The Mojave National Preserve occupies a wide swath of remote Mojave Desert land in southeastern California. It covers over 2,400 square miles, largely between Interstate 40 and Interstate 15.
The Mojave National Preserve is larger than the smallest U.S. states, Rhode Island and Delaware.
The Preserve is entirely in San Bernardino County, California. The north end of the Mojave National Preserve is located about five miles southwest of Primm, Nevada.
The Preserve was established in 1994 with the U.S. Congresses passage of the California Desert Protection Act.
It’s the third-largest unit in the National Park System in the contiguous 48 states. The area was previously known as the East Mojave National Scenic Area.
The Mojave National Preserve has a variety of habitats including valleys, canyons, dunes, springs, seeps, mountains, rock formations, lava tubes, cinder cone volcanoes, abandoned mines, and caves.
The Preserve is home to a variety of wildlife including the Mojave tortoise, desert big horn sheep, bats, quail, mountain lions, coyotes, jackrabbits, side–blotched lizard, and the golden eagle.
You could also encounter a Gila monster, a western diamondback rattlesnake, or Mojave green rattlesnake. Be observant and careful around rocks. Most of the wildlife is nocturnal in the park.
The Preserve also has a variety of vegetation including Creosote bush, Cholla cactus, and Yucca. The high peaks of the Clark Mountains have pinyon pines, juniper, and white fir. Joshua Tree forests occupy several parts of the Preserve.
Plants and animals have to be adaptable and drought resident. Precipitation is sparse, typically under five inches per year in the valleys, and under ten inches per year in the mountains.
The Preserve also features interesting geographical features such as the Kelso Dunes, the Marl Mountains, the Clark Mountains, the Mountains, and Hole–in–the–Wall Canyon.
There are also volcanic formations such as the Cinder Cone Lava Beds and the Cima Dome.
For visitors, the Preserve offers unique beauty and desert solitude. There are a number of hiking areas and two campgrounds: the Mid Hills Campground and the Hole-in-the-Wall Campground. You can also hike slot-like ravines and go canyoning.
Exploring the area can also reveal abandoned mines, old military outposts, and deserted homesteads. The ghost town of Kelso is also in the Preserve.
Four–wheel drive vehicles can access the Preserve via the Mojave Road. There is hunting with restrictions allowed on the Preserve including quail hunting in the fall. You can learn more on the National Park Service website here.
The Preserve is open 365 days a year. Being in the Mojave Desert, the Preserve has extreme summer heat with temperatures consistently in the triple digits. Triple digit heat can also extend into the late spring and early fall.
Visitors should bring plenty of water and plan their trips to minimize heat exposure.
You may also encounter a summer thunderstorm, which creates flash flooding risks. The Preserve actually gets about a quarter of its sparse annual precipitation in the summer months.
The spring and fall tend to be the most pleasant times to visit the Preserve. When springs have more precipitation, you may experience beautiful fields of vivid colors and wildflowers.
The fall is a period of transition and is hunting season.
Most of the attractions at the Preserve are 4,000 to 5,000 feet in elevation in the central-southern part of the Preserve. This is an altitude and latitude at which Joshua Trees thrive.
In fact, the Cima Dome area is the largest Joshua Tree forest in the world.
The elevation of the Preserve ranges about 6,000 vertical feet in elevation. The southeastern part of the Preserve off I-40 dips below 2,000 feet in elevation.
The high point in extreme north part of the Preserve at 7,933 feet is Clark Mountain.
Other higher parts of the Preserve include Kessler Peak at 6,161 feet in the north-central part of the Preserve, Granite Mountain at 6,762 feet in the southern part of the Preserve, and the New York Mountains high point at 7,533 feet in the northeastern part of the Preserve.
The New York Mountains are visible from the Ivanpah Valley and Nipton Road.
The Preserve covers a wide area of land but is accessible from both I-15 and I-40. Those two freeways constitute most of the north and south borders of the Preserve.
The areas of the Preserve that don’t requiring driving on dirt roads are the Kelso Visitor Center (via Kelbaker Road), Kelso Dunes, and Teutonia Peak Trail, which is along the paved Cima Road.
If you are going outside of these areas, an all-wheel drive or more rugged vehicle is recommended. Be prepared as the area is remote and arid with few services and no gas stations.
There are fuel stations along I-15 and I-40. All-terrain vehicles are also popular in the preserve in designated areas.
The areas of the Preserve closest to Primm are the Clark Mountains and the area south of Nipton Road, which includes part of the Ivanpah Dry Lake Bed. The Preserve also starts just south of Mountain Pass off of I-15.
The Preserve is the perfect escape for those seeking serenity and solitude in interesting desert landscapes. For a map of the Mojave National Preserve area, please see below.