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Amboy Crater Trail

The 1.5 mile long Amboy Crater Trail takes hikers through a sprawling lava field and to the top of the iconic Amboy cinder cone volcano. The view from the 984-foot rim will awe you as you take in the vastness of the Mojave Desert, where faraway cars on desert highways look like miniature toys against this epic landscape.

photo: The iconic Amboy Crater as viewed from Route 66

Length: 2.25 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Backcountry, Nature Trail
Agency: Bureau of Land Management
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Camping
Dogs - Off leash
Dogs - On leash
Equestrian - Riding
Heritage and History
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Wildlife Observation

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Location: In Mojave Trails National Monument, near Amboy, CA.
State(s): California
Counties: San Bernardino
Longitude: -115.781350
Latitude: 34.55705300684647

Driving Directions

From Twentynine Palms, take Amboy Road east/north approximately 45 miles to Route 66. Head west for 1 miles then south to the parking lot and trailhead.

Description

Amboy Crater is an iconic Mojave Desert feature, visible for miles in every direction. The crater was a significant landscape feature that helped guide travelers on Route 66 on their way to a new life in Los Angeles. The 1.5 mile trail takes you through an extensive lava field to the base of the crater, where you can hike up a breached wall of the volcano and up to the rim. The view from the top provides a birds-eye perspective on the sprawling Mojave Desert, where faraway cars on desert highways look like miniature toys against this epic landscape. The blow sand in the lava field provides habitat for a surprising diversity and density of lizards including whiptails, Desert Iguanas and the iconic Chuckwalla. In the spring, especially after a wet winter, visitors are greeted with immense flower displays that one might consider impossible in such a harsh environment. Fields of desert sunflower and sand verbena standout against the black lava. Amboy Crater is the perfect Fall/Winter/Spring hiking destination on a road trip through the Mojave Desert, whether your destination is Los Angeles, Las Vegas or places beyond.

Despite its remote location, Amboy Crater is well loved by residents in Twentynine Palms, Barstow and Needles as a destination to exercise or take out-of-town guests. The trail is popular with Marines from the nearby Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center for physical training, recreation or relaxation. Teachers and students love visiting Amboy Crater. It’s not uncommon to see school groups from all over the United States and world visiting this iconic destination to study geology, geography and volcanology. Close proximity to the world famous Route 66 means that visitors from around the world regularly visit Amboy Crater. The crater has been featured in magazines, movies and other pop-culture references for more than 60 years.

The trailhead for Amboy Crater includes a paved access road off Route 66, shaded picnic tables, an overlook and the cleanest pit toilets in the Mojave. Along the trail, two benches and shade structures provide resting spots for hikers. Water is not available at the site.

The dark, wide open valley, combined with easy paved access and picnic tables make for the best night sky viewing in Southern California. Far from any sources of light pollution, night time visitors to Amboy Crater experience the wonder and beauty of the night sky in one of the darkest locations in California.

Amboy Crater is public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of Mojave Trails National Monument. The Crater is a focal point of the Monument and is featured on the portal sign artwork and other outreach associated with the Monument. The 1.6 million acre Mojave Trails National Monument is a stunning mosaic of rugged mountain ranges, ancient lava flows, and spectacular sand dunes. The name of the monument was given to reflect the history of long travels and temporary habitation, from ancient native tribes to the Spanish explorers, the railroad builders, Route 66 and World War II training camps, and to today’s visitors in search of something larger than life.

Amboy Crater is the most visited destination within Mojave Trails National Monument and has hosted numerous community events including star gazing parties, campfire stories and events to celebrate the anniversary of the Monument designation. According to a 2019 Government Performance and Results Act visitor satisfaction survey, Amboy Crater is extremely well loved by visitors to the site, scoring an overall satisfaction measure of 98%. Of survey respondents, 82% reported a very good overall quality of experience (the highest rating), 16% reported a good experience and 2% reported an average experience. No respondents recorded a poor or very poor experience.

The Bureau of Land Management partners with the Gateway Community of Twentynine Palms and the Mojave Desert Land Trust to host public events, star gazing parties and volunteer projects. In 2019, volunteers from the Mojave Desert Land Trust and the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps participated in three trail building days to maintain and improve the hiking trail, focusing on expanding the width of the trail to accommodate groups. The BLM and Mojave Desert Land Trust plan on hosting annual trail maintenance days in association with the anniversary of the Monument designation in early February.

In 2019, the Bureau of Land Management has focused on improving visitor safety at Amboy Crater. Seasonal signs warn of excessive heat in the summer and discourage people from hiking during periods of excessive temperatures. Working with partners and volunteers, the BLM improved the quality of the hiking trail by widening the trail, delineating the path over lava flows and removing rocks and other debris in the tread. The result of the trail work is a trail that is easier to follow, faster to hike on and safer.

WARNING: Hiking in the summer is not recommended. Temperatures in Amboy can exceed 120 degrees and the lava radiates heat. Regardless of the season, hikers are advised to pack extra water and wear appropriate clothing, including closed toed shoes. The collection and harassment of wildlife is not permitted.

Additional Details

Width: 36 inches.
Primary Surface: Sand
Secondary Surface: Rock, smooth

Average Grade: 15%
Maximum Grade: 20%
Elevation Low Point: 672
Elevation High Point: 984
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:
2020

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Google Map File: Google Earth file with centerline of Amboy Crater Trail, including slope.
Website: Amboy Crater

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Park Ranger:
Noelle Glines Bovio
Monument Manager
Bureau of Land Management
1303 South U.S. Highway 95
Needles, CA 92363
(760) 326-7000
[email protected]

 

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