Mojave National Preserve, California

Photo by Matt Harding

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Much less famous than its neighbor to the south, Joshua Tree National Park, the Mojave National Preserve is a gem in its own right.

A highlight of any trip to that part of the California desert is heading out to the Kelso Dunes. According to the National Park Service, most of the Kelso Dunes accumulated between 2,400 and 9,000 years ago. Avoid the heat, bring plenty of water and enjoy the “booming dunes.” The Kelso Dunes are one of only seven dune fields in North America to produce the sounds.

Hole-in-the-Wall Campground is another favorite for explorers in the preserve. It features the popular Rings Loop Trail. Located in Banshee Canyon, it’s a 1.5-mile long hike that loops through ancient petroglyphs and a series of metal rings. 

Then there’s the Joshua Tree Forest at Cima Dome. Filled with Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), the area is most known for Cima Dome itself, which rises 1,500 feet above the desert and can be accessed via the Teutonia Peak Trailhead. 

This region is recovering from the August 2020 Dome Fire, which started by a lightning strike, burned 43,273 acres and as many as 1.3 million Joshua trees – roughly 25% of the forest in Mojave National Preserve.

Despite the fire, many healthy trees remain and the NPS is optimistic about the ecosystem’s recovery. “Although we are saddened by the loss of the Joshua trees, we are looking toward the future,” they wrote. “The bare earth in the burn area will not be bare for long. A slow-motion battle is taking place there, invisible to human eyes.”

To learn more about Mojave National Preserve and for resources on how you can help with the Dome Fire recovery, visit