It’s incredible the wonder that lies between our interstates. Places that many will never see because our fast-paced lifestyle has us glued to the pavement in an effort to get from point A to point B the quickest way possible. When we bought our truck camper we vowed to avoid interstates as much as possible. Sure this means more gas and longer travel times but it always pays off with breathtaking scenery, charming small towns as well as less stress thanks to the slower pace. I should also note that we actually get incredible gas mileage by taking it slow and doing 55 on small highways rather than 75 on interstates.
Since making that vow six months ago, I feel like I’ve seen more amazing places than ever before. A great example is the Mojave National Preserve in California. I grew up in L.A. and Lake Havasu City, AZ so Interstate 40 is quite familiar to me. Always considered a boring drive, I never would have guessed anything remotely cool existed between L.A. and Havasu. Dirt, bushes and Barstow. That’s about it. Enter our truck camper and newfound wandering eyes and in December we discover this place called Mojave National Preserve. Run by our National Park Service, Mojave National Preserve is a 1.6 million acre expanse that lies in the middle of Interstates 15 & 40. South of Vegas and East of L.A., it’s quite accessible but often passed by. The Preserve is home to Cima Dome and Volcanic Field, Mitchell and Winding Stair Caverns, Kelso Sand Dunes and the world’s largest Joshua Tree forest. I’m still amazed that so much cool stuff exists in a place I’ve passed by most of my life and never thought twice about.
In December, we left the pavement behind for the dirt road that would take us deep into the Preserve and spent two nights soaking up all its glory. We barely scratched the surface of all this hidden desert gem has to offer and plan to go back soon. On our way home we passed a few remote camp sites set among the Joshua Trees and sandstone boulders (reminiscent of Joshua Tree National Park) that having me itching to go back.
Going for a walk on the road that led to our campsite.
For this trip, we sought out a larger than usual campsite as we met up with some friends from Vegas. Note to anyone interested in camping in the Preserve, this was the only dispersed site we found that was this large and this flat. Anyone camping with a trailer or larger RV will probably want to stick to the campgrounds withing the Preserve.
Camping hazard/entertainment: On our second night our camp was overtaken by wild horses. Luckily we didn’t leave anything but our chairs and table out but they took their time trying to find something better.
Mojave National Preserve camping details:
- Campsite GPS coordinates: 35˚02′ 06 N, 115˚24′ 52 W
- Campsite Elevation: 4,234′
- We found dispersed camping opportunities to be available but not plentiful
- Developed campgrounds: 2
- Tip: Lots of washboarded roads. Airing down our tires made driving in the Preserve much more comfortable
- Tip: Although dogs are allowed, cactus is everywhere. We had to watch their every step and still were in need of the first aid kit more than once.
If you’ve ever been driving down the interstate and have gazed off in to the distance wondering where that road goes that winds off in to the hills, go find out. You won’t be disappointed. (Just be smart and make sure you have plenty of gas and some supplies as you’ll be leaving the plethora of trucks stops and fast food chains behind)