This is one of the most underrated desert parks in Southern California. The more famous Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley get all the crowd, which leave this amazing place to us to have for ourselves. This place rarely ever gets crowded and will see at most a hundred people even on a good day. There could be some busy day but the park is so large that you will be fighting to get beautiful shots with anybody.
Location: just an hour east of Barstow south of I-15 toward Las Vegas and north of I-40.
Kelso Depot Visitor Center GPS Coordinate: 35.011299,-115.655228 (this is the middle of the park)
Season & Weather: Mojave is great to visit anytime of the year. Snow is rare, which makes it a great park to visit in the winter. Summer is HOT, though just like any other desert parks around. Temperature can reach 120F many consecutive days. Park is open year round
Highlights: One of the tallest and largest sand dunes in North America, Lava Tube, and Densest Joshua Tree forest in the world
Roadside stops: Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch; if you drive from the west side, LA or Orange County, this one man made art project is located on Route 66. This is a great detour if you’re interested in arts.
Camping: fees apply, view camp sites at Mojave Preserve here
This is one of the coolest visitors center i’ve ever been. The visitor center has a little cafe that serves legitimate hot sandwiches and breakfast if you’re too lazy to pack lunch the day before. The little exhibition is really nice and I learned a lot about the desert region. It’s an old train station, which adds some historic value to it. Read more about it here.
driving inside the park
Kelso Dunes: one of the largest sand dunes in north american (guided hikes at 11am every Saturday in the winter and early spring season
Teutonia Peak: densest joshua tree forest in the world; 4 miles round trip and minimal elevation gain
View at the top of Kelso Dunes
Mojave Preserve’s range of desert features make it a great place for first time desert hikers. You will get the full Southern California desert experience here. The park has everything from mountain goats sighting at Teutonia Peak to one of the biggest sand dunes in North America, from lava tube cave to lava bed, and from a crater to interesting rock formation.
The park is less crowded than the nearby Joshua Tree and Death Valley, which makes it a great place for you if you seek some solitary. The park is also less developed and some roads may be unaccessible for small vehicles, but the park also has the amenities for families such as restrooms at trailheads, a museum, and a restaurant at the visitor center.
here’s a great intro to the park