Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Mojave National Preserve, California

Visiting the Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve

Visiting the Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve was originally published in November 2023

Whenever I make the call to my parents to announce that I’ll be paying them a visit, they frantically search through their archive of adventures nearby their (newish) home of Pahrump, Nevada, trying to find some neat new things to show me.

So on my most recent visit, which included my road trip down Utah’s Highway 24 from Salt Lake, they plopped the Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve on the to-do list for me. 

Needless to say, these Mojave Desert Lava Tubes are pretty epic, especially if you time your visit right, as well did, to capture the light beam illuminating the cave.

In this quick guide, you will find all the details about how to get to the Mojave Lava Tubes, the best time to visit, and more. 

Need Travel Insurance and Evacuation Services for California?

Start shopping for travel insurance plans over at IATI Insurance. Readers of the Adventures of Nicole get a 5% discount off your plan.

The Adventures of Nicole partners with Global Rescue to offer the world’s leading medical evacuation and security advisory services. To travel with peace of mind, shop evacuation coverage at Global Rescue.

Mojave Desert Lava Tube Quick Info

Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Mojave National Preserve, California
Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Mojave National Preserve, California
  • The famed lava tube sits within the Mojave National Preserve
  • The best time of day to visit for the most optimal lighting is midday between 11:00 am and 13:00 pm
  • You will need to travel along a gravel road for almost five miles to reach the parking lot
  • From the parking area to the lava tube, you will need to walk about a quarter mile (each way)
  • The lava tube is accessible by a metal ladder
  • the lava tube is about 500 feet long and ranges from 3-10 feet in height

How to get to the Lava Tube at Mojave National Preserve

Driving to the Lava Tube Parking Lot

The Mojave Desert Lava Tube is located about five miles from the Kelso Depot Visitor Center, so that’s where I’ll explain the direction from.

From the Kelso Depot Visitor Center, take Kelso-Cima Road to the north, this section of the drive is paved. 

After roughly 14 miles, take Mojave Road and continue along the dirt road to Aiken Mine Road.

Follow Aiken Mine Road to the north to reach the Lava Tube parking lot

Alternatively, you can take Valley View Ranch Road located a little north of the Mojave Cross to reach Aiken Mine Road.

Plan for the drive to the Mojave Lava Tube to take roughly 35 minutes from Kelso Depot Visitor Center.

As you can see, getting to the Mojave Desert Lava Tube is pretty straightforward, but there are a couple of things to consider before heading out there.

The lava tube is located on a rough dirt road so it would be wise to cautiously drive the road to avoid problems. Most people prefer to drive there in a higher-clearance vehicle but if you’re like me you’ll find a way to get your bashed-up Kia Soul up there.

Please note that starting in February of 2023, it’s no longer allowed to use Kelbaker Road to get to Aiken Mine Road.

Another consideration is that the lava tube is located in a fairly secluded area so if you are to break down outside of the popular hours to visit, it may be a while before another car passes by in the event you need a little help.

The Hike to the Lava Tube

Desert cactus, Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Mojave National Preserve, California
A blooming desert cactus along the walk

From the Lava Tube parking area, you will follow a walking path that meanders through black volcanic rock for about a quarter of a mile to reach a sign and a fork to the right indicating the remainder of the way to the Mojave Lava Tube. 

First, you’ll pass by a larger and a smaller opening, these are the holes in the tube from which the sun is able to illuminate the lava tunnel.

Finally, you will reach the Mojave Lava Tube entrance, made obvious by the metal ladder leading down into it.

Make sure and take a little time on the way to admire the pretty desert flowers and cacti you will pass on the route. 

Getting Down Inside the Lava Tube

Lava tunnel entrance, Mojave Desert Lava Tube, Mojave National Preserve, California
The ladder leading down into the lava tube

Grab the railing of the metal ladder and begin the short descent into the Mojave Desert Lava Tube. 

Once down inside the lava tube, you’ll need to duck to get into the best part of the tunnel. Beyond this point, you will see the main chamber of the lava tube. 

If you visit around midday and it’s sunny out, you should get a beautiful beam of light shining down from one of the openings in the ceiling, illuminating the lava tube.

Another thing that makes the Mojave Desert Lava Tube so enchanting is that you’ll find that the dust from the floor kicks up as you move around in the cave which gives the light beam an even more atmospheric appearance. 

Have any questions about visiting the Mojave Lava Tube?

Ask in the comments section below.

More posts from California:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top