From Kelso Depot, go south on Kelbaker Road, but make a quick detour after only seven miles to reach the Kelso Dunes. The three-mile round-trip hike up the sand dunes can be slow going, but sliding back down is a lot of fun. Moving sand sometimes makes a booming sound, so listen carefully as you run down the hills.
Continue south out of Mojave National Preserve and turn right on National Trails Highway, which leads to the ghost town of Amboy. This merges with Historic Route 66, and on this road about a quarter mile east of Roy’s Café and Motel in Amboy is a shoe tree worth seeing. Hundreds of people have written messages on old shoes and flung them over the branches, leaving a cultural landmark in the middle of the desert. Located near here is the Amboy Crater, where visitors can hike to the top of the 250-foot rim.
Drive south from Amboy on Amboy Road to reach Twentynine Palms and the Oasis Visitor Center for Joshua Tree National Park, where you’ll spend the next couple days of your road trip. Stock up on drinking water, firewood, and food outside of the park because provisions are not available inside.
There are several campgrounds in Joshua Tree, some of which are first-come, first-served, while others take reservations. Consider making a reservation if you’ll be traveling over the weekend.
For the next couple days, take the opportunity to explore Joshua Tree National Park. There are several hiking trails, places for rock climbing, and ranger tours, including excursions on Key Ranch, which offer an in-depth explanation of this Mojave Desert historical site. Another highlight of the park is the 18-mile geology auto tour, which stops at 16 places along a dirt road. It takes about two hours to make this round trip, though a four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended after stop number 9. Download the tour map from the Joshua Tree website before leaving home, or inquire in the visitor center.