Destination Mojave

Motorsports Mecca, some of the best desert riding anywhere

Published in the April 2013 Issue April 2013 Powersport News Lane Lindstrom
There are lots of reasons to visit southern California: Disneyland, sunny beaches, professional sports, great weather year-round. And on and on and on.

High on our list of reasons to visit would be the great off-roading in the state. Some of the best desert riding anywhere is in southern California. The western Mojave desert, and more specifically around the mining town of Randsburg, is one of those places that is very high on our list of must-rides.

After a great day of riding in the western Mojave, which ended far too soon as far as we were concerned, we took a look at a map (put out by the Friends of Jawbone - of the riding area and realized what we saw and experienced was only a small fraction of the area’s trails.

Our Mojave Desert guide for the day, Yoshimura’s John Haskell, confirmed to us that while we covered a lot of miles during our media intro to the Arctic Cat Wildcats, we barely scratched the surface. In fact, Haskell, who really knows these parts, told us there are enough loop trails to keep riders busy for at least two weeks.

Still, we think we got a pretty good taste of what there is available (along with a healthy dose of California dust) and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this riding area to just about anyone who likes off-road riding. And it really doesn’t matter what their skill level might be, the western Mojave Desert can accommodate.



Looking back, if we were forced to pick just one word to describe the overall riding area around Randsburg and the western Mojave Desert, we would say “variety.”

The area has multiple trails. And then some. The area is literally laced with trails covering all types of terrain from flat, fast, crossing-the-desert trails, to tight, twisty trails, to washes, to whooped-out suspension-testing trails, to hillclimbing (and steep descents) and more gentle hills, to a little bit of rock crawling, to scenic vistas. And that’s just what we experienced.

Indeed, the Mojave Desert is vast, covering more than just a big chunk of southern California. The Mojave spills over into southern Nevada and into the southwest corner of Utah and western edge of Arizona—just about 54,000 square miles in all.

We covered just a small part of the western Mojave but the Friends of Jawbone map covers a much larger area, as far east as Trona and China Lake Naval Weapons Center and as far south as Kramer Junction (where U.S. Highway 395 and California Highway 58 intersect) and California City. To the west you can ride almost to the border of the Sequoia National Forest, while to the north you can ride to Ridgecrest.

Our one-day ride had us leaving Randsburg and heading west and a bit north out of town on the R110 trail, a fairly straight, fast (not too many bumps) trail. Randsburg (elevation 3,523 feet) sits just over the hill from Johannesburg in the Rand Mountains and is a little more than 100 miles from Ontario and the LA basin.


Sweeping Views

The trail from Randsburg gradually drops down a gentle slope, dropping a few hundred feet the farther you get from town, which offers some pretty sweeping views of the surrounding desert. We continued on R110 across Garlock Road to trail 146 which snakes up Goler Gulch, gaining elevation as you go. This was an especially fun stretch of trail with some tight turns as we climbed toward the El Paso Mountains. One spot we stopped high in the mountains offered an amazing view of the surrounding mountain ranges, the desert below and several drainages.

Haskell told us before the ride started that there are several mine shafts and miners working their claims still dotting the landscape in this part of the Mojave Desert. Indeed, we passed a couple of miner’s camps and saw some mines during our ride. Haskell’s advice to us is just as applicable to other riders and that is to be respectful of the miners you might pass on the trail and be very cautious if you’re walking through the desert, as some mines are not marked.

Back to our ride. From trail 146 we jumped on to EP15 and headed toward Last Chance Canyon. There are some incredible rock formations in Last Chance Canyon, some towering over the trail when the trail gets close to the walls of the canyon. There is a wash in the canyon, which surprisingly enough, had some running water in a couple of spots. Last Chance Canyon was a fun ride.

After the canyon, we then jumped on EP100 and headed down Mesquite Canyon for a lunch break. The trail through Mesquite Canyon was also fun except for the dust, which hung in the air in the canyon.


View From The Top

After lunch, we went back up EP100 through Mesquite Canyon and headed over to trail Nos. 137 and 138 up to Walsh Cabin (elevation 4,512 feet). It was up near Walsh Cabin we found an unmarked mine.

The views from Walsh Cabin are awesome. Looking to the south you can see the San Gabriel Mountains, which sit above the LA Basin, and are more than a 100 miles away. You can also see Randsburg, which is much closer. The January air was clear the day we rode and you could see a hundred miles in most directions from the cabin.

Our ride was coming to a close and it was time to head back to Randsburg. We once again rode through Mesquite Canyon on EP100 on our way to R60 and finally on to R30 into town. R60 was a real suspension tester, as the whoops were prominent and came often. We were in the right vehicles for that kind of trail so it was fun to blast through the whoops.

The weather was great the day of our ride. It was close to 60 degrees F, which is a bit higher than the January average high of 54 degrees F in this area of the Mojave Desert. Temps in the dead of summer are in the high 90s so that’s not unbearable, but spring and fall are ideal times for riding. Even the “coldest” months aren’t that bad. That means there’s not really a bad time to ride the western Mojave.

There’s plenty of information available, too, on the riding around Randsburg and the western Mojave, that we simply didn’t have room to share with you in this issue. Certainly the Jawbone website is a good start. Or in person, go to the Jawbone Station on California Highway 14. For information on Randsburg go to

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