Where to Go and What to Do
The Mojave National Preserve lacks the abundant visitor facilities of a national park, but if you come prepared you won’t miss them. Always bring plenty of water, heed weather warnings, and be sure to leave the area just as you found it.
Kelso Ghost Town
Start your Mojave adventure in the ghost town of Kelso, where the former train depot now serves as the main visitor center. It also contains a small art gallery and museum.
4-Wheel Drive Routes
The emptiness of the Mojave National Preserve—not to mention the thousand-plus miles of off-road driving routes—makes it popular with riders of 4x4s. Drivers test their skills (and vehicles) over rough terrain, leading to areas not accessible to anyone sticking to pavement.
Hikers have a few established trails to choose from, as well as several more unmarked trails that are well-loved by experienced hikers. Many of the latter trailheads can only be reached by 4-wheel drive. Developed hikes range from the easy Lake Tuendae Nature Trail or Hole-in-the-Wall Nature Trail to the more challenging trails up Teutonia Peak or the Kelso Dunes.
Cima Volcanic Field
The 1.5-mile hike to the top of Teutonia Peak is tougher than its distance would suggest, gaining some 750 feet of elevation, but the summit rewards those who persevere with 360-degree views. Even if you don’t want to tackle the hardest part of the hike, it’s worth hiking through the easier beginning part of the trail to see the incredible Joshua Tree forest.
Not only does a hike up to the top of the highest of the Kelso Dunes offer a great workout and unique perspective on the area, it’s also an ideal spot for watching the sunrise or sunset.
Cinder Cones National Natural Landmark
This landmark, entirely inside the preserve, has dozens of volcanic cones (remnants of ancient lava flows). There’s one lava tube that visitors can climb inside.
Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Another enclave inside the preserve, this recreation area’s main attraction is the Mitchell Caverns. The caves are accessible by guided tours only, which include a somewhat difficult hike to the entrance of the caves plus the one-hour caverns tour.
Even in an empty-looking desert, wildlife is everywhere. Look for bighorn sheep and roadrunners, as well as desert tortoises that dig burrows to escape the heat. The Mojave is also home to the Chuckwalla, a lizard that can grow up to 16 inches in length.