Baker, California (SanBernardino) Technical Rating: 3
Last Updated: 04-08-2017
Permit Required - Click Here
Mojave Road 2016-2017 Washout Bypass, Mojave Loop Back Route, AC9475 - A Mojave Road Connector
Afton Canyon, Mojave River / Wash, Manix Wash, BL9470 - Hidden Valley Wash, BL9489, AC9476
Mojave National Preserve
Mojave Road Highlights
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.
Technical rating: (3) Easy
Dirt road. Rutted, washes, or gulches. Water crossings up to 6" depth. Passable mud. Grades up to 10 degrees. Small rocks or holes. 4WD recommended but 2WD possible under good conditions and with adequate ground clearance and skill. No width problems for any normal vehicle. Vehicle passing spots frequently available if less than two vehicles wide.
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Directions to Trailhead
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
Trailhead GPS Coordinates:
35° 2' 46.61"N
114° 38' 13.06"W
GPS Exchange File:
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
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.
1: Needles Highway Trailhead (3.5mi)
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 (5.2mi)
Turn north out of the wash where there is an unmarked road leading northwest to the mountains.
3: Right/North (5.5mi)
Stay generally right/north. There are tire tracks all over and the area looks confusing, but follow the most prominent tracks.
4: Obstacle (6.2mi)
Drive up the hill. There is minor undulation to the surface, but any higher clearance vehicle can get up.
7: Wash (6.8mi)
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 (10.0mi)
Continue straight/north to follow the Mojave Road. Turn left/west to reach Balancing Rock Campground.
10: Obstacle (11.3mi)
Most vehicles will drive over this obstacle with ease. Longer wheelbase vehicles, or those pulling overland trailers may drag.
11: 103 Intersection (11.9mi)
Stay straight at the intersection of NN 103. Roughly at this point, you enter the Piute Valley.
20: Pole Line Road and Fort Piute (21.7mi)
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 (23.5mi)
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 (26.6mi)
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.
27: Old Bus (37.1mi)
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.
32: Penny Can Tree (41.2mi)
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 (41.7mi)
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.
35: Carruthers Canyon Road (45.6mi)
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.
37: Camp Phallus
A quick diversion from the main Mojave Road takes you to one of the more beautiful designated camps along the road.
39: Follow Northwest On Cedar Canyon Road (48.8mi)
Follow the wide graded Cedar Canyon Road a short distance to the northwest .4 miles to a faint turnoff.
41: Watson Wash Drop In (49.2mi)
This is the most technical part of the Mojave Road. Wet weather could make this impassable for some vehicles.
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.
46: Government Holes (52.0mi)
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 (61.9mi)
Continue straight. Roughly after this point, you encounter a 10-mile stretch of whoop-dee-doos that never seem to end.
50: Mojave Camp (68.1mi)
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.
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 (73.4mi)
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!
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 (96.5mi)
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 (100.0mi)
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 (108.0mi)
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 (116.0mi)
Old mining remnants. To reach this area look for the side trail on the north side of the Mojave Road.
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 (118.0mi)
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.
64: Water Crossing - Afton - Mojave River (122.0mi)
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 (122.1mi)
Vault toilets, water, and picnic tables can be found here with 22 designated camp locations.
67: Triangles (131.0mi)
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.
69: End (139.0mi)
Turn right to hit the old Route 66 and travel south to town. To find the Mysterious Mojave Megaphone go to the nearby BL9470 - Hidden Valley Wash trail.
NOTE: (24 JAN 2017) The Mojave National Preserve website ROADS and CONDITIONS ALERTS indicates the following: "The section of Mojave Road that crosses Soda Dry Lake is impassable due to recent rains. Visitors traversing the Mojave Road are advised to detour through Baker, CA to the Rasor Road exit on Interstate 15."
Camping and Lodging
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.
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.
Questions & Answers
Offroaded on 04-08-2017
Low Temperature: 35° F
High Temperature: 82° F
Camping GPS Coordinates:
0° 0' 0.0"S
0° 0' 0.0"W
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.
Offroaded on 11-02-2016
Status: Partially Open
Low Temperature: 45° F
High Temperature: 60° F
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.