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Mojave Desert: Places to Visit in the Vast American Desert

May 13, 2021 /
Mojave Desert road trip

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

The Mojave Desert occupies a vast area on the West Coast and extends across California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. It is home to many parks ranging from the most famous ones such as Death Valley to the most unknown ones, not to mention the many hidden gems and oddities that only the United States can offer.

Whatever the itinerary of your West Coast trip may be, we are sure that at least one of these parks has been included among your stops and maybe, once you finish reading this article, you will add some more. So prepare your water bottles, sunscreen, and let’s set off to explore the Mojave Desert.

Please Note: If you are only interested in the section of the Mojave Desert in California, I invite you to read our in-depth guide to the deserts of California.

Death Valley

Things to do in Mojave DesertDeath Valley is definitely the most important park in the Mojave Desert, but also one of the most inhospitable and fascinating areas in the United States, and has almost extraterrestrial landscapes.

Some places in this park, such as Dante’s Peak, have been chosen by George Lucas as the location to shoot some Star Wars scenes in California while others like the Racetrack Playa have witnessed scientifically unexplained events for years.

If you want to visit Death Valley, you have to be very mindful of the climate of the area. For this reason, I invite you to read our in-depth guide to the climate of Death Valley.

Joshua Tree

Mojave Desert parksThe main attractions of this park are the thousands of Yucca trees that, thanks to a group of Mormons, were renamed Joshua Tree because allegedly the branches of these plants reminded them of Joshuas arms that pointed to the Promised Land.

Its strength lies in the simplicity of visiting it by car, which makes it an ideal scenic interlude between one point and another during your trip to California. If you are interested in discovering all the options for visiting this park, you can read our article dedicated entirely to Joshua Tree National Park.

Lake Mead

driving through mojave desertIf you decide to visit Lake Mead, you will find yourself observing the largest artificial lake in the United States, which was created by the construction of the Hoover Dam along the Colorado River. The lake area has many access areas (nine) located on the shore both in Arizona and in Nevada. The visitor center is located in Boulder City (also very close to the Hoover Dam).

Given the size of the area, there are countless activities that can be done, including camping, fishing, swimming, and rowing. You can find all the tours and activities by clicking on the link below.

Discover all the activities to do at Lake Mead

Mojave National Preserve

mojave national preserveHave you ever thought about visiting singing sand dunes? By going to Kelso Dunes, which are located inside the Mojave National Preserve, you can say that you have. These unusual dunes are in fact the park’s main attraction and I recommend it as a stop if you’re traveling from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (or vice versa) during your road trip on the West Coast.

Red Rock Canyon

visit mojave desertNear Las Vegas, you will find this conservation area where, as you can guess from the name, the characteristic red rocks of this part of the United States are the predominant features. You can visit it by car on the scenic drive, as well as take one of the many trails that wind through the park. You can discover the best trails and all the natural attractions of this park by reading our article about Red Rock Canyon.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

mojave desert tourism

If you happen to be in this area in the spring, you’ll feel as if you were in Holland rather than in the middle of the Mojave Desert. This part of California is in fact known for having a microclimate that favors the growth of poppies.

Generally, the best time to visit is between mid-February and May. There are scenic trails leading to the top of the hills where you can stand above the area. They have the advantage of being simple but at the same time very picturesque and will allow you to take pictures that are certainly unique.

If you are planning to visit this park, know that the trails are completely exposed to the sun even in spring, so you must bring plenty of water and wear the right clothing for these weather conditions. The park is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset. To visit it, you will need to pay a ticket that costs $10 per vehicle.

Snow Canyon State Park

Mojave Desert utahAs I mentioned earlier, the Mojave Desert stretches all the way to Utah, and Snow Canyon State Park is just one example. The park is dominated by some impressive rock formations of various shades of red. You can also easily visit it with your rental car by driving along the scenic drive and stopping from time to time at the panoramic spots. You must pay a fee to access the park. More information and tips are found in our in-depth post on St. George’s natural attractions.

Fun Fact

Within the immense area of the Mojave Desert, there are not only parks and natural beauty, but there are also some curious attractions that will provide you with some nice anecdotes to tell your friends when you return home. Among the many attractions, we want to mention a few, for example, Two Pines Chapel, better known as the Kill Bill Church in Lancaster, California, the Musical Road, a road that plays a song 🙂 the tallest thermometer in the world, and Calico Ghost Town. To better understand what we are talking about, I invite you to read our in-depth guide dedicated to the deserts of California.


Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Filippo Nardelli

I have a degree in History of North America and have always been fascinated by the United States.

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