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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Mojave National Preserve - Spring 2012 - Ideas?

    So the folks and I are entertaining the idea of a mini excursion (Roadtrip #6A if you will) in the next few months. (No big trips for any of us this year due to time and budget, y'all know how that works.)

    We're thinking of a 4-5 day roadtrip that would have us re-visit Death Valley NP in a little more detail (in contrast to the quick taste from 2007, where we missed Scotty's Castle and Dante's View), and also cover the wide swath of desert that is the Mojave National Preserve. I didn't realize the plethora of geological features there. We've passed right by it so many times on previous roadtrips, but never thought about what it had to offer.

    I'm thinking in the time frame of mid- to late-April since that usually seems to be peak times for wildflowers (if the season turns out), although with the mild weather we've had so far, I wouldn't be surprised if peak time showed up much earlier, if at all.

    I've read Mark's report from 2002, so I already know Kelso, Hole-in-the-Wall and the Sand Dunes are definitely on the list (provided the hiking isn't too strenuous). But how about things like the Granite Mountains? Rock Spring trail? Mitchell Caverns? Zzyzx? Any particular roads with spectacular scenery? We'll have 2-3 days to explore this area so I'd love recent feedback from past visitors about their highlights.

    I'm also looking into local accommodations (I wouldn't mind camping but mom has quite a few personal objections about that, haha). We have a few free nights saved up at the Best Western chain but the closest ones are Ridgecrest and Needles, which isn't the most optimal solution as far as distance goes (maybe Ridgecrest as a viapoint between Death Valley and the Preserve) but are there other places that are economical yet comfortable?

    Just trying to get a feel for what we're getting ourselves into. :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Las Vegas is the most reasonable lodging

    Hey Joey,

    Yeah, I love the Mojave Preserve area -- it's really incredible to see from the air. I chartered an aircraft to do some aerial photography a couple of years ago. So many cinder cones. Speaking of Zzyzx, here's one of the aerial photos of this place.

    There are dozens and dozens of old mining camps in the area -- although you pretty much have to have a guide to find any of them. This is the book I use for that purpose.

    There's no real good reason for traveling from Death Valley to the Mojave Preserve -- but if you do do that, you might enjoy seeing the Ruth Gold Mine area.

    Ridgecrest is fine -- but I'd recommend that you stay in Las Vegas and do day trips into the Preserve. However since you're going back to the Mojave -- there is one more place that you could make your base camp. It's a little funky -- but one of the coolest motels in California -- lots of history and famous celebrities have stayed there. The Twenty-Nine Palms Inn at Twentynine Palms -- which also makes a logical base for exploring Joshua Tree National Park.

    My report might be dated 2002, but I was there two weeks ago -- I drive through a part of the Preserve a couple of times every single month!


  3. Default

    Mid-April is a good time to go. Since we’ve had next to no rain out here, I doubt if we will have any wildflower bloom. If it rains like heck here in February, then the bloom would be more like early May and at higher elevations.

    Mitchell Caverns is closed indefinitely. There are lots of roads to explore, but this depends on your vehicle. Many dirt roads are passable by high clearance 2WD. Needles and Primm, Nv are the best bet for accommodations. From Zzyzx/Baker, the south end of Death Valley is only an hour’s drive. Lots to see there!

    I invite you to see our intro tour of the Mojave National Preserve and check out our blog for other trips in the area.

    Have fun!

    Cliff Bandringa
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-04-2012 at 05:15 PM. Reason: Sorry, but first-time posters are not allowed to post their own sites

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Thanks for the local intel

    A lot of good information on your site, thanks for the post and welcome to the Great American RoadTrip Forum!

    I've left the link to the tour ... but new members have to post here for a while before off-site linking is allowed.

    By the way, the photos in the video tour (in the link above) are really quite excellent for showing a taste of what there is to discover in the area!

    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-05-2012 at 12:22 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Good to know!

    Thanks Mark and Cliff,

    Oh yes, forgot about Primm. Haven't stayed there since I turned 21 (hehe). Definitely a prime spot for the Preserve. Which of the three hotels would you recommend? For late-April, Whiskey Pete's looks to be the most economical (even on weekends) but how are the rooms? I stayed at Buffalo Bill's back in '98 (rode the Desperado... whee!) but don't remember the quality. That hotel and the Valley Resort seem to be somewhat more expensive.

    Seeing as how rates are way cheaper on weekdays, maybe it's better to go the Preserve first (Wednesday through Friday) and then head north to Death Valley for the weekend and use a free night at Ridgecrest. Still have to decide for sure on that...

    As for the Preserve... good video on the website, and thanks for the heads up about Mitchell Caverns. A shame it's closed but not like we've never seen caverns on our trips before.

    I'm thinking of making the Kelso Dunes and Teutonia Peak trails top priorities, but being around 3 miles each that's testing the limits of our hiking abilities. I can probably do it, but my folks at their mid-70s may say otherwise (although they do try and walk a mile every morning around the block). As long as there's not much elevation gain we might be OK. What say you?

    As for Hole-in-the-Wall... is that an easily accessible feature? Do we have to descend down that wall with the rings in order to see the full effect? Just getting a taste for what's worthwhile in that vicinity.

    Lastly, is Zzyzx worth stopping by? It seems to be more of an educational center than anything, which is fine but we're more after the visuals.

    So much to research for such a short trip. :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tustin, California, United States

    Default Finally shaping up...

    Well, it seems that my Dad has 4 free nights at the Hilton in Vegas, so looks like we'll be staying there after all for the latter part of the trip. Combine that with one free night at Best Western in Ridgecrest, and our accommodation budget will be quite manageable.

    Mark, I wonder if you'll be around RTA HQ April 26th-29th? We could definitely stop in and say hello!

    I think I've got a general sense of what we'll be doing:

    April 24th - Death Valley NP [North] (Scotty's Castle, Ubehebe Crater, Mequite Sand Dunes, Stovepipe Wells), overnight Ridgecrest
    April 25th - Death Valley NP [South] (Badwater, Artists Drive, Dantes View, Furnace Creek), overnight Ridgecrest
    April 26th - Ridgecrest area (Petroglyph Canyon, Trona Pinnacles, Ruth Gold Mine you recommended), overnight Las Vegas
    April 27th-29th - Mojave NP (still figuring out the day trips for each of these days)

    Just need to put in my vacation time and make reservations for Scotty's Castle on the first day. Getting there slow but sure! Mark let me know if we can make a pit stop at the HQ!


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