Let’s be honest, hearing the term “desert” does not usually follow with the thought “oh my gosh, let’s go explore there!”. To many, trips to the beach or mountains is much more desirable.
But hopefully this post will change your mind on that and put a new perspective on all the adventures you can actually have in the desert.
And what better desert to hone in on than the Mojave Desert , which stretches throughout California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Now, when most people think of the desert, they mostly imagine empty land and scorching temperatures. But contrary to this belief, the Mojave Desert actually has nearly 2,000 different species of plants and an overwhelming abundance of life. Furthermore, because it is a high desert, the temperatures range from 0 °F to 130°F—where else in the world can you experience such radical changes in temperature?
Still not convinced that the desert is not for you unless it has two “s”’s in it (dessert)?
Well, did you know there are some must-see locations you don’t want to miss out on in the Mojave Desert? So grab a friend, grab lots of water (as you are at high elevation) and grab a car to take an epic road-trip through the desert.
1. The Valley of Fire
Famous for its red sandstone formations, the Valley of Fire is an intense pop of colour amongst the endless stretch of sand. Located on the outskirts of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (and less than an hour drive from the Vegas Strip!), this State Park has been home to a slue of famous movies, including Star Trek, Mars and Transformers.
The park has a ten mile stretch of road that will allow you to see everything from within the comfort of your air-conditioned car, but the extreme adventurist can take on the hiking treks. I lasted less than ten minutes walking through the hot sand, so my hats go off to anyone who attempts to walk the whole thing!
2. Hoover Dam
Continue straight on Nevada State Route 169 from the Valley of Fire to one of the most impressive engineering feats in American History—the Hoover Dam!
Choose to walk across or drive across the dam and you will be instantly taken aback by the immense drop in water levels, which showcase the sheer grandness of this dam. Even with significant drops in water levels, the dam’s powerhouse generates enough hydro power for nearly 30% of Southern California, 20% of Nevada and 18% of Arizona. Damn, Hoover.
Less than 2 square miles in area, the tiny town of Goodsprings is full of history and quirky finds—with the most spectacular being the Pioneer Saloon. This saloon is the oldest in all of Nevada, raking in over 100 years of hospitality, booze, bar-fights and even shootings (in which you can still see the bullet holes through the walls!).
Today, the Pioneer Saloon is also home to a memorial for Clark Gable (from Gone with the Wind, duh!) and Carole Lombard, as it was home to the search party operations after Carole’s plane crashed nearby. Make sure to also check out the evening ghost tours for some serious heebie-geebies.
4. The World’s Tallest Thermometer
The main attraction to the town of Baker, this 134ft thermometer commemorates the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth—134°F in Death Valley during the summer of 1913. Make sure to check out the gift shop to see a display of currency from around the world from visitors who have also stopped to appreciate the modern advancements like technology that makes triple digit temperatures bearable.
5. Zzyzx Road
Yes, that is the real name of a road. And yes, it has taken me two decades of driving past it to actually explore the road to find what is at the very end: an abandoned health spa/resort!
And what is located at the end of this road most certainly doesn’t disappoint. The prehistoric quarry site turned health spa got it’s name Zzyzx from developer Curtis Springer, claiming that it was the last word in the English Language and therefore, would be easily found in anyone’s phone book.
The health spa only lasted until 1974, but has recently been converted to a Desert Studies Center by California State University. And while I struggle to find the proper adjective to describe exploring an abandoned health spa in the middle of nowhere, I can tell you that it is worth the extra effort to find it.
6. Joshua Tree National Park
This is where the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert meet, and it is truly spectacular! The park itself is named after the Joshua tree, in which the park is absolutely abundant in! This park is perfect for rock climbing, camping, hiking, star-gazing or just a simple drive through. Make sure to keep an eye out for road-runners, tree frogs and golden eagles.
The park may also be familiar to any Eagles fans out there, as their music album cover was shot in this park.