Mojave National Preserve: Things to Do, Hikes & More
Mojave National Preserve: Things to Do, Hikes & More was originally published in January 2024
The Mojave Desert is a magical place home to a plethora of amazing landscapes, hikes, and historical sites.
Despite the Mojave National Preserve’s location smack between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the preserve gets surprisingly sparse traffic.
Many of the Mojave Preserve’s sites are quite spread out, that said you can knock out much of what the Mojave Desert has to offer in a weekend.
I have the luck of having family that lives just across the border in Pahrump, Nevada so have been able to visit several times over the past couple of years.
In this quick guide, you will find the best things to do in the Mojave National Preserve, including dunes, viewpoints, lava tubes, hikes, caves, historical sites, and more.
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Mojave National Preserve Quick Tips & Info
- There is no entry fee to visit Mojave National Preserve.
- Pack in your own food as there are no restaurants in Mojave National Preserve.
- Fill up on gasoline before you go. There are no gas stations in Mojave National Preserve.
- There are designated campgrounds in Mojave National Preserve, but you can camp pretty much anywhere along the roadside. Designated campgrounds cost $12 per night which is only payable in cash and exact change.
- Many of the roads in Mojave National Preserve are dirt. Some you can make it up in a small car with a little caution without problem while others may require something with higher clearance and 4WD.
Things to do in Mojave National Preserve
Sat right in the middle of Mojave National Preserve is Kelso Depot, a once bustling railroad stop.
These days, Kelso Depot serves as a museum and information center about the surrounding Mojave National Preserve.
Kelso Depot makes for a good starting point, offering a 20 minute video on the park, as well as maps of Mojave National Preserve.
The Lava Tube is my favorite of the sites strewn about Mojave National Preserve.
Accessible by a short climb down a metal ladder and a brief walk into a cave you’ll reach the stunning Mojave Desert Lava Tube, and if you time it around midday should probably have the sun beaming down into the lava tube creating an atmospheric scene.
The Mojave Cross sits just outside of Mojave National Preserve atop Sunrise Rock along Cima Road. The cross was originally erected to honor those who fought in WWI.
Later, the Mojave Cross became a center of controversy as a violation of church in state in a Supreme Court case. To avoid further problems the boundaries of the Mojave National Preserve were altered to remove the Mojave Cross from the park, explaining why it sits just outside the park.
The Cima Volcanic Field is home to 40 volcanic cones but the most interesting feature is the Cima Dome, located close to the Teutonia Peak Trailhead.
Cima Dome is almost perfectly symmetrical, rising nearly 1,500 feet above the Mojave Desert floor due to a volcanic eruption that oozed lava evenly in every direction.
Rock Springs Trail
Rock Springs Trail is a must for history buffs as it starts near a house that was constructed back in the 1920s and to the location of an old army camp.
Among the tallest sand dunes in the USA and a rare singing dune, Kelso Dunes are impossible to miss.
Those who opt to make the challenging climb up the 650 foot tall Kelso Dunes will be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding Mojave Desert.
Don’t worry if you’re not up to the challenge though, you can get amazing views of the dunes from the trailhead parking lot.
Mitchell Caverns Trail
Mitchell Caverns is a beautiful location but the only way to visit is on a park ranger-led tour of Mitchell Caverns. The tickets are booked out well in advance, so make sure to snatch yours up before your trip to Mojave National Preserve.
Find more information on Mitchell Caverns and the tour itself here.
Teutonia Peak Hike
Teutonia Peak is a short hike up a small mountain in Mojave National Preserve, though it packs a lot into this 4 mile stroll.
Highlights of The Teautonia Peak Trail are the great views of the nearby Cima Dome, visiting abandoned mines along the route, and getting to walk through a portion of the Joshua Tree Forest on the way.
The Largest Joshua Tree Forest
As the name suggests, the Mojave Joshua Tree Forest is the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world (yes, even more than Joshua Tree National Park).
The forest is located along the Cima Dome and near Teutonia Peak, so if you take on the Teutonia Peak Trail, you will pass through a section of the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world.
Unfortunately, a devastating fire burned down 43,000 acres in the Mojave Desert, including a portion of the Mojave Joshua Tree Forest. It’s still worth visiting and reforestation projects are currently underway.
Hole in the Wall Rings Trail & Barber Peak Trail
One trailhead with two hikes- The Hole in the Wall Rings Trail gives way to a shorter walk with access to the longer Barber Peak Trail.
The Hole in Wall Rings Trail is a short hike and probably the most interesting in the entire Mojave National Preserve.
The Rings Trail wraps around a giant mountain and past some petroglyphs before heading down into a canyon from which you’ll need to climb a series of steel rings to reach the trailhead.
The Barber Peak Trail meanders off from the Rings Trail and laps back around in about 6 miles.
For stunning views of the Granite Mountains, the Boulders Viewpoint is a must-visit for those visiting Mojave National Preserve.
Camping in Mojave National Preserve
Mojave National Preserve features three campgrounds and roadside camping for those self-sufficient.
The Hole in the Wall Campground and Mid-Hills Campground are both on a first-come first-served basis.
Hole in the Wall Campground has both tent and RV sites, while Mid-Hills Campground is for tents only.
Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Campground is for larger camping groups (Hole in the Wall Campground and Mid-Hills Campground both have a max of 8 people per site). You need to reserve the Black Canyon Equestrian & Group Campground in advance by calling (760) 252-6100.
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