The Old Mojave Road takes off-road adventurers from the Colorado River through the Mojave National Preserve to Afton Canyon near Barstow, California. This historic route has been used by native Indians, Spanish explorers, and settlers. Today the Mojave Road is a popular adventure trip for groups of 4-Wheel drive vehicles.
The total Old Mojave Road driving distance is about 140 miles. Even though it is possible to make this trip one day, most travelers take 2 -3 days to complete the journey. The current route is slightly different from the original trail but close enough to get a feeling of what it was like to cross the desert before modern roads were built.
Fort Piute Ruins
The first stop from the Colorado River at mile 23 is the stone ruins of Fort Piute. “The Outpost at Piute Creek” was built around 1859 and was initially called Fort Beale. The fort was abandoned during the Civil War and occupied for a brief period in 1887 before being abandoned for good. Not too much to see here except for the buildings’ foundations, but Fort Piute is defiantly worth checking out.
From Fort Piute, the Mojave trail drops down into Lanfair Valley, a wide-open landscape of Yucca & Joshua Trees. Homesteaders and ranchers once populated this area raising cattle or working in the mines. Today there is hardly a trace of these early pioneers.
Mojave Road Old School Bus
Around mile 35 is the old abandoned school bus. Shot full of holes and rolled over more than one time the bus make a great Mad Max photoshoot.
At mile 41 most travelers stop at the “Penny Tree.” A rusty old can hangs from a Joshua tree and it is supposed to be good luck to add a penny to the can. The Penny Tree is located just past Indian Hill, Indian Well.
Next up is Lanfair Road, paved but little used, which you can take back to Highway 40 via what is left of the town or Geoffs or continue on your trek across the Mojave Desert. At around mile fifty, there are several places to camp for the evening near Rock Spring or Government Holes. If one is busy, try the other.
Nearby Rock Spring is a reasonably well-preserved homestead cabin once occupied by a Bert George Smith. Bert built his house out of the abundant local rock, the reason why this cabin is still standing today. The cottage is often called the Mojave Rock House. From 1929 to somewhere around 1950, Bert called this desolate place home.
Mojave Rock House
At mile 62, the Old Mojave Road crosses the Kelso-Cima Road. Kelso Road offers a couple of quick side trips to some exciting destinations. Kelso Dunes & Depot are close by and defiantly worth a look, especially if you make this a three-day trip. Kelso road is paved and offers another route back to US 40 if you decide to end your trip here.
Continue on the Old Mojave Road to mile 74, where you will find the Mojave Mail Box. The Friends of the Mojave Road installed this box for travelers to sign in. There should be a notebook inside where you can read and leave comments about your adventure across the Mojave Desert.
Mojave Mail Box
A popular side trip near the mailbox is the Lava Tubes. The tubes are situated three miles north of the Mojave Road. With flashlight in hand, visitors can explore several of the tubes.
From the Mojave Mail Box, the trail parallels Kelbaker Road. Small dunes and Cinder Cones can be found in this area of the desert. After crossing paved Kelbaker Road, the Mojave road crosses Soda Lake. The lake is dry except for the occasional wet winter when runoff from the Mojave River reaches the lake.
At mile 100 near the west end of Soda Lake, you will find Travelers Monument. The mound of rock is supplied by travelers who carry a stone across the dry lake and then add it to the pile.
The final forty miles of the trail follows the Mojave River Wash past dunes and into Afton Canyon Natural Area. The canyon features a steep-walled gorge cut out by the once might Mojave River. The River runs year-round here, and this is the only water crossing the entire Mojave Trail. Follow the canyon, and you will end up near Barstow and the 15 Highway.
The Old Mojave Road can be made in a high clearance 2-wheel drive; however, a 4-wheel drive is recommended. Several outfitters offer guided trips, or you can organize your group to make the journey. The Old Mojave Road makes a great adventure trip.
You can travel the Old Mojave Road with camping stops or pick one of the shorter sections for a fun day trip. More info on running the Mohave trail can be found on the National Parks Service website, including permits for groups of more than seven vehicles or 15 participants.