“Long ago, Mohave Indians used a network of pathways to cross the Mojave Desert … The paths were worked into a military wagon road in 1859. This ‘Mojave Road’ remained a major link between Los Angeles and points east until a railway crossed the desert in 1885.” – California Historical Landmark No. 963, Los Angeles, CA
The remaining accessible Mojave Road connects the site of Beale’s Crossing, on the Colorado River near Needles, CA, to California Historical Landmark No. 963.1 – Camp Cady, on the Mojave River near Barstow, CA. The majority of the route passes through the Mojave National Preserve, and is a popular four-wheel-drive road. However, some terrain features require vehicles to bypass segments of the original Mojave Road. More information about the current route and its history is available from the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association: https://mdhca.org/
From the Colorado River in Nevada, the route crosses farmland and the Needles Highway before it enters a wash and ascends just east of the California border. Traveling on foot facilitates movement up the dry waterfall at Granite Spring. At the crest of a ridge, the route turns west, crosses the state line, and enters the Mojave Trails National Monument. The mountain range on the horizon is inside the Mojave National Preserve.
The remains of Fort Piute sit just inside the boundary of the Mojave National Preserve. The original Mojave Road follows the trails past these ruins, and enters the Lanfair Valley. The route through the Preserve crosses train tracks and two paved roads, but predominantly remains in remote stretches of desert decorated with Joshua Tree forests, creosote, and a variety of cacti. The dry Soda Lake marks the western limit of the Preserve, beyond which is the Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Area and then Afton Canyon, again inside Mojave Trails National Monument.
The deep water crossing at the Afton Canyon Campground can harbor a hazardous quantity of bees. To avoid attracting their attention, descend the slope near the train bridge and cross the dry stretch of the wash. After the campground in Afton Canyon, the route follows the wide wash of the Mojave River. In places, Interstate 15 is visible to the north. Approximately one mile south of the intersection with the Manix Wash, the Mojave Road reaches marked private property bounded by a barbed wire fence. An access road leads west around the property for the final four miles to the marker for Camp Cady, and the end of the trail.
I'm attempting a Mojave Road East to West unsupported female hike starting in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow, January 16th. I'm counting on collecting naturally-occurring water at mile 23.7 and about mile 115. There may be springs in between, but they're unreliable. If there is no water at 23.7 I will be turning around or bumming water off a passing four-wheeler, in which case the trip would become a supported hike. You can follow me here: https://share.garmin.com/FreeRange