Last Updated on June 26, 2023
Mojave National Preserve is an area of immense desert landscapes in southeastern California.
It is federally protected as a National Preserve and is part of the National Park System.
Mojave National Preserve’s enormous desert territories include elements of three of the four major North American deserts: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran. The preserve’s remarkable ecology is due to its unique geology.
The desert is home to old mountain ranges, sand dunes, great mesas and volcanic features such as cinder cones, domes, and lava flows; these features contribute to the remarkable beauty of the landscape.
The most ancient rocks in the preserve, found in the Clark Mountains, are 2.5 billion years old.
There are no entrance fees to the preserve, but some of the preserve’s campgrounds do charge a usage fee for overnight camping.
The spring and fall months typically have the most pleasant weather at the Park. Elevation has a big impact on temperature.
Low elevations get March daytime highs in the 70s (°F) and nighttime lows in the 40s. Highs over 100 °F (38 °C) can extend until October and usually start in May. May highs in the mountains are in the 70s, while lows are in the 50s. With daytime highs in the 50s and 60s, winters can bring cold temperatures and sporadically snowy conditions.
At lower elevations, annual precipitation ranges from 3.5 in (89 mm) to over 10 inches. The rainiest months are November through April, while summer thunderstorms can provide unexpected, severe downpours.
Things to see
- Cima Dome. A broad sloping upland dome, the erosional remnant of granite plutons that formed deep under the Earth’s surface. Best viewed from Teutonia Peak Trail that leads through the what was once the densest concentration of Joshua Trees in the world (severely damaged in a 2020 fire).
- Ivanpah Lake (Ivanpah Windsailing Special Recreation Management Area). A dry lake bed used for land sailing located just outside of the preserve boundaries on BLM managed land (Permit required for individual use of the dry lake bed for non-motorized sport; special permit required for commercial, organized groups, competitive events and filming.
- Kelso Dunes (Kelso Dunes Rd off Kelbaker Rd). The massive Kelso Dunes are easily accessible by car (no four-wheel-drive needed). Second highest sand dunes in California, up to 700 ft (210 m). They are created from wind that carries dust and is reflected off a mountain. The top of the highest dune has beautiful views of the surrounding desert. Beyond their large size, these dunes also have a phenomenon called “singing” or “booming” dunes. When the moisture content is right in the sands, they emit a low thrumming sound as sand slides down the slope. Try running down the slope of a dune to trigger the sound. From the parking area, the dunes do not appear to be very far away or very large. This is an optical illusion. The hike is about 3 miles (5 km) round trip with a roughly 600-foot (180-meter) elevation gain, and hiking in sand is a lot more work than on solid ground. Allow 2–3 hours to climb to the top of the dunes and back, bring plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and take off your shoes or prepare to get sand in them.
- Lava tube. Formed by lava 27,000 years ago. Bring a flashlight.
- Mitchell Caverns, 8AM-5PM Sep-Jun; closed Jul & Aug. Available only by guided tours at 11AM and 2PM. Cave tours at the Mitchell Caverns in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area (administratively not part of the preserve, but entirely surrounded by it). (park day use: $10/vehicle; tours additional: $10/adult; $9/seniors; $5/children).
The preserve is easily accessible via I-15 or I-40 east of Barstow, and west of Needles and Las Vegas. There are six freeway exits that provide visitor access.
By public transport
Baker, the northwest entrance to the preserve, is served by Amtrak’s bus service, providing connections to Amtrak trains.
The nearest airport is north in:
- Las Vegas at Harry Reid International Airport (LAS), 60 mi (97 km) from the eastern boundary of the preserve.
A little further away to the southwest is:
- Palm Springs at Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) — 125–175 miles (201–282 km) from the western boundaries of the preserve.
- Ontario at Ontario International Airport (ONT) — 140–160 miles (230–260 km) from the western boundaries of the preserve.
Mojave National Preserve Travel FAQs
What is Mojave National Preserve known for?
Mojave National Preserve is known for its diverse desert landscapes, including Joshua trees, sand dunes, cinder cones, and lava beds.
The preserve is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and tortoises.
What are the best times to visit Mojave National Preserve?
The best times to visit Mojave National Preserve are spring (March-April) and fall (October-November).
The weather is mild during these times, and there are fewer crowds.
Summer can be very hot, and winter can be cold and snowy.
What are some popular activities in Mojave National Preserve?
There are many popular activities in Mojave National Preserve, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, stargazing, and off-road driving.
Some of the most popular hiking trails include the Teutonia Peak Trail, the Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail, and the Lava Beds Trail.
What are the regulations for camping in Mojave National Preserve?
Camping is permitted in designated areas within the preserve.
Campers must stay more than 200 yards from any water source, and they are not allowed to camp within 1/4 mile of any paved road or the Zzyzx Road.
What are some safety tips for visiting Mojave National Preserve?
The desert can be a dangerous place, so it is important to be prepared before visiting Mojave National Preserve.
Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and a hat. Stay on trails, and do not approach wildlife.
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