Hiking in Mojave National Preserve

Although there are few established hiking trails, abandoned dirt roads, washes, and ridge lines offer an abundance of cross-country hiking opportunities.

Numbers on map show general locations of trails and routes listed below. Blue numbers indicate trails; Red numbers, routes.
Hiker on dunes
A hiker on the Kelso Dunes trail.

Photo by B. Michel, NPS


1) Lake Tuendae Nature Trail - Temporarily closed
Trailhead: Zzyzx parking area, 5 miles south of I-15 on Zzyzx Road.
Enjoy an easy, .25-mile stroll around Lake Tuendae. Wayside exhibits along the trail reveal the rich cultural history of this oasis on the preserve's western boundary.

2) Teutonia Peak Trail
Trailhead: 12 miles south of I-15, or 5 miles north of Cima, Calif. on Cima Road.
Eerie Joshua tree skeletons beckon en route to a rocky peak with expansive views of Cima Dome and beyond. This area burned as part of the August 2020 Dome Fire. The trail also goes through large patches of desert greenery that were untouched by the fire. Three miles round-trip.

3) Mid Hills to Hole-in-the-Wall Trail
Trailheads: Entrance to Mid Hills Campground, and about 1 mile west of Black Canyon Road on the south end of Wild Horse Canyon Road.
Hike 8 miles, one-way, through a maze of washes decorated with barrel and cholla cacti, then through the Hackberry Fire burned area. Total elevation gain is 1,200 feet. Warning: the trail is currently rough and some route markers are hard to find. Pay attention to your surroundings and bring a map and plenty of water.

4) Barber Peak Loop Trail
Trailhead: Hole-in-the-Wall Picnic Area behind Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center.
This 6-mile loop encircles Barber Peak just west of Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, passes the Opalite Cliffs, and returns to Hole-in-the-Wall via Banshee Canyon. Bring ample water.

5) Rings Loop Trail
Trailhead: Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center parking area, 20 miles north of I-40 on Essex and Black Canyon roads.
Discover how Hole in the Wall got its name as you ascend narrow Banshee Canyon with the help of metal rings mounted in the rock. The 1.5-mile round-trip hike connects to the Mid Hills to Hole-in-the-Wall Trail (see #3, above).

6) Hole-in-the-Wall Nature Trail
Trailhead: Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center and Campground, 20 miles north of I-40 on Essex and Black Canyon roads.
Learn to identify desert plants on this easy, 0.5-mile round-trip hike. Trailheads at Hole-in-the-Wall information Center and Campground.

7) Kelso Dunes
Trailhead: 3 miles west of Kelbaker Road on the Kelso Dunes Road.
This trail is easily the most popular at Mojave Natural Preserve, and for good reason. There is a clearly marked trail for about 50% of the journey, but after that you'll be walking through sand, with the breeze erasing your footsteps soon after you make them. The roughly 3-mile round-trip hike is difficult, but most say the sweeping views at the top are worth the struggle. Total elevation gain is about 600 feet. This hike is not recommended during the summer.

8) Rock Spring Loop Trail
Trailhead: 5 miles east of Black Canyon Road on Cedar Canyon Road.
The 1 mile loop trail starts at the Rock House and leads to a well-known water hole and site of an 1860s military post. Trail starts at Rock House, 5 miles east of Black Canyon Road on Cedar Canyon Road.

Warning: the routes described below are not established trails; trailheads might be unidentifiable or nonexistent. Check a detailed map or guidebook - available at all information centers - and consult a park ranger for route information.

9) Quail Basin
Start: 12.5 miles north of I-40 on Kelbaker Road, then 1 mile east on an unmarked dirt road. Park at junction with closed dirt road heading south. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended.
Follow the route to the south to a road that loops around a small valley. After walking the loop, return via the same route. The 6.5-mile round-trip leads past jumbled rocks into a small valley of Mojave yucca and juniper surrounded by granite outcroppings.

10) Keystone Canyon
Start: 18 miles south of Nipton Road on Ivanpah Road, then 2.5 miles west on an unmarked dirt road. Bear left at the first fork, right at the second, then continue to a parking area. Four-wheel drive recommended.
Hike the deteriorating road into Keystone Canyon, ascending the New York Mountains. Continue cross-country to the top of the ridge for spectacular views. Watch for pinyon pine, juniper, turbinella oak, and even a few white fir near the top. Hike 3 miles one way.

11) Caruthers Canyon
Start: Primitive campsites in Caruthers Canyon, 5.5 miles west of Ivanpah Road on New York Mountains Road, then 2.7 miles north on an unsigned road. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended.
Hike 3 miles one way through one of the Mojave's most bontanically diverse areas: conifers, oaks, and coastal chaparral plants including manzanita, yerba santa, ceanothus, and coffee berry decorate this route.

12) Castle Peaks Corridor
4.9 miles east of Ivanpah Road on signed Hart Mine Road; left at fork, then 0.9 miles, left at fork, then 3.4 miles, crossing an earthen berm; left at fork, then 1 mile more to where road ends. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended.
For excellent views of the Castle Peaks spires, walk 4 miles one way up the closed road to the ridgetop and beyond into a small canyon.

13) Piute Creek
9.5 miles east of the junction of Lanfair and Cedar Canyon roads on a dirt utility road, then 0.5 miles north. High clearance and four-wheel drive recommended.
Hike 6.5 miles round-trip through the colorful Piute Gorge and explore the ruins of Fort Piute, built and manned in the 1880s to protect mail and travelers on the Mojave Road. Elliot Coues, an early visitor to Fort Piute described it as "a Godforsaken Botany Bay of a place-the meanest I ever saw for a military station." A perennial stream near the fort, rare in the Mojave, supports riparian plants and animals. Return to your vehicle via an unused trace of the Mojave Road.

Last updated: December 27, 2020

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