, you’ll take I-15 down through one of the most famous desert parks, Mojave National Preserve. With three and a half hours in the car, you’ll have plenty of time to appreciate the scenic desert landscape and unique tourist stops along the way.
($$): Grab breakfast at the Primm & Proper, located inside the Primm Valley Resort & Casino. You can’t go wrong with the avocado toast, made with poached egg, tomatoes, and wild greens on top of country grilled bread.
: About 15 minutes outside of Primm, Jean is currently home to the Seven Magic Mountains installation. Created by artist Ugo Rondinone, this public art installation consists of seven towers of neon-colored boulders stacked over 30 feet high. After marveling at this large-scale desert artwork, continue on to Primm, NV, where quirky tourist attractions await you.
doesn’t have a state lottery or participate in national lotteries like the Powerball, its southern residents trek to Primm’s Lotto Store, where eight self-serve lottery machines and many cashiers await them.
: Get your camera ready—at Whiskey Pete’s Hotel & Casino you’ll find Bonny and Clyde’s "Death Car," a V8 Ford that served as the getaway car for famous Depression-era criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Next to the main cashier stage, the bullet-ridden car sits encased in glass, a testament to the bloody end of America’s legendary criminal couple.
Primm to Amboy, CA
91 miles, 1 hour 32 minutes
Another hour and a half in the car will bring you to Amboy,
: No trip through the Mojave Desert is complete without a stop at Roy’s Motel & Cafe. Although you can’t eat a hot meal at this defunct 1940s diner, service station, and motel, you can grab a Route 66 Root Beer and some packaged snacks to tide you over until Joshua Tree. The gas station is operational, but beware—Roy’s has some of the highest gas prices on Route 66.
: Just 17 miles outside of Amboy is one of America’s most famous desert parks, the Mojave National Preserve, which features breathtaking canyon, mountain, and mesa views. Whether you stick to the main road or go off-roading through the preserve (sedan or larger required), you are sure to enjoy the majestic sights of sand dunes, cinder cone volcanoes, Joshua trees, and wildflowers in this 1.6-million-acre national park.
: Check out the Amboy Crater, a mere three miles from the town of Amboy. You can hike this 24-square-mile lava field that remains from an extinct cinder cone volcano and encounter lava lakes, flood basalts, spatter cones, and collapsed lava tube caves.
. This desert park boasts giant boulder formations, unbeatable hiking trails, and opportunities to tour deserted ranches and old mines. Bring an RV or a tent so that you can camp in the park, taking advantage of the constellation gazing afforded by wide-open night skies.
Take N Amboy Road out of Amboy to get to your destination.
($$): At the gateway to Joshua National Tree Park is the Joshua Tree Saloon, a food and live music destination that offers varied eats, beers on tap, and, if you’re lucky, celebrity sightings.
What to do in Joshua Tree
Must do: Hike the Hidden Valley Trail, a popular one-mile loop that is enjoyable for even the most amateur hiker. If you’re traveling in late winter through spring, you can admire the gorgeous succulents and wildflowers that surround the natural rock walls.
Must see: Enjoy a panoramic view of the Coachella Valley from Keys View, a lookout whose elevation is over 5,000 feet. You’ll catch sights of Palm Springs, Indio, the San Andreas Fault, and, depending on the weather, Mexico’s Signal Mountain.
Frosty’s Donuts: A no-frills donut joint, Frosty’s Donuts offers unique donut delights (Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Oreo, etc.), fresh coffee, and other baked goods.
What to do in Barstow
Western America Railroad Museum: Visit the Western America Railroad Museum, where you can tour trains and various artifacts from the historic railroads that transported people and ore throughout the Pacific Southwest.
: A 12-mile drive from Barstow will bring you to Calico Ghost Town. Originally founded in 1881, Calico was a booming town in the silver rush of the mid-1890s. Now a regional park, this California State Historic Landmark features mine tours, railroad rides, and restored historic buildings.
64 miles, 58 minutes
Before returning home to Las Vegas, stop for lunch in Baker, a small town with a few must-see roadside attractions. Who wouldn’t want to stop to explore a UFO-themed jerky depot and a gargantuan thermometer, nestled in the Mojave Desert?
($$): Don’t pass up the opportunity to eat at The Mad Greek Cafe, a favorite of travelers and locals since 1974. Although temporarily closed for renovations in summer 2021, its reopening (currently scheduled for August 14, 2021) promises to return classic Greek fare and refreshing milkshakes to I-15 travelers.
: Prepare your camera for the photo opp presented by the World’s Tallest Thermometer. At 134 feet tall, this massive steel electric structure commemorates the highest temperature recorded at Death Valley National Park—134 degrees Fahrenheit (in 1913).
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