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Mojave National Preserve

Not far from Twentynine Palms you can find a vast 1.6 million acre desert wonderland filled with Joshua tree forests, “singing” sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones and lava flows, dramatic mountains, lonely canyons, long forgotten mines and homesteads, long trains snaking across the distance, and a historic road leading westward across the sands.
     The Mojave National Preserve (the difference between a national park and preserve is that hunting is allowed in preserves), provides an incredible variety of desert experiences for day trips or longer.  Camping is available across the preserve but buy your provisions and gas up in Twentynine Palms as there are no concessions within the preserve.
     If you are planning a trip to Las Vegas, taking Route 62 and then heading north through the Mojave Trails National Monument and the Mojave National Preserve provides a beautiful and relaxing alternative to sitting in traffic on Interstate 15.

Things to Do

Kelso Depot Visitor Center
A good place to begin your visit to the Mojave National Preserve is at the Kelso Depot Visitor Center.  This historic railroad depot now houses exhibits, an art gallery, bookstore, and an orientation film.  Rangers can help plan your trip and provide information on hikes, road conditions, and camping options.  Water and restrooms are available, and picnic facilities are located where you can enjoy a view of the Providence Mountains and passing trains.  Ranger-led programs are available.

Kelso Dunes
The Kelso Dunes have some of the highest sand dunes in the region.  The dunes reach up to 600 feet high and extend into the Devil’s Playground.  Created over the last 25,000 years, the dunes cover a 45 square mile area and are known for their “singing” sounds.  Run down a dune slope (not on the vegetation) and when the sand slides down the steep slope, listen for a booming or singing sound.  Watch the sunset over the Devil’s Playground from the top of a dune, or take a full moon hike (ask the rangers for more information).

Cima Dome & Cinder Cones National Natural Landmark
Within the Mojave National Preserve you can see a number of red and black cinder cones and lava flows.  Cima Dome and 31 other volcanic cinder cones dot the landscape along Kelbaker Road north of the Kelso Depot.  Eruptions began about 7.6 million years ago and continued until at least 10,000 years ago, near the end of the most recent ice age.  If you have a 4WD high clearance vehicle, Aiken Mine Road makes for an interesting side trip and provides access to a lava tube cave.  The cave is not maintained by the National Park Service, so visitors explore at their own risk.

Teutonia Peak Trail
Off Cima Road you can take a three mile round trip hike on the Teutonia Peak Trail.  This trail provides views of Cima Dome, cinder cones and lava flows, as well as the world’s largest and densest Joshua tree forest.

Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center
Visitors here can take the 1.5 mile Rings Loop Trail up Banshee Canyon, and the half-mile Hole-in-the-Wall Nature Trail.

Zzyzx/Soda Springs
Visit this historic 1940s health resort (the Desert Studies Center continues to host classes here), Lake Tuendae, and Soda Dry Lake.  If classes are in session, please do not disturb participants.

Mojave Road
Visitors who have 4WD vehicles may want to consider driving the section of the Mojave Road within the preserve.  Overall, the preserve offers more than 1,000 miles of dirt roads to explore.

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