in a 45-square mile sandbox.
The Mojave Road cuts through the center of the preserve. Starting at the Colorado River the old Mojave Road cuts through the Mojave National Preserve and ends at Afton Canyon near Barstow California. The total route is about 140 miles. Most travelers take 2-3 days to complete the trip, although it is possible to do in one day.
The Mojave National Preserve is located just east of San Bernardino County, California, between Interstate 15 and Interstate 40. The Preserve is always open.