131 mi / 210 km
Harry Reid Int (LAS)
Dirt (Grade B)
Connecting Bullhead City on the state line with I-15 in the west, the Mojave Road crosses 131 miles of feral Californian desert. This is one for the true adventurers; the off roaders who don't mind dealing with dust in the caskets and not a gas station in sight. The payoff will be visions of echoing canyons, shifting sand dunes, and gravity-defying hoodoos without another soul around.
The Mojave Road has a long and significant history. It served as a Native American trade route and became part of the Old Spanish Trail connecting Santa Fe to California. During American westward expansion, it played a vital role in connecting settlements in California to the eastern parts of the country.
Use the first 30 miles to get used to the track. It's a rumbling, sand-strewn 4X4 track without an iota of asphalt to be seen. A montage of Mars-like landscapes flits by on both sides, occasionally marked by a sun-blasted pinyon pine or strange Joshua tree.
Suddenly, the North Midhills pop up, scarring the Mojave from north to south. Stop here to take a short hike that reveals jackrabbit burrows and boulders that are a climber's dream. This part of the Mojave National Preserve is also home to the famous Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail. That's a must-do, taking you through postbox-narrow slot canyons and mini cave tunnels with the aid of metal loops fixed straight into the desert rocks.
The Kelso Dunes beckon a whisker to the west. Towering, imposing mounds of glimmering sand, they hit heights of more than 650 feet. Believe it or not, they're all that's left of an ancient lake, Lake Manix. When that drained some 25 millennia ago, it left enough deposits of quartz and silt to create these shifting mountains in the middle of the desert.
According to the legend, a prospector named John Otto discovered a rich vein of gold in the 1870s while traveling through the Mojave Desert. He supposedly marked the location of the mine with a stone arch to guide him back. However, he never shared the exact location with anyone and eventually passed away without revealing the secret.
Over the years, numerous treasure hunters and adventurers have tried to locate the Lost Arch Mine, inspired by the legend and the potential for a hidden fortune. Many have explored the vast stretches of the Mojave Desert, following various clues and stories passed down through generations.
As you head west, you'll begin to encounter traces of human civilization in the Mojave. First, there's Kelso. Now a ghost town, it was once a bustling pitstop on the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad. The whole place was abandoned back in 1986. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Kelso was the "town without television," since no signals could pierce this deeply into the deserts? Second, you'll whizz by the Mojave Desert Mailbox, said to be the most isolated mailbox in America.
The drive sums up with the eye-popping sight of the so-called Grand Canyon of the East Mojave at Afton Canyon. A symphony of whittled mountains that drop to fertile valley plains fed by the waters of the Mojave River, it's a photographer's dream come true.
Whether you embark on the Mojave Road for its historical significance, the thrill of off-road adventure, or the opportunity to experience the solitude and beauty of the desert, this unforgettable journey will be certain to leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the untamed beauty of the Mojave Desert.
Non-camping options such as hotels are an option before or after your trip along Mojave rd. Consider staying at hotels or lodges in the Bullhead City area before the drive or Barstow and Victorville after you've completed the route.Groups of more than 7 vehicles or 25+ people require a Permit. Applications can be made here at the National Park Service. Please allow up to a month of processing time. It's always best to travel with a minimum two vehicles in case you get into any trouble. Cell service is limited in this region. Check the NPS link below to read all information before you leave.
Got a tip for this route? Send us yours!Dirt (Grade B). 4WD is a must as the road is an uneven, rutted dirt trail with loose rocks, sand, erosion, and washes. Gas is not sold in Mojave National Preserve.The preserve is filled with long inclines and mountains that will drain your tank, so it's best to come with a full tank and back-up.
Rough roads and missing pavement has caused many speeding vehicles to get in roll-over accidents. The maximum speed is 55 MPH.
Keep your vehicle on the established roads only and watch carefully for tortoises crossing the road, especially during rainy weather where they are attracted to puddles. Every tortoise is important as they are threatened.
Before leaving be sure to check the current alerts, warnings and road conditions from the National Park Service.
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