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One of the coolest geologic features in the mojave desert are the cinder cones. If you come across a road heading closer to a cinder cone volcano, you should take it. You’re sure to find something cool.

Cinder Cone Volcanos are violent eruptions that leave behind steep cones of loose cinders. But they almost always have a large lava flow from the base. And those lava flows can be worth checking out.

Mojave Preserve Lava Tube

All-Terrain Family Mojave Lava Tube
All-Terrain Family in the Mojave Lava Tube

The desert, even though everything is all out there in the open, can still hide a few surprises. North of the Mojave Road, just over half way through (from east to west) is a short side trip that’s worth your time. A quick trip up the well graded Aiken Mine Road is the Mojave Preserve Lava Tube. There’s a dirt parking area with no facilities. A short hike leads uphill to a big dark hole in the ground with a galvanized metal stair leading down into the earth.

Late in the afternoon sunlight shines through vents in the ceiling of the tube illuminating countless motes of dust stirred up by your feet creating magical beams from above. The tube is short but sweet. If you’re slender of build and adventurous you can climb out of the skylight at the end of the tube.

Rainy Day Mine

the All-Terrain Family Ford and Chevy Trucks
the All-Terrain Family Ford and Chevy Trucks near the Rainy Day Mine camp.

We camped our lat night on the Mojave Road at Rainy Day Mine. Though we didn’t see anything that looked mine like, there are a number of good campsites nestled in alcoves of jumbled basalt.

Rainy Day Mine Site 15.2 miles southeast of Baker on Kelbaker Road, then 0.3 miles northeast on the unsigned and very sandy road to the Rainy Day Mine. Four-wheel drive recommended; no RVs.

Mojave Preserve Sunset
Mojave Preserve Sunset

Fossil Falls

North of Ridgecrest, CA on Highway 395 is another Cinder cone Volcano. With another lava flow. There’s no lava tube here, that I know of, but ancient rivers sculpted the basalt into something eerily spectacular and is now known as Fossil Falls. There is campground and day use area here operated by the BLM. A short hike will take you over flat ground to overlook the channel dug into the basalt flow by water.

Shooting video at Fossil Falls
Shooting video at Fossil Falls

Never ones to stand flat footed at a vista point and snap selfies, we headed on down to scramble into the abyss. The landscape in the channel soon becomes surreal with dark and sepia toned rock that shines dully in the bright sun like an old black and white photo.

You can still see the marks that prehistoric water left on the rocks. Swirls and eddeys cut potholes, mazes and large grottos that now provide shelter from cold spring winds.

Descending into the canyon is fraught with drops and slides as slick as glass. If you’re careful you can get to a really pretty spot where the channel opens to a wide dry waterfall.

We used to come here back in the 90’s ago to climb. There was some thing fun we used to do back then and we think it’s somewhere around here…

And that’s it. Nothing left but to trundle back up the channel. Climb up the little falls, scramble through the caves, and all too soon you’re back on the surface.

Mojave Road Links and Resources

Heading Home

So here is where we end our Mojave Preserve Adventure. Where all good adventures end: Tired and dirty squinting into an afternoon sun heading toward home in no particular hurry, cause anyone who might be waiting is right here.

All-Terrain Family is created by me, Mike Henderson. Starring Danielle, who makes the filming possible by driving, shooting video, posing for video, wrangling the kids while I shoot video and generally being down with the whole ordeal. Lightning Dragon and Rocket are down for any adventure, love dirt and will suffer any hardship so long as the mac-n-cheese holds out.

Thanks for joining us on our little adventure!

Be sure to check out the other episodes in this series:

  1. Mojave Preserve Adventure Part 1
  2. Mojave Preserve Adventure Part 2
  3. Mojave Preserve Adventure Part 3


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