Trip Ideas

A Joshua Tree in the center with other Joshua trees, creosote, and mountains.
Joshua trees with mountains in the background

NPS/Carol Quinn

Helpful Tips Prior to Entering Mojave National Preserve

If you plan to drive to Las Vegas and have even an hour to spare, you can at least sample some of Mojave National Preserve's spectacular scenery on a scenic detour!

Below are helpful tips to know prior to entering Mojave National Preserve:
  • Make sure you fill up on gas. There is no gas within Mojave National Preserve. The Preserve is filled with hills and mountains that will drain your tank. Learn more on where to get gas here.
  • There is minimal to no cell phone service in the Preserve, even on the paved roads. Be prepared for unplanned stops, survival, and rescue.
  • Visitors should travel with food, water, a light source, and proper clothes for the weather just in case your scenic detour includes a breakdown that continues after dark.
  • Check your vehicle or rental for a spare tire, jack, and emergency equipment prior to making this scenic detour.
  • Bring a tire pressure gage or other tools to release air pressure to 20 PSI if you get stuck in the sand. Soft sand is sometimes just feet away from the pavement.
Tetunoia Peak trailhead sign and burned Joshua trees seen while it is snowing
Teutonia Peak Trailhead during a snow storm.

David Williams, NPS.

If You Have Only 1 Hour:

Mojave National Preserve is huge at roughly 1.6 million acres with nearly a dozen different access points. Below are some of the more popular features you can see on a short visit.
  • Entering the Preserve from the North: The cinder cones and lava flows are on Kelbaker Road. It takes roughly 15 - 20 minutes each way to drive there from Baker. A few minutes beyond that is a small Joshua tree forest. In April and May bright yellow wildflowers grow on the side of the road in this area. In the winter you can occasionally enjoy desert snow here.
  • Entering the Preserve from the North: Teutonia Peak is only 11 miles from Interstate 15 when you enter on Cima Road. The drive should take 15 minutes each way. The Teutonia Peak Trail will allow you to explore a Joshua tree forest which burned during the August 2020 Dome Fire. Despite the fire, beautiful yellow and red flowers grow on this road in April and May. This is a good place to go birding. In the winter you can occasionally enjoy desert snow here.
  • Entering the Preserve from the South on Kelbaker Road: The Boulders Viewpoint Area is a great place to get out the car and take a selfie with Granite Mountains. This is located only 10 minutes north of Interstate 40 on Kelbaker Road! In the winter you can occasionally enjoy desert snow here.
  • Entering the Preserve from the South on Kelbaker Road: Kelso Dunes are 19 miles from Interstate 40 and take roughly 25 minutes to reach each way. You can spend as much time as you wish exploring the dunes.
  • Entering the Preserve from the South on Essex Road: The Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center is roughly 20 miles from Interstate 40 on Essex Road with a 25 minute drive each way. From there you could briefly enjoy the overlook into Banshee Canyon. The overlook is not ADA accessible. There is also a picnic area and the Hole-in-the-Wall Nature Trail is nearby.
  • From any entrance: You can make your own off trail adventure from any access point.
  • From any entrance: You can enjoy stargazing.
Kelso Depot with it's mission style archways, red tile roof, two tall palm trees, and green grass.
The Kelso Depot Visitors Center


If You Have Only 2 Hours:

You can do any of the activities above, extend your hikes, or include a stop at the Kelso Depot Visitor Center. From outside, peak into the front of the building to see the lunch counter, the ticket and telegraph room, and the passenger waiting room. This is a good place to go birding..

You can also have a picnic at a table at either Kelso Depot or the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Centers.

The 1.5 mile Rings Trail at the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitors Center is a very popular hike.
Rays of light shine into the dark lava tube
Light shining through hole into Lava Tube.

Carol Quinn, NPS.

If You Only Have 3 Hours:

You can do any of the activities listed above and take an extended hike! Most Established Trails, except the Barber Peak Trail and the Mid Hills to Hole-in-the-Wall Trail, can be completed in 3 hours or less.

You can also visit the Lava Tube! Learn more about the Lava Tube Hike here. High Clearance recomended.
A sandy trail with many foot steps at Kelso Dunes with a partly cloudy sky.
Footprints leading up to sand dunes.

Carol Quinn, NPS.

If You Have Only 4 Hours:

You can do any of the actives listed above, take an extended hike on the Kelso Dunes, or go for an extended drive on one of our Back-Country Roads. Check Current Road Conditions and Off-Pavement Safety Tips prior to heading out.
Ranger Carol climbs up the Rings Trail.  On both sides are tall cliffs with holes-in-the-walls.
A ranger climbs up the Rings Trail.

Barbra Michel, NPS.

If You Have 4 to 6 Hours:

Check out the Hole-in-the-Wall area of the Preserve. You can hike the Rings Trail and continue on to the Barber Peak Trail.

Visitors entering Mojave National Preserve from Interstate 40 will need less time to reach this area compared to visitors entering from Interstate 15. The Hole-in-the-Wall region is roughly 20 to 30 minutes north of Interstate 40 on Essex Road. Low clearance vehicles are advised to use the paved roads to reach this region and avoid the unpaved sections of Black Canyon Road and Cedar Canyon Road.


Last updated: March 15, 2022

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