|Typically Open:||Year Round|
|Permit Information:||Permit Required - Click Here|
|Highest Elevation:||5093 feet|
|Duration:||About 3 days|
|Shape of Trail:||Straight Through|
|Best Direction to Travel:||N/A|
|Nearest Town w/ Services:||Baker|
|Official Road Name:|
|Management Agency:||Mojave National Preserve|
Filled with oddities, scenic beauty, history, and a sense of adventure it is no wonder that the Mojave Road has such an iconic stature. Formed as an early Native American trade route then an east-west passage for settlers, the road has a long history. Passing through the Mojave Desert Preserve and the Lanfair Valley you are remote and far from civilization. Today it is one of the more famous overland routes in the southwest. Although the road is not at all technical, the sense of adventure you get by being so deep in the desert is what makes it worth the trip.
Typically, more rock or undulated road surface. Potential rocks and/or tree stumps less than 12" tall and/or vertical ledges less than 12" tall and/or near vertical ledges or waterfalls less than 24" inches. Tire placement becomes more difficult. Can be steep.Read more about our rating system
This is a popular starting point for the trail. Enter the sandy wash and follow the cairns. The area can be confusing but generally follow the wash and stay to the north side for the next turn out of the wash. The Dead Mountains Wilderness Area will be in view to your west and southwest.
Turn north out of the wash where there is an unmarked road leading northwest to the mountains.
Stay generally right/north. There are tire tracks all over and the area looks confusing, but follow the most prominent tracks.
Drive up the hill. There is minor undulation to the surface, but any higher clearance vehicle can get up.
Another fun hill to climb over.
At the sign marker, turn hard left/southwest.
Turn hard right/northwest into a wide and flat wash. This will follow along with the Nevada and California border for a short distance before you finally enter California.
Continue straight/north to follow the Mojave Road. Turn left/west to reach Balancing Rock Campground.
Fork left/west at the sign markers.
Most vehicles will drive over this obstacle with ease. Longer wheelbase vehicles, or those pulling overland trailers may drag.
Stay straight at the intersection of NN 103. Roughly at this point, you enter the Piute Valley.
Cross over US 95.
Straight at the intersection of NN 28.
Cross over the minor tributary of The Piute Wash.
Enter and cross The Piute Wash.
Continue straight on the Mojave Road.
Continue straight at the intersection of NN 043.
View of Homer Mountain to the south, and the Piute Range to the west.
Continue straight at the intersection of NN 049.
Turn left/south onto Metropolitan Water District Road to follow the Mojave Road. Cross the road with a slight jog south to visit Fort Piute, cross the road and follow the rocky road up into the Piute Range. At this point, you cross over into the Mojave National Preserve (note: specific camping regulations are listed in the camping section of this guide). If you ever wonder where all our electricity comes from, the lines above you carry electrical power generated at the Hoover Dam. Continuing on to Fort Piute, you will pass building remains on the south side of the road. These remains are what is left of the George Irwin Ranch. Visible are the foundations of the home and turkey pens.
There is plenty of parking for a large group to stop and take in the sites. The area near the spring is dense and much cooler than the temperature you have been driving in. The foundations of the old buildings are worth exploring. You can see where the Mojave Road used to continue up the streambed, but today is closed to motor vehicle travel and you must return the way you came in, and turn south on Metropolitan Water District Road. The fort, actually a sub-post of Camp Cady, was one of a chain of military stations erected to protect the travel route from San Bernardino across the Mojave Desert to Fort Mojave. While the Piute post was misnomered a "fort," all the others were designated either "redoubt" or "camp," and all were strategically situated near sources of water. During the years of the Civil War, the posts were garrisoned by elements of the California Volunteers and evacuated at the end of the war. But local protests, stressing the critical need for the travel route and increasing mining activity in western Arizona, compelled the reoccupation of the posts in 1866. Upon reoccupation, the post was renamed Fort Piute or Fort Piute Hill and was usually garrisoned by troops from Camp Cady. Fort Piute was abandoned sometime in 1868.
Turn right/west onto The Old Underground Telephone Road. This portion of the road is closed due to washout as of 2016 and may or may not be reopened in 2017. An alternate route can be found here. Current Mojave Road Conditions.
Continue straight at Fort Piute Road. You are now in the Lanfair Valley.
Continue straight at unknown road.
Take the lower fork at Cable Road intersection.
Drop into and cross the deep wash.
Story unknown of the bus and old car. However, there were two homesteads dating back to 1917. Today, there are residents in the area, so be respectful of the their reclusive nature.
At the well defined crossroad, turn right/north.
At the fenced area, turn left/west to continue.
Take the right/north fork at Cedar Canyon Road.
Continue straight where the road to Indian Hill and well goes north.
If you look up into the tree, you will see a small 12 ounce can hanging. Tradition is, leave a penny and continue on. There is a large space here for camping that has been pre-disturbed.
Continue straight across Ivanpah-Lanfair Road. This is what is left of the roadbed of the old Nevada Southern Railway that was built in 1893. From this point, the trail becomes highly vegetated with Joshua tree, yucca, and cholla. Turn south to explore the old ghost town of Lanfair.
Continue straight at the intersection of Grotto Hills Road.
Continue straight to follow the Mojave Road or turn right to inspect the old homestead and or continue north up Carruthers Canyon for camping and exploring.
Look, but do not take or destroy any of this property.
A quick diversion from the main Mojave Road takes you to one of the more beautiful designated camps along the road.
Drop into and cross the wash/cable road.
Follow the wide graded Cedar Canyon Road a short distance to the northwest .4 miles to a faint turnoff.
Turn left/west at the cairn/rock stack marker.
This is the most technical part of the Mojave Road. Wet weather could make this impassable for some vehicles.
Who is Bert G. Smith? Bert George Smith was a WWI veteran suffering from the effects of poisonous gas. He was certified as totally disabled by the Bureau of Veterans Affairs. He homesteaded here in 1929 with the hope he might live a little longer in the high desert climate.
Stop and take in the old corral, windmill, and operational wells. The first well was dug in 1859 and this was a common overnight stop for travelers of yesteryear.
Continue straight. Roughly after this point, you encounter a 10-mile stretch of whoop-dee-doos that never seem to end.
Mojave Camp is an ideal camp for a large group. Several fire rings surround the rock outcropping and all the ground is flat and perfect for setting up tents.
Go straight for Marl Springs.
Marl Springs is not named after a person, but rather someone used the term "marly" to describe the soil conditions of the land surrounding the springs. The name stuck as Marl Springs.
In 1983, the Friends of the Mojave Road erected a mailbox for travelers to sign in. Inside the mailbox, you will find the sign in register, as well as other trinkets left by the those before you. Just behind the mailbox is the Frog Shrine. This is an odd scene in the desert where travelers have started piling all sorts of frog statues, resembling a shrine.
Cinder cones stand out in the desert ready for you to explore. There are stairs to descend into the tubes. A single ray of light is the only light available - so bring a flashlight. If you want to create the beam of light for photography, kick-up a little dust and have your camera ready!
To reach the dunes, look for an access road on the north side of the Mojave Road. Otherwise, continue straight for the main Mojave Road.
If it has rained recently, avoid the Dry Lake Bed. While the road may look dry, there could be impassable mud just underneath the top surface. Maintain reasonable vehicle intervals, in case a recovery may be required. If necessary, you can bypass up to Baker by back-tracking to just west of the Sand Dunes and taking the road traveling north to the town of Baker. Note: The Soda Lake mud is corrosive. If you encounter it, be sure to wash it off when you get to Barstow.
The custom is to carry a rock with you from the start of the trip to leave here for good luck. There is a plaque hidden in the middle of the cairn.
There is a notable terrain change from here on out. Deep sandy fun where you can accelerate the pace before entering Afton Canyon.
Old mining remnants. To reach this area look for the side trail on the north side of the Mojave Road.
The first of many railroad bridges you will encounter.
Legend has it that this car was a leftover from a train derailment. To reach this, look for the side road going up the hill just southeast of the bridge.
Spooky Cave is just on the north side of the tracks you are following. This slot canyon-turned-sand-cave is something worth seeing. Just make sure you don't touch the walls or it might cave in. When you get deep into it, it becomes very narrow and if you have a rope you can climb all the way out the top. Make sure to bring flashlights. Here is a video of inside the cave.
Continue straight. Intermittently, water can be found here.
This water crossing is long and can be very deep. Make sure you are going slow and if the water is moving at all, do not attempt it.
Vault toilets, water, and picnic tables can be found here with 22 designated camp locations.
Behind barricade posts to prevent people from driving over them, are approximately twenty intaglios, or geoglyphs, created by prehistoric people by removing stones from the desert pavement. All of the intaglios at this location are in the shape of triangles.
Turn right to hit the old Route 66 and travel south to town.
Starting Point: Laughlin, Nevada
There are dispersed camping opportunities along this route for small groups. In addition, there are several designated areas. Camp Phallus at waypoint 37 and Mojave Camp at waypoint 50 are worthy designated locations to spend the night. General Rules: Camping in the area: Reuse of existing campsites is required for four-wheel drive trips. Do not make camp in a dry wash—flash floods develop quickly in the desert. Camping is limited to a maximum of 14 consecutive days per visit/stay and 30 total days per year. Campsites must be more than 200 yards from any water source. Camping is not permitted: within 1/4 mile of any paved road or the Zzyzx Road; within 1/2 mile of Fort Piute or Kelso Depot; within 1 mile north (i.e., the crest of the dunes) or 1/4 mile south of the Kelso Dunes access road. Dispose of Waste Properly: Store all food and garbage in a manner that will prevent access by wildlife. Carry plastic bags and pack out all trash. Bury human waste in catholes 6-8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Don't bury toilet paper or hygiene products - carry a plastic bag and pack it out. Pet excrement must be collected and disposed of in garbage receptacles. Minimize Campfire Impacts: Campfires are allowed in established fire rings only, or with use of a portable firepan (be sure to pack out ashes). Do not leave fires smoldering or unattended. Cutting or collecting any wood, including downed wood, is prohibited. All firewood must be brought into the preserve.
We did the trip in 2 1/2 days and that was too fast. Spend an extra day and enjoy the side trips. Don't miss the lava tubes; they are a short distance off the main trail and you'll know when you're at the cinder cones -- they're impossible to miss!
While it is not necessary, this is a great trail to bring a second driver on, especially one who isn't sure he wants a jeep. The driving is fun and easy and after spending a few days on this trail, he'll be at the jeep dealer once he's home!
Just the two Mojave River water crossings make this trail worthwhile.
I've attached below some pictures and a video of my rig crossing the Mojave River.