Taking a Mojave Desert road trip hadn’t been in our plan when we set first set out on our cross-country road trip from California to Illinois. When we decided to add the Hoover Dam to our list, though, visiting the Mojave became practically unavoidable – and boy, am I glad that we didn’t miss out.

What to See on a Mojave Desert Road Trip

The Mojave Desert Mountains

Prior to visiting the Mojave, I had always imagined the desert as flat expanses of sand with no end in sight. It was to my complete surprise, then, when we started to drive down the scenic drive off of I-15, that we saw mountains upon mountains coming into view.

Road leading towards a mountain at Mojave Desert National Preserve
a sandy looking mountain behind a field of yellow

I was completely astounded by the vast diversity of plant life that there was to be found and couldn’t help but stop to take as many pictures of it all as I possibly could. What can I say? I’m a nature photographer at heart, and finding flowers in the middle of the desert was the most amazing thing to me (even though I know it’s really not that uncommon).

yellow flowers on a bush framing a mountain
a yellow flower bush

The Joshua Trees

The Joshua trees were another favorite of mine. I couldn’t get over how crazy they looked. I’ve always loved the individuality of nature. Seeing all of these Joshua trees in one place, each one completely unique from the one next to it, was like something out of a dream for me. That dreamlike feeling was only enforced when it started to rain.

a field of joshua trees with mountains in the background

If there was one thing that I learned on our short jaunt into the Mojave, it was that one should never underestimate anything – especially the desert. I think that so often I build up locations in my mind, and by going into the experience blind, I was really able to enjoy every second, getting completely swept up in it all. It’s definitely something that I (and my planning-oriented mind) would do well to remember.

How to Take a Mojave Desert Road Trip

A Mojave Desert Road Trip is the perfect detour from Route 66 or on a trip between LA and Las Vegas. Here are a few quick things you’ll want to know:

  • Driving through the park on a Mojave Desert road trip is actually 100% free! The park is open 24 hours/day, so you can drive through whenever.
  • Routes 15 and 40 both skirt along the outer edges of Mojave National Preserve. From there, you can take a detour onto one of several roads to take you through the preserve.
  • Be sure to stop by the Kelso Depot Information Center, a renovated train station!
  • If you want to extend your Mojave Desert road trip, check out the campgrounds!

Planning a big California road trip? Check out these other posts!

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Addie Gray is a recent college grad and a passionate solo female traveler. Having traveled to more than 20 countries, she now shares her knowledge on budget travel, solo female travel, and travel photography.


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