What to Do in the Mojave National Preserve: Hiking, Camping, Historical Spots

While not actually considered a National Park, this National Preserve is the third largest in the United States. Most people never get to experience how amazing it is, mostly because it so spread out and few get to see all it has to offer. From camping and hiking to history, this place is worthy of at least a weekend full of exploration. Since I have been many times I compiled a list of my favorite spots.

Kelso Dunes 11

Know Before You Go

If you have never been to the Mojave National Preserve before you are in for a treat, but there are some things you need to know.

  • There is no gas in the park, plan accordingly for what you are wanting to do in the park and then getting back to the gas station.
  • There is also no food in the park, Kelso Depot used to have a restaurant but doesn’t anymore so bring what you need
  • Many of the roads are washboard and dirt. While I haven’t been on too many that a small car couldn’t drive on just make sure to research where you are going to know if your car can support it
  • You can camp pretty much anywhere in the park, as long as it has a fire ring.

So without further ado, here are the stops

Historical Spots

Kelso Depot

Kelso Depot 12

The beautiful railroad depot in the middle of the park is where all of the busyness was when this was a big railroad stop. Now it is a museum with a great 20 minute video and an information center. A must stop when in the park, plus a great place for maps and bathrooms.

Mojave Cross

Mojave Cross 6

In the North East part of the park sits the historic cross that is a memorial to WWII Veterans. While technically it is not in the park anymore it is still a good stop to see the history of this area.

Largest Joshua Tree Forest

Teutonia Peak 9

Right near the cross is the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world. It is right off the road and is situated along the Teutonia Peak Trail.

Rock Springs Trail

Rock Springs Trail 11

While technically a hike as well, this spot has more history then a traditional hike. It starts near a house that was built-in the 1920’s and takes you a natural spring and the spot for an old army camp in the area. Not my favorite hike in the park but has a lot of cool history.

Cima Dome

Teutonia Peak 5

This massive granite dome that pushes out from the earth is not what you would expect. Most people would probably go past it if they didn’t know it was special but once you notice it, it is pretty crazy. It looks like the land is being seen through a fish eye lens in front of you. The best spot for viewing it is along the Teutonia Peak trail.

Hiking

 Teutonia peak

Teutonia Peak 6

This 4 mile round trip hike heads up to the top of a small peak with a lot of prominence. From here you can get an amazing view of the Cima Dome, walk through the largest Joshua Tree forest and a bunch of old abandoned mines.

Lava Tube

Lava Tube 18

In the North West part of the park is one of my favorite spots. Located 5 miles down a dirt road that I wouldn’t take a low clearance car down, this lava tube is about 400 feet long and is pretty awesome to see. I loved taking pictures in it and just checking out something as unique as this in the volcanic fields.

Kelso Dunes

Kelso Dunes 12

One of the largest dunes in North America, the Kelso Dunes stick out like a sore thumb in the landscape of the Mojave. It is a pretty challenging hike in the sand but once you get to the top you will be excited by what you accomplished. It is amazing to stand on top of these dunes, especially at sunset. I recommend camping near the trailhead as well, there are a few established spots there.

Rings Trail

Rings Trail 4

My favorite trail in the entire park, this trail goes around a massive mountain, past petroglyphs and into some of the most amazing and untouched areas in the Mojave. After which it heads in through a canyon and you have to use rings to climb out to the trailhead. One of the best 2 miles hikes you can do.

Mitchell Caverns Trail

Unfortunately this trail to the amazing caverns in the park was closed in 2011. I have not been able to visit it yet but it said it should be reopening in 2014 so we will see. You can find information on it here.

Camping

Hole in the Wall Campground

located right next to the rings trail, this campground is 12 bucks a night, first come first served and has water. It is a great spot to stay at and has amazing surrounding mountains and views.

Roadside Camping

You can camp at most spots in Mojave National Preserve as long as they have firepits set up. This allows you to have amazing spots such as camping near the Kelso Dunes. Just be sure to respect the environment if you chose a spot like this.

Map of Locations

There you have it, my favorite spots in the park. What did I miss that you really enjoy in the Mojave National Preserve? I am sure I will be back again as there are a ton of things that I have not seen yet.

For more hikes and camping info check out this post from Hikespeak.com

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  • Fabiana

    I would love to camp there!

    • Its a great place to camp for sure!

  • Mark Brown

    I’m driving from Indian Wells to Vegas in November. Ideally we don’t want to hog the freeway there, which way would you recommend for things to see and short leg stretching stopovers?

    • If you decide to go up through 29 Palms and through Mojave instead of Highway 15 then you can stop and see the Amboy Crater if you want, as well as the Kelso Dunes and Kelso Depot which are both relatively short stops. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      • Mark Brown

        Thanks Josh – do you think it’s best to go through Joshua to 29 Palms or round it via H’way 10/62?

        • If you are trying to see some spots in Mojave I would probably pick Joshua Tree or Mojave as it would be hard to give both justice in a day

  • Harpo

    Your info about Mitchell Caverns is no longer correct. The damage has been all repaired and it is now open to the public.
    Harpo

    • I hope it reopens soon, I have been wanting to check it out. Last I saw was beginning of November hopefully.