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  • Basecamp Outdoor Gear Team

Favorite things to do in Mojave National Preserve

The Mojave National Preserve is a vaste desert the lies half-way between Las Vegas and Joshua Tree National Park. It's another type of Southwest scenery out of a Dr. Seuss book! Your drive between Las Vegas and Joshua Tree takes you right through the heart of the Preserve. Why not camp out there for a few nights? Below is a list of our favorite things to do and places to camp in the Mojave National Preserve. Don't forget to browse our inventory for camping gear rentals for the Mojave National Preserve.

joshua tree behind a setting sun
Dr Seuss-like wilderness at Mojave National Preserve

Things to know before visiting the Mojave National Preserve

If you plan to spend any time beyond just driving through the preserve, you should:

  • Check road conditions here

  • Make sure your vehicle is appropriate for the roads you plan to drive as many roads are accessible by 4WD only

  • Stock your vehicle with emergency supplies

  • Fill up on gas, food, and water for the duration of your journey. At Basecamp Outdoor Gear, we rent 7-gallon water jugs and coolers so you don't run out of water and you can keep your food fresh for longer

  • Kelso Depot is the official visitor center of the park, but it is frequently closed for renovations. The temporary visitor center is Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center by the campground of the same name. It has running water and flush toilets. Check opening hours here.

  • You can visit the preserve year-round, but keep in mind that summers are unbearably hot and winters can be colder than you expect. You may see snow in the higher elevations, sometimes even in the campgrounds! Check weather conditions before heading out and prepare accordingly

woman standing on sand dunes at sunrise holding cowboy had
Golden hour on top of Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

Things to do in Mojave National Preserve

Honestly, as far as I'm concerned, there are only two day hikes worth mentioning here. But don't get me wrong: These hikes are the reason you want to visit Bryce!


Short visit at Kelso Depot

If you're simply driving through the Mojave National Preserve on your way to Joshua Tree, you should stop at Kelso Depot for a few minutes to stretch your legs. This is the official visitor center of the park, though the historic building is frequently closed for renovations. Check opening hours here. If open, go inside to see exhibits describing the cultural and natural history of the surrounding desert. Outside, there are countless photo opportunities. Most importantly, there is a big parking lot here with flush toilets.


Run up and down the Kelso Dunes

There is a three-mile roundtrip hike to the top of the dunes, but it's not necessary to get all the way up there. Kelso Dunes is known for a phenomenon called "barking" or "singing" dunes. Especially when the area does not receive any precipitation for a long time, the dunes will make a barking noise when you step on them. Not much of a hike, but absolutely worth the effort! The road to get to the dunes is dirt, but suitable to all vehicle types.


Explore the Lava Tube

About a 10-minute walk from the road leads to a natural lava tube. Climb inside and explore - bring a flashlight and watch for snakes! Photographers flock here to take pictures of a sunbeam that sometimes penetrates through around noon. Note that the road approaching the Lava Tube is rough, and a high-clearance vehicle is recommended.

light shining through tunnel
Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve

Hike Rock Spring Loop

Another cool hike, this time with both history and natural springs in a 1.3-mile easy loop! Among the most prominent features, you'll pass a Rock House from the 1920's and a year-round spring.


Hike the Rings Loop

A fun trail for the whole family, the 1.5-mile loop meanders from the campground through the "Hole-in-the-Wall" of Banshee Canyon with the help of metal rings mounted in the rock.


Hike Teutonia Peak trail

About 3 miles roundtrip hike that gradually climbs through a natural burn area. As you walk through, you'll appreciate the desert plant regeneration around you. Views get better as you get higher, but there's no official end to the trail.


Hike Barber Peak Loop

This is a 6-mile loop around Barber Peak. It does not climb to the summit, but it is interesting nonetheless, and a great way to get some exercise directly from Hole-in-the-Wall Campground.

orange and white tent in a hilly desert landscape
Dispersed camping in higher elevations of Mojave National Preserve

Camping in Mojave National Preserve

There are two established campgrounds very close to one another within the preserve boundaries: Hole-in-the-Wall Campground and Mid-Hills Campground. There's a third campground for groups across the road, but we're not counting that in this post. The campgrounds are open year-round and can be reached with a regular vehicle, though the road may be rough. Vault toilets available, but no running water. BRING WATER JUGS! Cell phone service is spotty. Both campgrounds are first-come first-served. You must pay in cash at the self-pay station.


You can also practice dispersed camping off dirt roads in the Mojave National Preserve. You must find previously used spots outside of the Day Use Areas. DO NOT CREATE A NEW CAMPSITE! Here's a very helpful link to previously used campsites. Keep in mind that some dirt roads may require 4WD, so make sure to have the correct vehicle for your journey.

Conclusion

Mojave National Preserve is a year-round destination with breathtaking rock formations, interesting plants, panoramic views, and fun activities for all ages. Spring is ideal for seeing the desert in bloom. Take note that winter nights get very very cold and summer days get very very hot in the park! In summer, you should limit your activity to sunsets and sunrises. If you'd like more information on any of the destinations mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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