Mojave National Preserve, established in 1994 and administered by the U.S. National Park Service, is located in California, due south of Las Vegas (map). The primary feature of the park is the 1.6 million acres of grand desert vistas and the solitude. The preserve includes 800,000 acres of designated wilderness (50% of the preserve!), three major mountain ranges, 600-foot-high sand dunes, jumbled piles of rocks, volcanic cinder cones with lava flows, dry lakes, and wildflowers.
Activities in the preserve primarily are orientated around sightseeing (nature and history), camping, day hiking, and off-highway driving (not off-road driving). People also backpack, picnic, ride horses and bikes, and hunt in the preserve. Guided tours are available of Mitchell Caverns [closed due to budget cuts], a California State Park within the preserve.
Mojave National Preserve is located in the Mojave Desert, with biotic influences from the Great Basin Desert (at higher elevations) and Sonoran Desert (at lower elevations in the eastern portion of the preserve). Elevations range from about 800 feet on the western dry lakebeds to about 8,000 feet in the northern mountains. The lower-elevation desert-scrub areas are dominated by scattered Creosote Bush, White Bursage, a few lizards, Jackrabbits, and Desert Tortoises; the middle elevations are floristically diverse with many species of shrubs, forbs, cacti, and lots of Joshua Trees; and the higher-elevation areas are dominated by Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands with Big Sagebrush, Mule Deer, and Bighorn Sheep. The variation in topography and soils makes for a mix of habitats and a diverse flora and fauna. Bugs unique to Mitchell Caverns add an interesting flavor to the biotic diversity.
Temperatures in lower-elevation areas are similar to those in Las Vegas: daytime summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees, while daytime winter temperatures often stay below freezing. Higher-elevation areas are cooler than lower-elevation areas, but summer temperatures still exceed 90 degrees and they get snowed-in during winter. Because of the high summer temperatures, hiking generally is best during October through May. Afternoon thunderstorms are common during July and August, creating flash flood and lightning hazards. Temperatures inside Mitchell Caverns remain at about 65 degrees all year.
Services inside the preserve are limited. This is wild country, so bring what you need. Outside the preserve, Baker, Searchlight, Fenner, and a few other small towns provide the usual small-town services, including gasoline.
For More Information on Getting to Mojave National Preserve, Hours of Operation, Entrance Fees, Car Camping, Hiking Permits, Local History, Mitchell Caverns, Precautions, Rules and Regulations, and Links to More Information, visit the Mojave National Preserve Area Overview Page.