If you read our post on Exploring the Mojave Preserve, you might remember that the basic premise for this park is a place for self discovery, adventure and exploration. This extends to where you will stay as well. Given that there is no town anywhere nearby and the park itself does not provide any accommodation options, camping is essentially the only option if you wish to really explore the park rather than just driving through.
Researching for our first visit to Mojave felt daunting as there seemed to be little information or photos on where to stay. Therefore, I thought I would outline some of the possible options for camping in the Mojave National Preserve (with kids) that we came across during our visit.
Being such a massive park, it is unique in that there are only 2 designated campgrounds. This is good and bad. For people who need to be near running water and pit toilets, it means that you will have stiff competition during high season. For everyone else, the beauty of this park is that it allows for roadside camping. What this means is that you can essentially camp wherever you would like (within reason, and without trampling vegetation in the process!). The biggest caveat for roadside camping is that you can only build a fire where there are existing fire rings.
Luckily for you, there are some really great hidden places with fire rings that are perfect for camping. I will only share the two roadside campsites we personally camped at, but if you really want to get off the beaten path, ask the park rangers at the Kelso Depot or Hole-in-the-Wall stations for more information. You can also try your luck at finding some of these listed on the Mojave National Preserve website (which I see our recommendations are also listed on).
Note that all campsites at the Mojave National Preserve are first come, first serve. There is no firewood available for purchase in the park and collection of firewood or kindling is not allowed within the park, so bring your own.
Hole in the Wall Campground
Hole in the Wall Campground is probably one of the most popular of the two established campgrounds. This campground is a paid campsite ($12 per night), has access to facilities like pit toilets, trash, water and fire rings.
We were less than impressed with the Hole in the Wall campground as it’s right off the main road. It felt basic and functional rather providing a feeling of being immersed in nature. With 35 campsites (accommodating RVs and tent camping) tightly packed together, I imagine this campground to be noisy at night.
Regardless of how the campsite looks on the outside, it is surrounded by great places to explore and hike and is a good base to set yourself if you don’t have time to get off the beaten path.
Mid Hills Campground
Mid Hills Campground is the second of the two established campgrounds in the preserve. It is a mixed bag due to the Hackberry Fire that burned much of the vegetation and trees in the area in 2005. Twelve years later, the trees still have no foliage and provide little shade in many of the 26 campsites. Even with this pitfall, the campground is pretty, provides more privacy and connection to nature and has an eerily cool feeling about it.
There are still a few sites that were somehow bypassed during the fire and have plenty of tree cover. The quest is trying to find these, especially if you visit during high season. During offseason you will have a greater chance of getting of these. If you have a choice, our favorite is site #11. It is close to the the restroom but not too close, has a great amount of space at the site itself as well as plenty of area to explore behind the site.
All sites at this campground are located near pit toilets, trash receptacles and potable water pumps. Each individual site has fire rings and picnic tables. For those arriving in RV’s (even the JUCY), note, there are no dump station or utility hookups.
The fees are $12 per night which needs to be paid in cash or by check at the drop box. Pick up on envelope on your way into the campground so you don’t have to go back.
Also note that this campground is at a little higher elevation, and is subject to wind gusts at times!
This is a beautiful hidden gem that you would be hard pressed to find on your own without some guidance. It’s about a mile off the main road on a small dirt road that is easy to miss (I know this, because we did several times!). But this is one that is worth seeking out. Unfortunately it’s not that unknown by Mojave fans, so it will be packed if you arrive late in the day or during high season. But it’s worth a shot!
In order to get there, you will need to know which direction you are arriving from. We were driving from the Kelso Depot and followed the directions provided by a park ranger. Continue on Kelbaker Road past the Kelso Sand Dunes turn off. Up ahead you will see a radio tower on the left. Right before this, on your right hand side there is a small unmarked dirt road. It is mostly flat and easily passable except after torrential downpours.
Continue on this road for a short while. You will begin to see spurs off the left leading to different campsites. Often times you can’t even see if anyone is at the site until you get right up to it. Our recommendation is to go about 1 mile down the road and start with the furthest site working your way back up towards the road to find one that is open.
If you are arriving from I-40, set your milage for 6.1 miles. As you pass the Granite Pass overlook, you will come around a bend with a road leading up a big hill. It is not the big hill, but a small road just past that on your left. Follow the directions above to find a campsite.
The park recommends that only high clearance vehicles use this road and no RV’s, however we easily drove in/out in our JUCY mini-van. We also saw several RV’s parked there as well. Just take stock of the road before you go too far to make sure your vehicle can make it.
This is our favorite site in the park. Truly off the beaten path camping where you are surrounded by beautiful views, wild animals and absolute solace.
The sites here are first come, first serve and do not require any fees. There are no restrooms or running water facilities here. There are fire rings at each of the sites, but no picnic tables.
The Kelso Sand Dunes are one of the top attractions at the park and for good reason. This is a great place to camp if you wish to make sunset or sunrise hikes up to the top. This is a very easy site to access, which means that it is often very popular. Even during offseason, we were hard pressed to get a spot with a fire ring. Arrive early to set up your camp if you wish to stay here.
The sites around Kelso Dunes are located about 1/4 mile past the dunes trailhead. On your let you will see one fire ring which signifies a campsite. Continue on another 1/4 of mile and you will see a turn off on the right. Follow this small dirt road to a wide opening with a handful of fire rings and plenty of places to set up camp. If you arrive too late, you can still camp here, you just cannot build a fire.
Again as this is a roadside campsite, there are no facilities here other than fire rings. However, if you really need a restroom, you are close enough to drive back to the trailhead where there are pit toilets.
Keep an eye out for kit fox, coyote and other animals as the sun begins to set. Get up early to explore the sand dunes to track critter prints too!
Have you camped at Mojave National Preserve? Did you find a wonderful hidden gem you can share?
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