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Mojave Road

4.8/5 (49 reviews)
Baker, California (SanBernardino County)
Last Updated: 10/17/2022

Trail Information


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.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

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 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. Video: Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3 -
Impassable when wet.

Trail Reviews

4.8/5 (49)
Rated 5/5
Visited: 02/27/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

Great trail if you enjoy history. Loved the thousands of years of indigenous use even before the explorers, miners, cowboys and now wheelers.
Rated 5/5
Visited: 02/16/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We just took a group of sixteen 4x4 Sprinter vans across the preserve from 2/16-2/20 and had a blast. Because of the size of our group, we requested a permit and the NPS staff gave us several great options for group camping along the route. Conditions were excellent and we even crossed Soda Lake in our ~10K pound vans without issue. It's worth noting that Kelbaker Road was closed north of the visitor center, but Kelso-Cima Road was open in both directions. We also did bypass the wash at Cable Road by taking Cable Road to the south for 0.2mi to connect to to Cedar Canyon Road. The road just beyond the wash was very eroded and was a little too off-camber for our top heavy vans to cross comfortably. Our lead van did run it, but we made a judgment call to have the rest of our caravan bypass that portion. Sandy sections were a highlight for our group as we really got to open it up a little. The water crossings in Afton Canyon were a non-issue. Spooky Cave/Slot canyon was definitely worth a stop. Bring a headlamp because it is totally dark and you'll need both hands to scramble up some sections. We had plenty of clearance to cross under the trestle bridge on the way to Afton Campground, even with some of our vans pushing 11 feet in height.
Not Reported
Visited: 01/19/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

I'm only adding information about the yellow bus, it was moved to the Goff Cultural Center maybe in 2020. The video link shows the bus is there. Our TC group has done this trail a few years ago.
Rated 5/5
Visited: 01/03/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We ran the trail from 1/3 to 1/5 from East to West and it was a great way to start off the new year. This trail has been on my bucket list for quite some time and finally answered the question, "What is all that land south of the 15"? The breadth of environments we saw during the trek were vast. From rocks to rivers, to mountains, dunes, and grasslands it's hard to believe all of this is here in the middle of the desert. I cannot recommend this adventure highly enough, yet I am grateful that it takes dedication and capability to access this area which helps to keep it wild. A couple of notes that may be helpful to the community. 1. Our group was an overloading prepped LX470, Stock current gen 4 Runner, and a Subaru Forester with skid plates. The Subaru was up on 2 wheels a few times but otherwise had no issues making it across the trail. We were glad to have a group with us for the ride; we all had kids and enjoyed sharing the wilderness with them. 2. 3 Days was enough to run the trail entirely in daylight during short winter days and fit in a couple of adventuring stops each day. 3. We camped at Camp Phallus on the first night, it was beautiful but cold. The campsite was plenty big for our group and there are several campsites in the area so there should always be something available as long as the trail is not too busy. 4. Night 2 was spent on the north side of the lava flow a couple of miles before 17 mile point. The lava flow provided great shelter from the wind but I would not camp here if there were heavy rain in the forecast. 5. Piute Pass is open and we had no issues making it through. I would however include mild to moderate off-camber in the list of concerns for this area. If another major storm comes through I would not be surprised to see this trail become impassible once more. 6. We chose to bypass Watson wash, the ruts are deep and it was slightly muddy and not worth the risk for any of us. 7. The weather was rainy, but only something like .16" total. This made for beautiful skies and stunning light, and kept the sand from being too loose. The dry lake bed was fairly muddy, but none of the washes were too deep. By following the established tracks across the lake bed, we kept moving forward. 8. The water crossings were not a problem for any of our vehicles, not even the Subaru!
Rated 4/5
Visited: 11/27/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

We were on the trail Nov 25, 26, 27, and went east to west following the TOR app and the Mojave Road Guide book. We saw many other solos, and a few groups along the way. Everyone was super nice and helpful along the way. This was my first MR trip, and we tackled it in our stock Gladiator Mojave with no problems, while pulling our Oregon Trailer Do Drop. The trip was awesome! We spent the first night near Camp Phallus (cold) and the second night at Afton Canyon Campground (also cold) The water crossings were good, but navigation through the dunes after dark was challenging as daylight is cut short this time of year. Also, after the last train bridge you cannot go straight. You must turn right, and follow the fence line until you end up in the wash. This will keep you safe from the Riparians hiding in the river bottom.

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