As a four-wheeler, you’ve probably spent countless hours driving the hundreds of miles of roads and trails in the Mojave Desert. Did you ever consider camping there as well? You should. Camping in the desert can be a remarkably enjoyable experience.
At 1.5 million acres, the Mojave National Preserve offers a lot of space for quality sightseeing and camping. Despite the harsh conditions, vegetation and wildlife are in abundance. More than dozen species of trees, over 60 varieties of shrubs, and several different cacti, including Old Man Cactus and Cotton Top cactus, can be found there. The Desert Sand Verbena, Lupine, Beavertail Cactus, and my favorite the Creosol bush bloom in spring, and are quite beautiful. Birds and animals you may see include hawks, falcons, bighorn sheep, coyotes, desert tortoise, and rattlesnakes.
The National Park Service encourages hiking and backpacking in the Preserve. There is no permit required for groups of fewer than 15 people.
Camping Options Are Numerous
The Preserve offers two developed campgrounds and a group campground. Sites are reserved on a first come, first served basis; the current fee is $12/night.
The Hole-in-the-Wall Campground, for example, is considered a wonderful spot for camping. It has 35 campsites, and sports pit toilets, picnic tables, and limited drinking water. There are no utility hookups but there is a sanitary disposal station. At 4,400 feet, its sculpted volcanic walls provide an incredible backdrop for the amazing scenery.
Because vegetation is sparse, you are not allowed to collect firewood in the Preserve. Campfires are allowed in the campgrounds, but you must bring your own firewood. Portable stoves are permitted. Dispersed camping is allowed in the Preserve. You may make a camp fire only if there is an existing fire ring. A good idea would be to bring your own fire pan.
Temperatures vary widely in the Mojave Desert. Daytime temperatures in the spring can range from 55 to 75 (F); at night, they drop to 45 to 60 degrees.
For more information, go to www.desertusa.com/mnp/mnp_camp.html
Be Prepared Before You Head Into The Desert
Do not take this environment for granted, regardless of your skill level. While beautiful, it can be unforgiving. Never camp alone. Before setting out, let your family know where you will be and when you expect to return.
Make sure you take enough supplies, including water, adequate clothing (don’t forget a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses), food, a first aid kit, and a functioning radio or phone. Watch your step, as poisonous snakes live in the desert. Be mindful of your own health and that of your fellow campers. Heat exhaustion and stroke are common, as is–surprisingly–hypothermia. People have been known to get caught in a freak nighttime rainstorm.
With proper preparation, your stay in the desert will be as rewarding as it is exhilarating. You will come back with a lifetime of memories and some great pictures.