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 desert surface.

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

Mojave National Preserve does not change an entrance fee and no permit is required to hike Lava Tube Trail, so get out and enjoy!

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: 35.21378, -115.7532 (35° 12′ 49.6″N 115° 45′ 11.5″W)

Trail Map
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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
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This 3-mile round trip hike climbs 470 feet to the highest point in this 45 square mile dune field.
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Tagged with · Caves · Free Trails · Lava · Lava Tubes
Distance: 0.6 miles · Elevation change: 150 feet

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26 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 wrote:

    Watch your head if not wearing a helmet (:

  3. Tony Espinoza wrote:

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

  4. Josh wrote:

    Do you need offroad to get to the trailhead?

    • hikespeak wrote:

      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 wrote:

      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 wrote:

    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 wrote:

      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 wrote:

    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 wrote:

      That is terrible news!

    • Adan wrote:

      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 wrote:

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

  9. Roman wrote:

    Hello, I was curious if anyone knew of a place in the Mojave, Death Valley, or Monument Valley that resembles a Basalt formations similar to that of Giant’s Causeway? The reason I ask is cause two years ago I made a trip across the US. I came to this place there I thought the road led me into a dead end monument style formation, shaped like a question mark. Going into this place I noticed the rocks were of a thin column style arrangements, broken pieces littered the entire floor. When you get to the other side of the monument you go through a stone arch. Does anyone know where this is? The Road number would be great. Thanks.

    • Sam wrote:

      Devils postpile has hexagonal basalt formations as seen in giants causeway, it is near mono lake.

  10. Thomas Burke wrote:

    With the sun so low in the sky in november is there a good time of day to enjoy the sun rays angling into the tube? I would assume noon is probably optimal. Any recent visitors to confirm this? I will be out there with my son over Thansgiving.

    Thomas Burke's ratings for this hike: Thomas Burke gives a rating of 2Thomas Burke gives a rating of 2Thomas Burke gives a rating of 2Thomas Burke gives a rating of 2Thomas Burke gives a rating of 2
  11. Daniel Ihlenfeldt wrote:

    Just visited. It’s definitely all still accessible as far as I can tell. We took a little sedan on that dirt road and while I never felt like we were in danger of being stuck it was pretty badly washboarded, the whole drive was about 10-12 MPH. Also the light in the winter is pretty great still but the beams hit the walls pretty high up due to the sun’s angle. If you want the vertical beams like the pictures you’ll need to go closer to June.

  12. Chris wrote:

    Just visited the tube, looks like the right side might have collapsed many years ago but the ladder is still there and all the pics you see above is exactly what it’s like. The dirt road to get there is rough and I had an suv so we averaged about 15 mph but we saw a sedan there so they made it. The hike is like 5 min. Super cool to see all that lava in the middle of the desert!

  13. Stephanie LaFever wrote:

    Is there a hotel near the light tube we can stay at?

  14. Stephanie LaFever wrote:

    What time can I get the light tube in July?

  15. […] from your alarm clock and the working world’s daily bustle sound appealing? If so, then the lava tube in the Mojave National Preserve should be your next travel […]

  16. Tevan wrote:

    Thanks for this! Your post and GPS coordinates got me there ??

  17. […] Lava Tube is located about 5 miles off of Hwy 63. The top of the lava tubes (or simply “Lava Tube” as it’s commonly referred to) is only accessible via a 5-mile dirt road. Three holes in the ceiling of the lava tubes allow sunlight to shine beneath the cave floor. […]