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The Mojave Road or Mojave Trail is a historic off-road route across what is now the Mojave National Preservemarker. A traditional thoroughfare of desert-dwelling indigenous, the road also served European missionaries, conquistadors, and colonists in the 1700s and 1800s by leading them between watering holes across the Mojave Desert. The watering holes recur at intervals of about 60 to 70 miles. The trail is long and usually requires 2 or 3 days to travel.

Fracisco Garcés traveled the trail with the expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza in 1776. José María de Zalvidea, the zealous Franciscan administrator of Mission San Gabrielmarker also crossed the trail in 1806, reportedly converting five indigenous Mohave Indians near present-day Hesperia. In 1826, Jedediah Smith became the first American to travel the Mojave Road from Utah to California.

The land passed to American hands in 1848, and the trail came under the purview of the US government. Army posts were established at Fort Mojave in 1859 and at Camp Cady in 1860, with smaller outposts along the trail and regular patrols. The army protected the settlers and travelers from the raids of the nomadic indigenous people and opened the way for agricultural development in Victor Valley.

The eastern end of the Mojave Road begins at the edge of the Colorado Rivermarker north of Needles, Californiamarker and the western terminus lies near Afton Canyon at the Manix Wash. It is sometimes referred to as the Mojave Trail.

Landmarks on the Mojave Road

East to West

  • The Colorado Rivermarker - Where the trail begins -mile 0
  • Piute Creek - Natural spring with trees and plants growing all year round. -mile 23
  • Fort Piute - Next to the spring, this fort was built in 1867 by the US infantry -mile 23
  • Lanfair Valley - Cattle ranches have been here since 1880. -mile 34
  • Indian Hill, Indian Well - North of the Mojave Road at mile 40, there is an old well of debatable origin. -mile 40
  • Joshua Tree Forest - The road gets very narrow in this thick forest in Lanfair Valley. -mile 47
  • Rock Spring - The biggest watering hole along the Mojave Road. The stream flows down large boulders. There is an old cabin here. -mile 49
  • Government Holes - Another water supply near Rock Spring, with an old concrete trough -mile 52
  • Cedar Canyon - The highest point of the trip, crossing the Mid Hills you will reach elevation -mile 56
  • Kelso-Cima Road - In the middle of the trip, this is the last paved road you will see for a long time -mile 62
  • Marl Springs - Another spring with a primitive concrete trough. -mile 70
  • Mojave Road Mail Box - Sign your name at this solitary flagpole and continue on. -mile 74
  • Willow Wash - Heavy sand alongside the Cinder Cones lava flow, parallels Kelbaker Rd. -mile 77
  • Kelbaker Road - The paved road between Baker and Kelso Junction.
  • Soda Lake - A large dry lake; proceed with caution. You may have to drive around in the winter - mile 97
  • Soda Springs (Zzyzxmarker) - Small private building on the edge of Soda Lake
  • Travelers Monument - Also known as Government Monument, travelers carry a rock across the dry lake and add it to the pile -mile 100
  • Rasor OHV Area - Open use area -mile 103
  • Sand Dunes - There are a few soft sand dunes along here that you can play on -mile 106
  • Afton Canyon - Deep canyon with steep walls and plenty of scenery -mile 116
  • Mojave Rivermarker crossing - The only water crossing on this trail -mile 121
  • Manix Wash - The exit point of the Mojave Road -mile 133


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