There’s no doubt that the Mojave Road, located within the confines of the Mojave National Preserve, is one of North America’s quintessential overland routes. The 140-mile desert track, located in California, is the remnants of a wagon trail once connecting the old Mojave Fort along the Colorado River, to Camp Cady, about 20-miles east of Barstow. When it comes to "the road", most articles will tell you that the road takes between 2-4 days to traverse, requires 4WD, occasionally low range in rare situations, and extensive planning. Without a doubt, that's safe and sound advice—follow it. But what if you only have a single day?
Due to some interesting circumstances this February, the leisurely 2-night, 3-day trip across the Mojave Road I had planned decided to evolve in a strange way at the very, very, last minute. Little did I know that in less than 24-hours from the time we left the pavement of Highway 95, and hit the super-slab of I-15, we'd have crossed the bulk of the Mojave Road—and that included camping overnight. We weren't rushing or speeding, we took plenty of pictures, stopped to walk around whenever we felt like it, and we even took a two-hour lunch and museum break in Kelso. It can be done—but should it?
Enjoy the pictures.
Friday, February 15th—
3:00PM: Delayed, Chris, Ben, and myself give our gear a final run-through before getting stuck in traffic and becoming indecisive at the grocery store. We decide to start the Mojave Road from its intersection with Highway 95 to save time.
5:30PM: Less than a mile off the pavement and it's already getting dark. We decide to settle in and find a place to camp.
6:30PM: PBR, Johnsonville bratwurst, and sauerkraut is served. Note: Don't let me cook.
9:00PM: Obligatory campfire photo.
Saturday, February 16th—
8:00AM: We're finally on the move, turn left to avoid bullets.
One of many long stretches of desert tracks.
The ARB Jeep Wrangler enters a small wash.
The Outback Proven Toyota Tacoma leads the way.
The ARB Jeep Wrangler meets the famous bus.
Count the gunshots and you could win a prize!
Fair warning to those who come without a prepared vehicle.
Miller Lite: Circa 1990's.
We ran into another group of Expedition Portal members on the trail—great people.
Joshua Trees abound!
If you're traveling the Mojave Road, a detour to Kelso should be considered obligatory.
The famous "Beanery" lunch room serves the most depressing $15 meal you'll ever eat, but it's "history".
The gentlemen contemplate life at a scenic overlook along the route.
We've made our latest edition to the Mojave Road mailbox.
Ben takes his turn signing the book.
4:00PM: After reaching the mailbox, you'll come to an interesting outcrop of lava flows. Further exploration will reveal lava tubes.
5:00PM: A sunset at Soda Lake is something you must experience.
It's hard to imagine how far away Ben's Tacoma really is.
The sun is about to set, and by-the-way, if you attempt to cross Soda Lake after it rains you will get stuck.
The sunset brought out every color of the desert.
The sun sets on Soda Lake, in the distance lies Afton Canyon.
5:30PM: Some choose to bring a rock and leave it at the Soda Lake cairn, it's a nice foreground for the setting sun.
5:45PM: At a leisurely pace, we're on our way back to pavement.
Should you run the Mojave Road in a day?
Traveling is a very personal activity, and I'll never recommend someone rush an experience—ever. There are a lot of things I missed, for example, I really wanted to see Afton Canyon, and the start of the trail from the beginning in Needles. There's also a million little side trips that I certainly didn't have time for; clearly I need to come back. If you're looking for a scenic trip that covers a lot of distance in about a day, maybe give the Mojave Road a look in that specific light.
Can you drive the road in a day? Yes, we did it, and quite comfortably and easily. Between all three of our vehicles, including a Tacoma with only stock suspension and more aggressive tires, no one in the group required 4WD at any point of our trip. Careful driving and airing down our tires was sufficient for the current conditions of the road.
That being said, I think the Mojave Road is more than just simply completing a road from point to point.
I can't wait to go back, but this time I think I'll do it on a Vespa—I'm serious.
We’ve published quite a few articles on the Mojave Road, if you’re looking for step-by-step details, GPS coordinates, how to prepare your vehicle, and what to expect from the terrain—I highly suggest reading these articles:
Crossing the Mojave Road: 160 Mile Adventure - Scott Brady
The Mojave Road - An Unexpectedly Peaceful Family Drive - Marianne Hyland