A field of cinder cones stands out dramatically from the surrounding Mojave Desert between the city of Baker and Kelso Depot Visitor Center in Mojave National Preserve. Within the lava field is a short trail leading to a tube formed long ago by molten lava. A ladder takes hikers down into the tube where skylights (holes in the rock ceiling) illuminate a subterranean world.
From the trailhead, hike 0.18 miles up a rough jeep trail. Turn right at the first junction onto a single-track trail, and continue 0.1 miles past two holes in the ground to the tube entrance. An impressive metal ladder has been cemented in place to enable access to the tube below.
The entrance of the lave tube
Descend the metal steps and turn left, climbing down boulders that once made up the ceiling of the tube. Beyond the boulders, the bottom of the tube is flat and dusty. Make your way beneath a low hanging ceiling and enter the main chamber. A flashlight is a handy thing to have through this dark crossing.
A shaft of light illuminates the lava tube
The ceiling rises and the tube opens up on a shadowy room exposed by a spotlight of sunlight. The chamber is only a couple hundred feet long, but is a place worth lingering in. Explore the walls of dark hardened lava and take pictures in the dramatic lighting. As an added bonus, the lava tube is a great place to escape the heat up on the surface. No fee or permit is required to hike Lava Tube Trail in Mojave National Preserve, so get out and enjoy!
Looking up through the hole in the ceiling of the tube
To get to the trailhead: From Kelso Depot Visitor Center, head west 15 miles on Kelbaker Road. Turn right on the unmarked Aiken Mine Road (the turnoff is 19 miles form Baker for those coming in the opposite direction). Drive north on Aiken Mine Road past water tanks, corrals, and cinder cones. Take it slow over this rough road, which should be passable for most vehicles. After 4.5 miles, turn left at a fork in the road, following a sign for the lava tube. Drive another quarter mile to the parking area at the trailhead.
Trailhead address: Unnamed Road off Aiken Mine Road, Mojave National Preserve, CA 92309
Trailhead coordinates: 35.213776, -115.753147 (35° 12′ 49.59″N 115° 45′ 11.32″W)
Use the map below to create your own directions:
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Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
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|Mojave National Preserve|
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