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The most interesting direct road through the Mojave National Preserve starts in the north at exit 272 of I-15, 23 miles from the California-Nevada border, and heads southeast to Cima, south to Kelso, then exits the park near Granite Pass, where it meets I-40. The only other two paved routes into the northern section of the preserve are from Baker to Kelso, and from Wheaton Springs to Cima. There are three major routes in the east, all mostly unpaved: Goffs to Ivanpah (Lanfair Road and Ivanpah Road), Essex to Mid Hills (Essex Road and Black Canyon Road), and a connecting route between the two (Cedar Canyon Road and Mojave Road).
Roads and Sites in the Mojave National Preserve
California > Mojave National Preserve > Roads and Sites
All routes are shown on the national preserve map.
South of the turn-off for Kelso Dunes, Kelbaker Road climbs once more, reaching 4,100 feet at Granite Pass, center of a scenic area of desert dotted with granite rock formations and enclosed by distant weathered cliffs. There are some good free places to camp, away from the main road and surrounded by pristine desert vegetation with various species of cacti and yucca. Six miles to the south, slowly-moving traffic on I-40 is just discernible, a gentle reminder of civilization in this otherwise empty and quiet land. On the far side of the interstate, Kelbaker Road continues to old Route 66 (the National Trails Highway), near Amboy.
The northeast entrance to the national preserve is along Ivanpah Road initially, though most traffic soon forks off, on Morning Star Mine Road to Cima. Ivanpah Road continues, mostly unpaved, and provides access to many sites in the east. After the junction, the highway is dead straight for the next 6 miles across Ivanpah Valley, but becomes more winding once on the far side of the railway and the tiny, ruined settlement of Ivanpah. The pavement stops soon afterwards, replaced by good quality gravel, and the land rises as the road climbs towards a pass in the New York Mountains, where the surface is just a little bit bumpier. The vegetation hereabouts is dominated by Joshua trees and Mojave yucca. A few unsigned side tracks branch off into the mountains, while after the pass, Ivanpah Road descends, straightens and regains its smooth surface, now formed of hard pressed sand. Joshua trees still cover the surrounding flats, part of Lanfair Valley. Landmarks along this stretch include a working ranch, the scenic Crater Hills, an intersection with the 4WD Mojave Road and another turning (Cedar Canyon Road) that leads to the Mid Hills area; after this junction, the main route (now Lanfair Road) climbs through a low mountain range, becomes paved and exits the park several miles further at Goffs.
Cedar Canyon Road
Cedar Canyon Road runs due west from the Ivanpah/Lanfair junction, over rather less scenic land with fewer Joshua trees and more empty, sandy expanses. It bends a few times and crosses a large wash, just after which is the trailhead for the short loop hike to Rock Spring, scenically situated in a narrow, granite canyon. Not far beyond, the road reaches a low saddle and descends into a shallow valley, running alongside a dry wash to a junction (with Black Canyon Road to the Hole-in-the-Wall area) then drops down a bit more steeply along the bigger ravine of Cedar Canyon through the Mid Hills, back to Joshua tree slopes on the far side, where the pavement returns and the road, now designated Mojave Road, meets the Kelso-Cima Road 5 miles south of Cima.
Black Canyon Road
Black Canyon Road starts in the north at an intersection with Mojave Road in the upper reaches of Cedar Canyon. It climbs a little side ravine to the extensive flatlands of Round Valley which are sprinkled with piles of big, whitish granite boulders, some close to the road, popular locations for primitive camping. There are several private inholdings in the valley, as is the case all over the national preserve. An equally good, maintained side road forks off west - this is Wild Horse Canyon Road, which enters the Mid Hills, passing several valleys and ridges and as well as one of the park's three maintained campgrounds. It rejoins Black Canyon Road in ten miles, after this route becomes temporarily more uneven and washboarded, descending a valley beside a sandy wash and crossing the streamway several times, then straightening once more as it enters the open landscape of Gold Valley. The second intersection with Wild Horse Canyon Road is reached just after two short spurs, to the Hole-in-the-Wall campground and information center. This area is named for the large holes in the colorful volcanic cliffs that form a dramatic backdrop to the west; the best way to see the rocks close-up is via the Rings Loop Trail, which begins near the information center. The campground is very popular, all year, mostly with people traveling in RVs. The surroundings are certainly beautiful though elsewhere in the preserve are numerous other places suitable for primitive camping, for no charge and with no neighbors. Hole-in-the-Wall campground is in shadow in the evening due to the high cliffs to the west and is liable to be rather windy. The remaining ten miles of Black Canyon Road are paved; all is across open plains, descending very gradually, to the junction with Essex Road (which leads to the currently closed Providence Mountains State Recreation Area), from where the junction with I-40 at the southern edge of the national preserve is another ten miles south.
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