Camping: Guidelines & Regulations

Leave No Trace

Backcountry travelers and campers 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. Additional regulations apply for roadside or undevelped backcountry camping and traveling with horses and/or other pack animals.

While pets are welcome as travel and camping companions in Mojave National Preserve, they must be leashed and never left unattended (including inside vehicles). Pet waste must be collected and disposed of in garbage receptacles.

Common, need to know regulations are:

  • Groups with more than 7 Vehicles or horses and or more than 25 people are required to obtain a special use permit. Many sensitive areas such as the Lava Tube have experienced damages from large groups parking in wilderness next to the site

Leave No Trace (LNT) is rooted in scientific studies and common sense. The message is framed under seven Leave No Trace Principles presented below with accompanying regulations specific to Mojave National Preserve:

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • There is no permit or registration system for backcountry travel & 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.
  • Stock animals must be fed certified weed-free hay or pellet food before arrival and during their stay at the Preserve. This is especially important if you're bringing stock animals through the wilderness of the fragile Dome Fire burn area, which is at-risk for invasive grass infestations.

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Reuse existing campsites (required for primitive camping).
  • 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.
  • Bury human waste in catholes 4-6 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Don't bury toilet paper or hygiene products - carry a plastic bag and pack it out.
  • 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). Never leave fires smoldering or unattended. Drown them completely when you are finished with them, until all coals are cool to the touch.
  • Cutting or collecting any wood, including downed wood, and kindling such as leave or branches, is prohibited. All firewood must be brought into the preserve.

6. Respect Wildlife

  • Store all food and garbage in a manner that will prevent access by wildlife. Carry plastic bags and pack out all trash.
  • In general, if an animal changes its behavior because of you, it means you are too close. Keep a respectful distance from all wildlife.

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • All primitive campsites are first come, first serve. If a site is already taken, look for another site and give the camper who was there first their space.
  • Quiet hours in developed campgrounds are 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
  • Pets must be leashed at all times and never left unattended.

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: April 3, 2024

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