Backpacking & Backcountry Travel

A colorful sunset sky with silhouette of spiky Joshua Tree
Sunsets and Sunrises are one of the benefits of spending time in the preserve backcountry.

NPS Photo / Sierra Willoughby

Explore the Wonders of the Wilderness

Backpackers at Mojave National Preserve enjoy a variety of challenges, with sweeping views, solitude, dark night skies, and nearly 700,000 acres of designated wilderness. Although there are few established hiking trails in the preserve, abandoned dirt roads, washes, and ridges offer an abundance of cross-country hiking and backpacking opportunities. To ensure a safe and rewarding experience, be sure to plan ahead carefully.

Backcountry backpacking is only recommended for experienced hikers that are good at off trail travel, and prior experience with overnight hikes in the desert.


Wilderness permits are not required at Mojave National Preserve for backcountry travel. However, overnight backpackers are asked to notify the preserve of their dates of travel, intended destination, vehicle description, and where they are going to park any vehicles.
Please contact a ranger at 760-252-6100 or email us

Water is a Necessity for Life

Water is a key to all life to a desert community. One of the greater challenges of backbacking and backcountry travel is the necessity of carrying all your water. Spring sources on maps may or may not be reliable with several dry years in recent decades. Plan on carrying in all the water you need. Make sure you take into account the forecast temperatures, as dyhydration and heat stroke is a real threat to safety when hiking in the Mojave National Preserve.


While pets are welcome as backcountry travel and camping companions in Mojave National Preserve, they must be leashed and never left unattended. Pet excrement must be collected and disposed of in garbage receptacles.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace

Backpackers should adhere to National Park Service regulations and are further encouraged to follow Leave no Trace guidelines to minimize their impact on the fragile desert environment. Leave No Trace is rooted in scientific studies and common sense. The message is framed under seven Leave No Trace Principles presented below with accompanying regulations and guidelines specific to Mojave National Preserve:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • There is no permit or registration system for backcountry camping at Mojave National Preserve; be sure to notify others of your travel itinerary.
  • Few established trails exist; carry a good map and familiarize yourself with desert travel and survival skills before beginning your trip.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Reuse existing campsites.
  • Do not make camp in a dry wash—flash floods develop quickly in the desert.
  • Camping is limited to a maximum of 14 consecutive days per visit/stay and 30 total days per year.
  • Campsites must be more than 200 yards from any water source.
  • Camping is not permitted: within 1/4 mile of any paved road or the Zzyzx Road; within 1/2 mile of Fort Piute or Kelso Depot; within 1 mile north (i.e., the crest of the dunes) or 1/4 mile south of the Kelso Dunes access road.

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Store all food and garbage in a manner that will prevent access by wildlife. Carry plastic bags and pack out all trash.
  • Pack out all toilet paper and hygiene products.
  • Pet excrement must be collected and disposed of in garbage receptacles.

4. Leave What You Find

  • Disturbing, defacing, or collecting plants, animals, rocks, and historic or archeological objects is prohibited. As part of our national heritage, these resources should be left as they are found for all to enjoy. Metal detectors are not allowed.

5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Campfires are allowed in established fire rings only, or with use of a portable firepan (be sure to pack out ashes). Do not leave fires smoldering or unattended.
  • Cutting or collecting any wood, including downed wood, is prohibited. All firewood must be brought into the preserve.

6. Respect Wildlife

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

This copyrighted information has been reprinted with permission from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. For more information or materials, please visit or call 303-442-8222.

Last updated: January 31, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

2701 Barstow Road
Barstow, CA 92311


(760) 252-6100
For emergencies including vehicle breakdowns, dial 911

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