Hiking tips

Tips for Visiting America’s Hottest Desert

The Mojave Desert is considered the hottest desert in the United States and sits in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is located primarily in southern California and Nevada, although parts extend into Arizona and Utah. The Mojave Desert is famous for its landscapes, national parks and rich ecosystems and is considered a hot desert. It is the most visited desert in the United States and one of the most accessible.


Off-roading in the Mojave Desert is one of the fun daytime activities you can do while staying in Las Vegas (which itself is located in the Mojave Desert). Las Vegas is by far the largest city in the Mojave Desert and is the gateway to many desert attractions.

What to know about the Mojave Desert

The Mojave Desert is one of four major deserts that make up the largest North American desert – the other three being the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Great Basin deserts. Of these deserts, the Mojave Desert is the smallest and the driest. Interestingly, the Joshua tree is found exclusively in the Mojave Desert.

  • Tree of Joshua: Found only in the Mojave Desert
  • States located: California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah
  • North American desert: Composed of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, Great Basin, and Mojave deserts
  • Type: hot desert

Paradoxically, the Mojave Desert is often called a “high desert” due to its normal elevation of between 2,000 and 4,000 feet (610 and 1,220 m) – and yet it also includes Death Valley – the lowest site from North America.

  • The lowest point: The Mojave Desert has the lowest point in the Americas

Fortunately, the ecology of the Mojave Desert is relatively stable and much of it is protected. It is considered one of the best protected ecoregions in the country.

Related: Mojave National Preserve is Home to Joshua Trees (and More Adventures)

Why the Mojave Desert is Worth a Visit

“Mojave preserves a diverse mosaic of ecological habitats and a 10,000-year history of human connection to the desert. Offering many opportunities to experience desert landscapes, the reserve promotes understanding and appreciation of increasingly threatened resources. of the Mojave Desert. This remote reserve encourages a sense of discovery and a connection to wild places.”

National Park Service

The Mojave Desert is home to two national parks and a national preserve. In addition to these, other protected areas include Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve, Desert Tortoise Natural Area, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Mean Lake National Recreation Area , Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Valley of Fire State Park and Snow Canyon State Park, Red Rock Canyon State Park, and others.

Mojave National Parks:

  • death valley national park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Mojave National Preserve

If one wishes to explore the Mojave Desert, start with these National Parks and Preserve. Alternatively, Fire State Park is the oldest and largest of Nevada’s state parks and takes its name from its red sandstone formations (known as Aztec sandstone). It’s also an easy day trip from Las Vegas.

Given the number of national parks, preserves, state parks, and refuges in the Mojave Desert as well as its relative proximity to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular tourist sites in North America.

Related: Valley of Fire State Park: A Day Spent in Nevada’s Largest and Oldest State Park

Things to do in the Mojave Desert

Some top activities include dozens of off-road adventures (especially around Las Vegas) and water sports (like in Lakes Mead, Mohave, and Havasu). Some people even enjoy sweltering in Death Valley with some of the hottest temperatures on record while others enjoy experiencing the remarkable Joshua trees that grow around the desert.

Activities The Mojave Desert:

  • Off road
  • Camping
  • Watersports (on Lake Mead)
  • Eco-Tours
  • View Joshua Trees
  • Trek
  • Visit ghost towns
  • Visit archaeological sites

There are also many other very different attractions in the Mojave Desert, such as the Calico Ghost Town and the Calico Early Man Site (which may be the oldest or one of the oldest archaeological sites in the United States).

Thanks to the many parks and reserves and the presence of Las Vegas, the vacation capital, the Mojave Desert is one of the most accessible deserts in the world. There is no shortage of visitor centers, guided tours, hiking trails, access roads and desert campsites.

If you want to find accommodation in the Mojave Desert, consider staying at Joshua Tree Inn or other accommodation near Joshua Tree National Park.