4-Wheel Drive Routes

A long caravan of razors illegally on the Mojave Road.  Creosote and Mountains in background.
Razors are not permitted in Mojave National Preserve

NPS Photo

A dozen or so small animal burrows in a creosote/bursage lowland
Many desert species (including the threatened Desert tortoise) spend their days in underground burrows. Cross country driving can destroy the burrows and injure or kill the animals inside. Stay on the dirt roads at all times.


Rules and Regulations

  • All vehicles must be street-legal in accordance with California DMV requirements, including current registration and tags, lights and turn signals, and valid insurance. California "Green Sticker" and "Red Sticker" programs are not recognized within the preserve.
  • Groups of more than 7 vehicles or 25+ people require a Special Use Permit. Applications can be found here. Please allow up to a month of processing time.
  • Off-pavement travel is *only* allowed on existing, open dirt roads. Do not travel cross-country or create new routes. This rule is strictly enforced; violators will receive citations. Driving in washes is also not permitted.
A mountain made of tan-colored granitic boulders, with green plants growing on and around it.
Caruthers Canyon, located in the New York Mountains


Where to go?

  • The historical Mojave Road is a very popular route, especially in the spring and fall. It takes several days to complete the entire road.
  • The New York Mountains offer stunning rock formations, historical mines, unusual plants, and dozens of primitive campsites.
  • The Cinder Cone/Lava Beds area features dozens of ancient volcanoes, many of which have primitive campsites tucked nearby. Roads here are very sandy. Take extra care to abide by wilderness boundary signs, as sometimes washes in this area can look like roads. We recommend visiting the lava tube during your trip.
A blooming beavertail cactus. The blossoms are large and bright pink.
Wildflowers can be found as early as February and as late as June. Cactus typically blossom during March and April. Lower elevations tend to bloom earlier than higher elevations.


When to go?

Spring and Fall offer the most comfortable temperatures, but also bring the biggest crowds. Winter is marked with extreme temperature fluxuations. Though daytime temperatures in the winter can reach a comfortable 65 degrees or so, it can drop below freezing at night, especially at higher elevations. Travel during the summer is not recommended.

A SUV maneuvers down a slope.
For those who prepare adequately, backcountry driving is a fun, safe, and responsible way to enjoy nature.


Basic Safety

  • Cell phone service is sporadic and unreliable. Carry a good map.
  • Thoroughly examine your vehicle before venturing out. For emergencies, carry tools tire pressure gage, tire jack, towrope, extra water, and fluids for your vehicle.
  • It is recommended that cars do not attempt rugged backcountry roads alone. Having two or more vehicles will allow you to extricate each other if one vehicle gets stuck or disabled.
  • Check current road conditions before your trip. Click here to learn about the latest road condition updates. Dirt roads in the Preserve are not regularly monitored or maintained, and may be impassable after storms.
  • Bring plenty of food and at least one gallon of water per person per day.

Last updated: June 14, 2021

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2701 Barstow Road
Barstow , CA 92311


760 252-6100

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