Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mojave National Preserve, 4/24/2016

Three of North America's four desert systems (Great Basin, Sonoran, and Mojave) meet in this 1.6-million-acre national park, the Mojave National Preserve, that was established in 1994. Located between Las Vegas, NV, and Barstow, CA, there is a wide variety of habitats here including the pinyon-juniper woodland, Joshua Tree woodland, cactus-yucca scrub, desert dunes (known as the Devil's Playground with dunes 700' tall), creosote bush scrub, and desert wash. Half of the park is wilderness and there are two small campgrounds. The Mojave Road was a trail used for centuries by Native Americans and then settlers that cuts through the middle of the preserve. There are three campgrounds here (one permits horses/equestrians) and roadside camping is permitted in some areas. 

There are two visitor centers and we made plans to visit both since it is quite a distance from where we are staying in Barstow to reach them (about 2 hours drive time). Our first stop was the Hole-the-Wall Information Center. The rock formations here are amazing.

We hiked the Hole-in-the-Wall Ring Trail (1.5 miles) that begins and ends near the visitor center. Because this is a National Preserve our doggy, Sadie, was allowed to accompany us on the hike. The trail is so name because there are two steep sections that have ringbolts that are used as hand and foot-holds to climb up the narrow trail. 

Trail skirts a rocky area where various cacti were in bloom and passes rocks of Native American petroglyphs.

The trail continues through creosote bush scrub with lots of mesas in the distance. 

Following the trail we came to cactus-yucca scrub and some very interesting rock formations. 

Yep, that's where the trail leads through the narrow Banshee Canyon. You can see the rings that we used to climb up the trail. Sadie had a little trouble navigating this section (and so did I), but John helped us both!

The trail ended near the visitor center. What a great hike! 

Next we drove to the Kelso Depot Visitor Center (about an hour drive on both dirt roads and the paved Mojave Road). Along the way we saw cattle and passed this ranch (private property operated by 4 generations of a ranching family). 

It opened as a rail depot in 1924 and also served as a restaurant and employee housing on the Los Angeles/Salt Lake City route of the Union Pacific Railroad. Today it is the primary information center and museum for the Mojave Preserve.  

There is lots more to see here. As always, our National Park System does an awesome job in preserving these unique lands. There is no admission fee here. For additional information on hiking trails and points of interest, check them out online. 


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