Desert Driving Pro Tips
Required knowledge for a successful desert adventure.
Do not rely solely on automated mapping and driver assisted applications, they often lead you astray in and around the preserve. Bring an old-timey paper map or atlas for backup and to teach the crew the ways of the ranger. Check here for updated road conditions from the National Park Service. 🗺️ Don't rely on your phone for in the preserve for navigation where coverage is spotty at best, except for pictures at scenic locales!
Cities for GPS
From I-40: Exit Essex Road and drive north 10 miles to the junction with Black Canyon Road. Hole-in-the-Wall is 10 miles north on Black Canyon Road.
Mojave's rugged nature, large size, and remote locations make assessing, designing, and repairing roads a constant challenge for park maintenance crews. Roads are closed by the superintendent for public safety or to preserve the character of the road bed.
Speed Limits on the paved roads are 55 mph or less. Please obey posted speed limits for your safety and help keep wildlife alive.
|Black Canyon Road||Partially Closed||Extensive damage and missing roadway between Hole-in-the-Wall Campground and Wild Horse Canyon Road intersection. Closure is indefinite until further notice. Mid Hills Campground Accessible via Cedar Canyon Road and nothernmost Black Canyon Road Only.|
|Essex Road||Open||Access to Mitchell Caverns and Providence Mountains State Recreation area is open via Exit 100 (Essex Road). Watch for debris on the road.|
|Ivanpah Road||Open||Drive with caution, watch for tortoise on road.|
|Kelbaker Road||Open South of Kelso,
Closed North of Kelso
|Kelbaker Road closed between Kelso and Baker to all traffic due to damage and active construction. For your safety and the safety of road workers, DO NOT DRIVE ON THIS ROAD. If you access the area via a dirt road, use a dirt road to leave the area. Violators could be cited for driving on the CLOSED section of the road between Kelso and Baker
Road open between Kelso and Interstate 40. Drive with caution, watch for animals on the road.
|Cedar Canyon||Open||Drive with caution, watch for animals on the road.|
|Kelso-Cima Road||Open||Drive with caution, watch for animals on the road.|
|Cima Road||Open||Drive with caution, watch for animals on the road.|
|Morningstar Mine Road||Open||Drive with caution, watch for animals on the road.|
|Zzyzx Road||Open|| Drive with caution, watch for animals on the road.
Trespassing prohibited around buildings of Desert Studies Center without prior arrangements. Visit CSU Fullerton Website for more information
Lava Tube Access Requires Heavy Duty 4WD Vehicle
The two wheel drive, high clearance access route via the Kelbaker Road is CLOSED. If you make it in on a dirt road, you must stay on a dirt road, and exit on a dirt road back to Kelso Cima or Cima Roads. Do not enter or exit the area on the paved section of Kelbaker Road.Violators are subject to harming construction crews in the area, and risking a traffic citation
DO NOT USE KELBAKER ROAD!
If you go, make sure you are prepared to drive extended distances over very rough roads. Your vehicle should have buy not limited to:
- Off road rated tires with heavy duty sidewalls
- Four Wheel Drive with low range transfer Case
- Undercarriage protection (skid plates)
- 9 inches or more of ground clearance to make it through extreme terrain over lava flows
- Portable air compressor to inflate / deflate tires to make it through deep sand
- An experienced driver capable of extended driving over rough terrain
In addition, before you go, keep the following tips in mind:
- Most SUVs and other all-wheel-drive vehicles not suitable for Lava Tube access.
- Most tires that come stock with your vehicle are not appropriate for this route.
- Getting routed to the Lava Tube via a mapping or GPS app does not mean its safe / appropriate for you and your vehicle.
- Recovery or towing costs could exceed $1000 and not be covered by your insurance
Repeated heavy rainfall during the summer of 2022 may have washed out some portions of these backcountry roads. Currently efforts are focused on main road condition assessments. As time permits, conditions will be updated here. Please consider backcountry roads as heavily impacted by the 2022 monsoon season.
Many unimproved and backcountry roads in the preserve require high clearance of 8" or more and 4-wheel drive.
Road conditions can change quickly. Check with a ranger for vehicle requirements and conditions on the specific roads you plan to travel before you leave the pavement.
- Cell phone service is unreliable or nonexistent in most of Mojave National Preserve.
|Aiken Mine (Lava Tube Access)||4WD High Clearance Required||Lava Tube access via the CLOSED Kelbaker Road Prohibited. Violators could be cited.
Access to Aiken Mine Road and Lava Tube area requires a 4x4 high clearance vehicle with heavy duty off-road rated tires. Road is very technical and rough, requiring experienced four wheel drive vehicle operation sustained over long distances. If you got to the Lava Tube via a long rough dirt road, YOU MUST use a long rough dirt road to return via Aiken mine east,or Mojave Road. Kelbaker road is CLOSED to ALL vehicles, Do not access area by driving on the paved Kelbaker Road. Violators subject to traffic citation.
|Black Canyon||Partially Closed||Extensive damage and missing roadway between Hole-in-the-Wall Campground and Wild Horse Canyon Road intersection. Closure is indefinite until further notice. Mid Hills Campground Accessible via Cedar Canyon Road and nothernmost Black Canyon Road Only.|
|Brannigan Mine||4WD High Clearance||deep washouts, may be impassible to even expereinced 4WD vehicle operators.|
|Castle Mountains||4WD High Clearance||Very rough roads.|
|Cedar Canyon||2WD / 4WD High Clearance||Areas of soft sand and washouts from recent heavy rains|
|Clark Mountains||4WD High Clearance||All roads need 4WD and high clearance.|
|Colosseum Mine||4WD High Clearance||Beyond BLM boundary. Steep grades, impassable in sections.|
|Deer Springs||4WD High Clearance||Sandy with deep washouts.|
|Fort Piute||4WD High Clearance||Very rocky; no street tires. The rocks are sharp and pointy, likely to puncture a tire.|
|Globe Mine||4WD High Clearance||Sandy in spots.|
|Green Wells Cutoff||4WD High Clearance||Rocky with washouts.|
|Hidden Hills||4WD High Clearance||Sandy with washouts.|
|Ivanpah||4WD High Clearance||Extensive debris and missing roadbed / washouts|
|Kelso Dunes||2WD / 4WD High Clearance||Rough with lots of pot holes. 2WD accessible to the main trailhead and dispersed camping area. 4WD high clearance required west of camping area and along powerline road.|
|Lanfair||4WD High Clearance||Potholes in pavement section. Sandy in the washes, but with no flooding a two-wheel drive could make it to the junction with Ivanpah. Use caution.|
|Macedonia Canyon||4WD High Clearance||Sandy and rocky. Many vehicles (even Jeeps with external gear) will not be able to fit under train tressle towards Kelso-Cima Road to access this drive. Access to eastern end of road impacted by closure of Wildhorse Canyon Road.|
|Mojave Road||Soda Lake Impassible;
Closed at Paiute Gorge (detour available)
OPEN in other areas
|Mojave Road impassible due to heavy rains and mud accross Soda Lake, Do not cross the lake in the Zzyzx or Traveler's Monument area. Vehicle recovery in this area subject to resource damage citation and could cost $1000-$3000 for towing company fees.
Washout on east side of Paiute Range (35.0905677, -115.0028316) makes road impassable to all vehicles. Check map for available detour route (access points found at 35.107054, -115.052624 and 35.039974, -114.978447).
4WD and high clearance for other areas of the road. Wet conditions on Soda lake exist, please use caution and avoid leaving the main road.
|New York Mountains||4WD High Clearance||West of Carruthers Canyon, sandy and rocky with washouts.|
|Valley View||2WD / 4WD High Clearance||2WD until you reach the ranch. Afterwards its 4WD and high clearance beyond the ranch.|
|Vulcan Mine||4WD High Clearance||Very rough on east side.|
|Walking Box Ranch (Castle Mountains NM)||2WD / 4WD High Clearance||2WD accessible, but any roads off Walking Box Ranch Road are 4WD high clearance only.|
|Wildhorse Canyon||4WD High Clearance||Sandy, rocky, and uneven breaks in some sections.|
|Wood Wash||4WD High Clearance||Sandy with washouts.|
The long and winding road takes constant maintenance.
A road near Hole In the Wall Visitor Center
Credit: NPS/J. Petruncio
The same road after maintenance
Credit: NPS/J. Petruncio
Last updated: February 7, 2023