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8 Reasons To Visit The Mojave National Preserve

Don't overlook this hidden gem in the middle of Southern California.

By: Alex E + Save to a List

The Mojave National Preserve is an outdoor playground the entire family can enjoy, any time of year. With less than half of the visitors Death Valley National Park received last year and not even a quarter of the visitors Joshua Tree National Park received, The Mojave National Preserve is the over looked desert with all the same attractions, if not more than its more popular neighbors. This 1.6 million acre area in the heart of southern California is an outdoor paradise. This landscape shaped by extinct volcanoes, rugged mountains and old ghost towns, offers an array of hiking trails, four wheeling trails, wildlife, wildflowers, rock climbing, camping, and photography to anyone will to take on the challenge of getting there. The park is a fee-less area, except for a few developed campsites, and doesn't offer the same amenities as most areas in the National Park system. Make sure you are well prepared when you venture out into this vast isolated desert, but don't let that scare you away! Here are the top 8 reasons to visit the Mojave National Preserve.

1. The Lava Tube

This hidden gem under the desert floor is an amazing and magical experience. The Lava Tube, which can only be accessed by a 5 mile dirt road, is a great place to explore for all ages. The Lava Tube has three cave like rooms. The roof of the lava tube has three holes that allow light to shine down to the cave floor. The beam of light that cuts through the darkness creates a magical experience and photo opportunity.

2. The Mojave Road

The Mojave Desert Road is known today as a 140 mile off road trail for 4 wheel drive enthusiasts, but what many people don't know is how important the Mojave Road is to American history and the West. The Road stretches from the Colorado River in Arizona to the Mojave river in California. The trail which was originally used by Native Americans became a way for foreign explorers and eventually American settlers to cross the great expanse of rough desert. The Mojave Road follows the many water springs that dot the dry landscape. The trail that is a staple of American history is now a fun way for people to access the deserts wonderful landscape.

3. The Isolation

Sandwiched between Death Valley National Park to the north and Joshua Tree National Park to the south, The Mojave National Preserve gets over looked by most adventurers. What many don't know is that the Mojave actually holds a larger concentration of Joshua Trees than Joshua tree NP. With less trails, primitive campsites harder to access, and an expanse of unmarked territory, the Mojave gives you the isolation and seclusion we all search for in the wild! See the Joshua Trees without all the people, take advantage of primitive and self issue camping, and explore an endless expanse of trails and unmarked territory.

4. The Kelso Sand Dunes

The Kelso Sand Dunes are beautiful mountains of sand, some as tall as 650 feet tall, that stretch as far as the eye can see! The 45 square miles of sand dunes brings me back to the good old days as a kid playing in a sand box. Now this life size playground offers amazing photo opportunities and fun for the entire family. Hike, climb, or even snowboard your way around these rare dunes.

5. The Caverns

Although currently closed to the public due to a lack of funding, water well, and the need for new generators, the state park systems claim The Mitchell Caverns will be reopened in the near future. The limestone caves sit nestled below the Providence Mountains. The caves were once used to dig further mines in search of silver and gold. The caves offer beautiful stalactites and stalagmites which drape the cave walls. The cave stays at a constant 65 degrees which is great relief from the desert heat above. Be on the look out for this hidden gem to be reopened!

6. The Stars

Although located right in the middle between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, two of the busiest night life's in the country, the Mojave National Preserve offers some of the darkest night skies in America. With small towns, roads, and civilization few and far between in this part of the California, this is easily one of, if not the best location to fall asleep under an endless night sky. On my last camping trip to Hole-In-The- Wall campground, I counted over a dozen shooting stars before I fell asleep. With the use of a 4x4 vehicle or a good pair of hiking boots, the Mojave allows you to escape even the minor glow of a neighboring campsite. Pull over on the side of the road or walk into the vast desert to find your own personal night sky!

7. The Photography

The burnt orange and reds of this desert in the early morning and late evening provide perfect lighting for even the most novice of photographers. Wake up early and watch as the desert landscape comes to life with the early morning glow. The sunrise and sunsets silhouetted by the large mountain landscape dotted with Joshua trees are a photographers dream. Other than the last 6 reasons, the desert wildflowers, the wildlife, and historic landmarks are just a few of the endless opportunities to capture that wall hanging shot!

8. The Challenge

In today's world we get so accustom to the convenience of modern day amenities and true adventure seems an after thought. The lack of convenience makes the Mojave National Preserve that much more desirable. The Mojave like most desert regions has very hot temperatures during the day and extremely low temperatures during the night. This kind of weather can be difficult on any person or machine. Taking on the challenge of crossing the Mojave Road or venturing out on foot to do some primitive camping, takes planning and preparation. The risk of venturing out into the wild expanse without the safety net of the park service or gas station just up the road, is what keeps that adventurous soul alive in all of us!

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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