Lava Tube Trail Mojave National Preserve California desert hike lava cave basalt

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.

Mojave Lava Tube Trail
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.

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!

Mojave Lava Tube Trail
A shaft of light illuminates the lava tube
Mojave Lava Tube Trail
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)

Trail Map
View Mojave National Preserve in a larger map
Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.

You may also view a regional map of surrounding California Desert trails and campgrounds.


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These photos were taken in May of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Kelso Dunes MojaveKelso Dunes
This 3-mile round trip hike climbs 470 feet to the highest point in this 45 square mile dune field.
Lava Tube MojaveLava Tube
This short 0.6-mile hike drops below the surface into an old lava tube.
Kelso Dunes MojaveTeutonia Peak
This 3.4 to 4-mile round trip hike crosses the world’s densest Joshua tree forest, passing an abandoned silver mine to reach a rocky summit with views of Cima Dome.
New York Peak MojaveNew York Peak
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Rings hike MojaveHole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail
This 1.5-mile loop takes visitors through a landscape of pocketed rocks. Ringbolts allow fun passage through narrow canyons.
Fountain Peak MojaveFountain PeakThis 5-mile off trail trek summits a peak with commanding views over the Providence Mountains.
Silver Peak MojaveSilver Peak
This 8.5-mile hike summits a 6,365-foot peak in the Granite Mountains.
Amboy Crater MojaveAmboy Crater
This 3-mile round trip hike travels up and into this crater adjacent to Mojave National Preserve.
California TrailsHikes in the California Desert
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
Similar Trail
Lava Cave Craters of the MoonCaves Trail in Craters of the Moon National Monument
This 1.6-mile hike travels above and below the surface, exploring lava tubes in the Great Rift Lava Flow.
Ape Cave Lava TubeApe Cave in Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument
This adventurous underground hike travels through one of the longest lava tubes in the world created by Washington’s Mount Saint Helens.
Campground MojaveMojave National Preserve
There are a few campgrounds and endless roadside camping within the preserve.
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Tagged with · Caves · Free Trails · Lava · Lava Tubes
Distance: 0.6 miles · Elevation change: 150 feet

15 Comments on Lava Tube in Mojave National Preserve

  1. […] protected by the National Park Service. Our first stop of the morning is shown above. We explored a lava tube in the cinder cones portion of the preserve. We descended into the dark tunnel by the steps above, and then studied the walls and ceiling with […]

  2. Rick Maschek says:

    Watch your head if not wearing a helmet (:

  3. Tony Espinoza says:

    Can this site and Amboy be visited on the same day? Any camping overnite?

  4. Josh says:

    Do you need offroad to get to the trailhead?

    • hikespeak says:

      It definitely helps to have a high clearance vehicle, but in the past this road has been in pretty good shape for a road in Mojave. I’ve been a few times in hatchbacks/sedans and made it up the road OK driving carefully. The last time I went the road was the worst it’s been, but I think the park does try to keep the road maintained.

    • Brett says:

      It is definitely doable, but be careful with the sand. I got stuck yesterday and spent two hours digging myself out with my bare hands.

  5. Hikespeak was an excellent resource to help me find some of the hidden gems of the Mojave. Here is a 2 minute short film showing some of the places I visited on the first of many trips to come.

  6. Joe says:

    A great adventure, went camping here for 2 days on May 2015 with my wife, we went down the lava tube and took my headlamp although it was noon and shiny day the headlamp was useful under the ground, careful with the overhead and some sharp rocks in the entrance.a speechless experience. from the pictures above the small hole with old wood around seemed to have collapsed and is no longer accessible. hiked up one of the nearest mountains (dome) later that night and was an extreme experience unforgettable, clear sky and beautiful view of the stars at night. during our time there we came across some wild rabbits, lizards
    some rodents that seem to stand up and big white spiders that seem to come out at night. I am wondering if hunting is permitted inside the Preserve?.

    • lisa g says:

      Those rodents that “stand up” are kangaroo rats. Their hind feet are oversized and shaped like a kangaroo’s do they can hop like kangaroos and jack rabbits do. Love them!

  7. Adan says:

    I was just there yesterday 6/4/16 and the main area is collapsed. Your can make it a like 20-30 feet from the ladder and that’s it. There’s rock rubble everywhere and the floor is a lot more filled in. Looks like the rains we had this past winter may have done the tube in :(

    • hikespeak says:

      That is terrible news!

    • Adan says:

      Ok. I may have been quick to judge. Last time I was out there was a bit over 10rs ago. I just saw some of the recent youtube videos and it looks like it did when I visited. I’m going to have to go back to check it out again in a few weeks and report back.

  8. Stefanie Sale says:

    When is the best time of day to photograph the light tube? Is it OK still? Are we able to accessit?

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