Escaping Winter's Chill
The Mojave, Sonoran, and Great Basin deserts meet in this huge 1.6-million-acre national preserve in southeastern California, fashioned as a park in 1994. Almost half of the Mojave National Preserve is designated wildernessno automobiles, no bikes. Just you and your own two feet in supreme desert isolation among sand dunes, volcanic cinder cones, Joshua tree forests, and boundless views from mile-high mountains. The area ranges from creosote bush dominated flats in low areas to pinyon pine and juniper woodlands in higher elevations. Besides a plant community that includes 70 percent of the vascular plants known to occur in California deserts, over 300 different species of animals and 200 species of birds have been spotted in the preserve.
The Preserve has two established trails. The 8.4-mile Mid Hills to Hole-in-the-Wall Trail travels through a goodly stretch of wonderful country, with many breathtaking views of the Mojave's stately mountains. Among the plant communities you will walk through are pinyon pine and juniper woodlands, Great Basin sagebrush, blackbrush scrub, and several cactus gardens. You'll find the other trail, the four-mile round-trip Teutonia Peak Trail, on Cima Dome. This trail wanders through the world's largest Joshua tree forest.
However, you don't have to restrict yourself to the official trails. Hiking opportunities abound along ridge lines, desert washes, and old mining roads. Winter is the time to come to the Mojave. You'll find the weather mostly cool and pleasant, occasionally frigid, but with nary a snow flurry. Come in late winter or early spring and witness the desert in bloom while the Sierra Nevada Mountains are still walloped with snow.
Other activities: The unpaved roads in the nonwilderness areas of the Mojave are made to order for mountain bikers.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication