Mojave Road

Baker, California (SanBernardino County)

Last Updated: 03/21/2019
5/5 (4 reviews)
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Difficulty: 3-3
(EASY)
Length: 139 miles
Highest Elevation: 5093 feet
Duration: About 3 days
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Baker
Nearest Town w/ Services: Baker
Official Road Name:
Management Agency: Mojave National Preserve
District:
Distance:
Showing 0 trails within 2 miles

Highlights

Highlight: Mojave Road

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.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Mojave Road

Route Information

Technical Rating: 3-3
(EASY)

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.

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Description

The entire 135 miles is made up of mostly a dirt and sand road, miles of whoop-de-doos, or sand moguls, with some rocky areas. The only major obstacle is the Watson Wash drop-in which can be rutted and washed out. In 2016 there was a washout south of Fort Piute, which currently requires you to use a bypass. Time on trail:. Allow a full three days to take in all the desert scenery, the side excursions and pick that perfect camp. If you are short on time, you can drive some sections fairly quickly and make it in two days. Caution: Wet weather could make this overland trail a real nightmare. You cross several washes which pose issues in wet weather, but the true problem in wet weather is the Dry Soda Lake Bed. Staying on course: Various roads intertwine through the entire route. To ensure you are on the correct Mojave Road, always look for the stone cairns. If you are traveling from east to west, the most common route, the cairns will be on the right side of the road. Typically, your base map of your GPS unit will show the Mojave Road as "Government Road". Permits Any groups with 7 or more vehicles (15 or more people) must obtain a special use permit which includes a $69 non-refundable processing fee (at the time of this writing). Permits can be found here. Services: Know your vehicle's range first and foremost. Provisions and fuel purchased in Laughlin, Nevada will be much less expensive than in Needles. Right on the Needles Highway and not far from the trailhead is the: South Pointe Market Address: 3675 Needles Hwy, Laughlin, NV 89029 Other pre-trip gas stations can be found here. If for whatever reason you find yourself needing fuel half-way through you can detour to Baker, California. Guide Notes: There are volumes written on the Mojave Road. The trailsoffroad.com guide is meant to be the cliff notes, and get you out on the trail so you can enjoy your overland adventure. For a detailed history of the trail, we recommend the The Mojave Road Guide by Dennis Casebier. The Mojave Road track for download is complete with extra waypoints which may not be depicted here. Mileage is approximated. Total miles will vary depending on the side trips you take. Some sources list the Mojave Road as different mileages. Mileage shown here is directly from the GPS track.
Impassable when wet.

Waypoints

1. Needles Highway Trailhead (3.5 mi)

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.

2. Out of Wash (5.2 mi)

Turn north out of the wash where there is an unmarked road leading northwest to the mountains.

3. Right/North (5.5 mi)

Stay generally right/north. There are tire tracks all over and the area looks confusing, but follow the most prominent tracks.

4. Obstacle (6.2 mi)

Drive up the hill. There is minor undulation to the surface, but any higher clearance vehicle can get up.

5. Obstacle (6.3 mi)

Another fun hill to climb over.

6. Left/Southwest (6.5 mi)

At the sign marker, turn hard left/southwest.

7. Wash (6.8 mi)

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.

8. Straight Left/West to Balancing Rock (10 mi)

Continue straight/north to follow the Mojave Road. Turn left/west to reach Balancing Rock Campground.

9. Fork Left (11.2 mi)

Fork left/west at the sign markers.

10. Obstacle (11.3 mi)

Most vehicles will drive over this obstacle with ease. Longer wheelbase vehicles, or those pulling overland trailers may drag.

11. 103 Intersection (11.9 mi)

Stay straight at the intersection of NN 103. Roughly at this point, you enter the Piute Valley.

12. US 95 (14.4 mi)

Cross over US 95.

13. NN 28 - Straight (15.3 mi)

Straight at the intersection of NN 28.

14. Wash (16.7 mi)

Cross over the minor tributary of The Piute Wash.

15. Wash (16.9 mi)

Enter and cross The Piute Wash.

16. 108 Intersection (17.1 mi)

Continue straight on the Mojave Road.

17. NN 043 (18.2 mi)

Continue straight at the intersection of NN 043.

18. Scenic (19.2 mi)

View of Homer Mountain to the south, and the Piute Range to the west.

19. NN 049 Intersection (20.6 mi)

Continue straight at the intersection of NN 049.

20. Pole Line Road and Fort Piute (21.7 mi)

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.

21. Fort Piute (23.5 mi)

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.

22. West to Follow Mojave Road/South to Bypass (26.6 mi)

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.

23. Straight (33.4 mi)

Continue straight at Fort Piute Road. You are now in the Lanfair Valley.

24. Straight (34.3 mi)

Continue straight at unknown road.

25. Lower Fork (35.9 mi)

Take the lower fork at Cable Road intersection.

26. Into Wash (36.5 mi)

Drop into and cross the deep wash.

27. Old Bus (37.1 mi)

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.

28. Right/North (37.9 mi)

At the well defined crossroad, turn right/north.

29. Left/West (38.1 mi)

At the fenced area, turn left/west to continue.

30. Take North Fork (39.1 mi)

Take the right/north fork at Cedar Canyon Road.

31. Straight (40.4 mi)

Continue straight where the road to Indian Hill and well goes north.

32. Penny Can Tree (41.2 mi)

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.

33. Lanfair Road - Straight (41.7 mi)

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.

34. Grotto Hills Road (43.5 mi)

Continue straight at the intersection of Grotto Hills Road.

35. Carruthers Canyon Road (45.6 mi)

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.

36. Old Building

Look, but do not take or destroy any of this property.

37. Camp Phallus

A quick diversion from the main Mojave Road takes you to one of the more beautiful designated camps along the road.

38. Drop Into Wash (48.4 mi)

Drop into and cross the wash/cable road.

39. Follow Northwest On Cedar Canyon Road (48.8 mi)

Follow the wide graded Cedar Canyon Road a short distance to the northwest .4 miles to a faint turnoff.

40. Left/West (49 mi)

Turn left/west at the cairn/rock stack marker.

41. Watson Wash Drop In (49.2 mi)

This is the most technical part of the Mojave Road. Wet weather could make this impassable for some vehicles.

42. New York Mountain Road Go Left/South (50.3 mi)

Turn left/south.

43. Go Left/Southwest (50.5 mi)

Turn left/southwest.

44. Bert G Smith Homestead

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.

45. Go Straight (50.6 mi)

Continue straight.

46. Government Holes (52 mi)

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.

47. Kelso Cima Road Crossing (61.9 mi)

Continue straight. Roughly after this point, you encounter a 10-mile stretch of whoop-dee-doos that never seem to end.

48. Straight (66.5 mi)

Continue straight.

49. Left/South (67.2 mi)

Turn left/south.

50. Mojave Camp (68.1 mi)

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.

51. To Marl Springs (70.2 mi)

Go straight for Marl Springs.

52. 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.

53. Mailbox and Frog Shrine (73.4 mi)

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.

54. Lava Tubes

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!

55. Dunes

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.

56. Dry Soda Lake Bed (96.5 mi)

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.

57. Travelers Monument (100 mi)

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.

58. Begin Fun Sandy Stretch (108 mi)

There is a notable terrain change from here on out. Deep sandy fun where you can accelerate the pace before entering Afton Canyon.

59. Borax Mine (116 mi)

Old mining remnants. To reach this area look for the side trail on the north side of the Mojave Road.

60. Union Pacific RR Bridge (117 mi)

The first of many railroad bridges you will encounter.

61. Train Car

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.

62. Spooky Cave (118 mi)

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.

63. Middle Railroad Bridge (121 mi)

Continue straight. Intermittently, water can be found here.

64. Water Crossing - Afton - Mojave River (122 mi)

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.

65. Afton Canyon Campground (122.1 mi)

Vault toilets, water, and picnic tables can be found here with 22 designated camp locations.

66. Railroad Bridge (123 mi)

Continue straight.

67. Triangles (131 mi)

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.

68. Manix Wash (136 mi)

Continue straight.

69. End (139 mi)

Turn right to hit the old Route 66 and travel south to town.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 35.052309, -114.676146

Starting Point: Laughlin, Nevada

To drive the trail in its historical entirety, start from Laughlin, Nevada at the Avi Casino & Resort. Turn to the north out of the casino parking lot onto Aha Macav Parkway. Drive 2.7 miles north on the paved highway to reach a dirt road on your right. Continue .8 miles to reach the Colorado River and the start of the Mojave Road. An alternate starting point, described in this guide as Waypoint 1, is also from Laughlin, Nevada, but directly off of the Needles Highway: Turn left on Aha Macav Parkway out of the Avi Resort & Casino parking lot and go 1.6 miles to Needles Highway. Turn right/north towards Laughlin. In 2.5 miles you will cross the state line and enter Nevada. .7 miles from the border crossing you will see a washy area on the left, this is the alternate start of the Mojave Road

Camping

Dispersed
Designated

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.

Camping: Mojave Road

Writer Information

Todd

Founder

Todd is an avid wheeler who loves to explore new trails whenever and wherever he can. They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that holds true for Todd. His want and desire to find passable trails and new nooks and crannies of the Great American West to explore were his reasons behind starting Trailsoffroad.com. On any given weekend you can find Todd on some obscure 4x4 trail or using his legs to hike to an alpine lake.

Community

Questions & Answers (3)

Q: Primitive Camping Sites Recommendations: I am looking into traversing this road in three days. What are some primitive campsite to consider?
–JV (09/03/2018)
A: Hi JV, we do not have all the potential locations marked, but they're a bunch of options for you, its really just going to depend on when you are tired or not. The ones mentioned above in the camping section are pretty darn good!
–Todd (09/03/2018)
Q: Can you do this on one full tank of gas? (Jeep JKU)
–Josh Farol (08/28/2018)
A: Without running any AC or other side trips, I did this trail in an 08 JKU and had just under a 1/4 tank left. We did it in 2 days.
–Todd (08/28/2018)
A: Without running any AC or other side trips, I did this trail in an 08 JKU and had just under a 1/4 tank left. We did it in 2 days.
–Todd (08/28/2018)
Q: Is there a bypass for the Afton/Mojave River crossing? Seems deep enough to need a snorkel, and I would not want to risk it.
–Brendan Keegan (01/19/2017)
A: I have never read a single account where the water was too deep for a snorkel-less vehicle. I did the trail in May 2015 and the water was halfway up my 35" tire. See the picture from my trail review below. That said, always approach these crossings with caution. However, if most accounts say the water is not more than 18" deep, that should be easy to test. Bring along your mud boots and walk across the river before venturing out with your vehicles.
–Tom H (07/19/2018)
A: Hey Brenden! I took the video and the angle is a little misleading. The water was only about 1/2 way up my 35" tire.
–Todd (01/19/2017)
A: If you are hoping to bypass the water crossings in Afton Canyon, unfortunately there is no easier way. But you can bypass Afton Canyon in its entirety, either by exiting at Baker, after that is Rasor Road (Rumored it might be closed), then Basin (just before Afton) or you stay to the south as you get close to Afton and take BL9470. I would take BL9470 if it was up to me, plus there are a couple cool sites along that trail. ...................... ( https://www.trailsoffroad.com/trails/2186-bl9470-hidden-valley-wash ) .................. But as far as the water depth, as long as the water isn’t moving and is still, it is usually around 2 ½ feet deep. I would say almost any 4x4 outside of cars can make the crossing. Jeeps, Toyotas, P/U’s, Isuzus, and like vehicles. Just take it slow to keep the wave down and be safe.
–Josh Noesser (01/19/2017)

Trail Reviews (8)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I headed a group of 4 trucks on this trail, started it 3/22. our group was my stock height, open diff 2wd 99 F150 on 35s( camo with 2 American flags incase anyone saw us out there) a lifted 2013 Tundra 4x4 on 37s, a 09 2wd f150 with limited slip on 33 mud terrains and a 2015 4x4 Ram 2500 on 35s. We started the trail at the Colorado River and made the drive up to Fort Piute and then to camp Phallus on day 1. Camp Phallus was quite full but a beautiful area. day 2 we made it to the Watson Wash drop in, the rock house, government holes, the mojave mailbox, the lava tubes and to our campsite at the base of a sand dune past Kelbaker Rd.. Day 3 we got a late start from our camp site(left camp just before noon), from our camp site it was a 20 minute drive to Soda Dry Lake which we were able to cross without issue, dropped our hitchhikers at the travelers monument(loved the plaque!) had some fun in the sandy section and in to Afton Canyon. had a lunch break in the shade of the RR bridge and worked our way to the water crossing. considering how much rain we had I wasn't sure how the crossing was going to go but since I had a coiled tow strap in the bed of the truck already hooked up to the receiver mounted shackle and the water wasn't flowing I went for it. The water went about 1/3 of the way up the doors on the truck but didn't get anything in the bed wet. the group made it through without issues and we were eager to press on. we had some confusion at the RR bridge after it and weren't sure which way the Mojave rd. went. pics above said to continue straight but the way ahead of us was blocked off with cables and a gate(also pictured above) after a few minutes of discussion and heavy consideration of the fading sunlight we decided we needed to call it for the trip at Afton Canyon Rd. we will be returning to finish the trail although I'll be in a different truck. all in all the trail was a lot of fun, we managed to get through what we did without mechanical failures, punctures or major injury(couple of scraped heads from the low clearance in the lava tubes) and we had an absolute blast doing so. be warned there are some tight sections through the Joshua tree forest and desert pinstriping is likely(especially in longer and wider vehicles) definitely a trail to do at least once!

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Waypoint 64, at the water crossing, be very wary after the heavy rains. For reference, the photos above were taken in dry weather conditions.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
A must do. I used it to avoid driving on freeway and to check overall condition for future exploration trips. Beautiful location with almost nobody on the trail. East side from Kelso road is easy and fast. West side is slow, lots of ‘waves’ or ‘whoop dee doo’ and washboard. Whatch your speed as there are ‘surprise’ dips and bumps. The drop in the Watson wash (point 41) is a dangerous one so continue on the main road if you don’t want those types of thrills. The photo in this trail guide does not do it justice.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
I led a group of 6 vehicles in November 2017 along portions of the Mojave Road. We ventured away from "The Road" every day to check out lesser known areas of the Mojave National Preserve. Highlights included: - Piute Gorge - Hart, which only had the remnants of a chimney - Hike to Sagamore Mine - OX Ranch and the Mojave National Preserve's Artist Foundation - Carruthers Canyon's Big Foot Rock, Phallus Rock, and Tigershark Rock - Evening Star Mine - Riley's Cabin - Geer Cabin - Mojave Mailbox, where we kindly added a "Trailsoffroad" sticker

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
This is a must do road and lives up to its hype. Its not a hardcore wheeling trail and there are few challenges. The reason you do this road is the experience!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Was with 10 members of Jeep Expeditions on April 8th & 9th, 2017 crossing the Mohave Road. We decided to skip the bypass and see if we could navigate the washout area. Now there are signs at the trail head leading to the washout that says the trail is closed but people are using it anyway. One area of the washout was a bit tricky but everyone got thru it just fine. Part of the washout seems to have been partially filled in by concerned off-roaders. Someone, perhaps Park Rangers have put orange cones and caution tape in the area to keep you from slipping off the trail. Trail from Cima Road full of whoop de doos and going faster than 5mph for the next 15 to 20 miles is just about impossible.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Partially Open
Offroaded on:
Traveling the Mojave Road in Autumn is really fantastic. The weather and light conditions were phenomenal, and made the adventure truly epic. It's a long, long, road, but there are so many points of interest to see along the way--the journey truly is the destination! There were historical points of interest from multiple eras, and an eclectic kind of Americana dispersed throughout, which made the voyage fascinating.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Love this trail! It is fine for newbies and experienced wheelers alike. It's the journey that makes it worthwhile. Also, the route is filled with historical markers, derelict vehicles, and other peculiarities. Learn about them and enjoy them, don't pass them by!

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.