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Jill Sanford | 09.12.2017

At first glance, the Mojave Desert may seem like a desolate place. It features a seemingly endless landscape of little shade, oppressive daytime heat, and frigid temperatures at night. A closer look, however, reveals the beauty of this massive desert. Coyotes prowl at dusk, strange flowers bloom from cacti, iconic Joshua trees disrupt the horizon, and jagged peaks reflect sunrises and sunsets like sounding boards, amplifying the purples and oranges the sun casts as it moves across the sky.

From rock climbing to wildflower hunting to camping, there’s no shortage of Mojave Desert adventures. Even hiking is something you can do here, although it’s best to start early to beat the midday heat.

The majority of the Mojave Desert is in Southern California and home to legendary public lands such as Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve, and Death Valley National Park. The desert extends into Nevada and corners of Utah and Arizona as well, encompassing almost 50,000 square miles of the Southwest. It’s know for the distinctive Joshua trees and extreme weathers.

While the main characteristic of summer in the desert is a blazing heat (it can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit on the valley floor), in the fall, temperatures stay between 70 and 90 degrees during the day.

When adventuring in the Mojave Desert, make sure you budget for more water and more time that you think you would normally need, even if you visit during a more pleasant time of year. Don’t rush, and if possible, get out and enjoy the landscape at dusk or dawn to see the landscape come alive with colors.

Here are eight must-do adventures in Mojave Desert: 

  1. Arch Rock Nature Trail, Joshua Tree National Park, California
  2. Twin Tanks Backcountry Campsite, Joshua Tree National Park, California
  3. Barber Peak Loop, Mojave National Preserve, California
  4. Rings Loop Trail, Mojave National Preserve, California
  5. Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, Mojave National Preserve, California
  6. Desert Studies Center, Zzyzx Mineral Springs Resort, Mojave Desert, California
  7. Petroglyph Canyon, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
  8. Alpine Butte Wildlife Sanctuary, Western Mojave Desert, California


I prefer the spring/winter to combat the heat and if you're like me and love to rock climb or boulder Hidden Valley campground is an amazing location.
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