Mojave National Preserve

 

The 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve was created in 1994.  It lies between I-15 and I-40 east of Barstow to the Nevada border.  While it is only half the size of Death Valley National Park, it is very new to the national park system and far less developed for the casual tourist, making it a great place to hike and camp far from the madding crowds.  Within the Preserve, one can climb sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, and mile-high mountains, enjoy Joshua tree and piñon pine-juniper forests, watch trains and magnificent sunsets, climb rock faces and scramble over boulder piles, and drive miles and miles of 4-wheel backcountry roads.  Within the boundaries of the Preserve is a small California State Park—Providence Mountains State Recreation Area which contains Mitchell Caverns.

 

There are two established, but primitive (pit toilets and picnic tables), campgrounds in the Preserve.  We camped for three nights at Mid Hills Campground, which is at 5,600 feet.  The first night it snowed enough to coat the rain-fly of the tent and leave a light dusting here and there on the ground; all of which melted with the first direct rays of sun.  There were at most about half a dozen campers spread around the 26 campsites.

The Preserve has no on-site visitor center, so for information, one must visit the Ranger Station at Hole-in-the-Wall Campground or one of the Desert Information Centers in Baker or Needles.  The old Kelso rail station is currently being renovated to create a visitor center.  

The Kelso Depot was more than just a depot on the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad; it also contained an employees’ boarding and rooming house and a restaurant which served as a meal stop for passenger trains.  Trains needed to stop here to add helper engines in order to be able to ascend the steep grade of Cima Hill.  The Depot was built in 1923 to replace an earlier building and was built in a style to rival the Harvey Houses on the Santa Fe.  It closed in 1985.

Mojave National Preserve Hikes

 

Kelso Dunes Joshua Tree in Bloom Sunset from Mid Hills Campground

 

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