Road Conditions

Map Alt Text Road Condition Map as of February 2023. Map indicates in red highlights the closed Kelbaker Road between the central Kelso area and Baker to the northwest. Also in the center part of the preserve, the red highlighted road Black Canyon shows i
February 2023 Road Conditions for Mojave National Preserve includes most major routes shown as open, except for Kelbaker Road between Kelso and Baker. Visitors are encouraged to use a detour via Kelso-Cima, Cima, and I-15 to reach Baker from Kelso. While MidHills Campground is open, it is only accessible from the north via Cedar Canyon Road. Access to and from Lava Tube requires heavy duty 4x4 on dirt roads - Kelbaker Rd. travel PROHIBITED!. Click on map for downloadable full resolution image

NPS

 

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

  • Kelso, California
  • Hole-in-the-Wall, California
  • Avoid using Mojave, California. This will take you 168 miles away from the park!


Directions to Kelso Depot
From I-15: Exit Kelbaker Road at Baker, California, and drive south 34 miles to Kelso Depot.
From I-40: Exit Kelbaker Road (28 miles east of Ludlow, California) and drive north 22 miles to Kelso Depot.


Directions to Hole-in-the-Wall

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.

Please do not move barricades or bypass signed or coned-off closures. Park rangers are patrolling closed roads, turning back travelers, and issuing citations.

Speed Limits on the paved roads are 55 mph or less. Please obey posted speed limits for your safety and help keep wildlife alive.


Tortoises and Traffic

Tortoises travel long distances in search of food and water and will cross highways through their territory.

  • Slow your roll. Motorists must observe posted speed limits.
  • Keep an eye out. Watch for tortoises crossing the road, especially during rainy weather. Tortoises are attracted to puddles that form on roadways during rainstorms.
  • Always look under your car before driving away. Tortoises enjoy resting in the shade of parked cars.
  • Keep vehicles on established roads only. Vehicles will crush tortoise burrows, killing the tortoises and eggs within.
  • Be a tortoise crossing guard! Never pick up a tortoise unless it is immediate danger. From a distance where the animal's behavior remains unchanged, watch to ensure the tortoise makes it across the road safely. Take a GPS from your phone and email your sighting to neal_darby@nps.gov. Every tortoise is important as they are threatened. The NPS is currently monitoring desert tortoises and relies on sightings from the field to help protect this cool animal.

Enjoy a stress free vacation by not worrying about running out of gasoline. Gas is not sold in Mojave National Preserve. In addition, there are no gas stations where Kelbaker Road meets Interstate 40.

Visitors to the north side of the preserve can fill up in Barstow, Baker, Cima, Primm, Jean, Henderson, or Las Vegas. 

Visitors coming from the south should fill up near 29 Palms, Amboy, or take a detour on Interstate 40 to the nearest gas stations in Fenner or Ludlow. Needles (east) or Barstow (west) are farther but also have gasoline. The preserve is filled with long inclines and mountains that will drain your tank, so it's best to come with a full tank if you want to explore without running on E. 

There are no food or beverages sold in the preserve. The nearest restaurants and grocery stores are often a half day's drive away. Come prepared with all of your necessary snacks and meals! 

For more information, see Restaurants - Mojave National Preserve (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
 

Potable water can be found at the following locations:

  • Kelso Depot bathhouse

  • Hole in the Wall Visitor Center

  • Hole in the Wall Campground

Outside of those locations, there are no other public water facilities in the preserve. 

For roads and highways outside the preserve, visit the Caltrans Road Conditions (ca.gov) website or call (800) 427-7623. 

 

Primary Roads

Road Status Notes
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
 
Map of Lava Tube Area highlighting alternate routes of access along Valley View, Aiken Mine, and Mojave Roads. Text emphasizes Kelbaker Road closed, and heavy duty four wheel drive is required to access Lava Tube.
Access to Lava Tube requires using Heavy-Duty 4WD vehicle on highlighted Routes or Mojave Road. If you come in on a dirt road, leave on a dirt road. Do not use Kelbaker Road. Be prepared for extended driving on very rough dirt roads

NPS

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
 
a white Jeep on rocky black lavabeds
Trips off pavement require an extra level of preparedness for all sorts of rocky, sandy, and other tire-puncturing terrain. Highway-legal vehicles are allowed to travel on existing unpaved roads, but services are non-existent and self-reliance is essential. UTVs, ATVs are prohibited on all roads.

NPS/K. Lewandowski

Backcountry Roads

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.
Road Clearance Description
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 desert road with a broken shoulder a desert road with a broken shoulder

Left image
A road near Hole In the Wall Visitor Center
Credit: NPS/J. Petruncio

Right image
The same road after maintenance
Credit: NPS/J. Petruncio

The preserve encompasses 1.6 million rugged acres intersected by long, bumpy, old-timey historic and lonesome roads. NPS maintenance crews are working on maintaining these roads so visitors here may recreate and explore safely. Please help the NPS by slowing down, obeying speed limits, and watching out for wildlife. 

 
a dirt road through a desert canyon

Desert Driving Safety

It's hot and sunny out there. Safe travel through rugged desert terrain requires more than a driver's skill.

Historic Lunch Room Sign at Kelso Depot

Food And Lodging Near The Preserve

Food and lodging near Mojave National Preserve

Last updated: February 7, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

2701 Barstow Road
Barstow , CA 92311

Phone:

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

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