A Volcanic Walking Experience at Amboy Crater


A Love Your Parks Tour #OneHourWalk Story assigned by Dr. Jackie Eubany

On October 25, 2020, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced 30 new national recreation trails in 25 states, adding more than 1,275 miles to the National Trails System. This is in addition to the 370 miles of national recreation trails that were designated back in 2018.

“I encourage Americans to get outside, enjoy our incredible public lands, and visit a nearby national recreation trail. Spanning more than 83,000 miles, larger than the interstate highway system, the National Trails System provides easy access to a wide variety of outdoor experiences,” said Secretary Bernhardt. 

The National Trails System, which includes national scenic, national historic, and national recreation trails, offers an abundance of scenic, historic, and recreation trails for outdoor enjoyment on America’s public lands. The system promotes the preservation, public access, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas, and historic resources of the United States.

One of the newly designated National Recreation Trails is at Amboy Crater in Southern California’s Mojave Desert region. You can access this National Natural Landmark right off historic Route 66 in Mojave Trails National Monument.

This spring, as part of our visit to Twentynine Palms, we visited Amboy Crater to experience what is one of the youngest volcanic fields in the country. A dramatic lunar landscape greeted us with rugged chunks of lava surrounded by a vibrant array of wildflowers, ancient blooming creosote sprawling through desert washes, and panoramic views out to the crater and surrounding mountains.

 The 1.5 mile-long Amboy Crater Trail leads hikers from the parking lot and picnic area through the desert and lava fields and out to the top of the symmetrical Amboy cinder cone volcano. Reaching 250 feet high and spreading out over 1,500 feet in diameter, the crater is a combination of ash and cinders. A breach on the west side shows where basaltic lava poured out into a field of lava lakes, spatter cones, and collapsed lava tubes and sinks. If it’s not too hot when you reach the cone’s center, you can hike right into the caldera or climb up one of the steep trails to the rim to take in the expansive views of the iconic Mojave Desert.

The trail is maintained and has rest areas along the way. Fall through spring is a good time to visit, especially in the early morning. Plan on 2-3 hours, and because temperatures can go to the extremes in heat, be sure to bring plenty of water and check the local weather before you head out. There are shaded and unshaded picnic sites, restroom facilities, and an ADA ramada overlook. There is no admission.

Recognized for its geological significance, Amboy Crater was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973. It is worth visiting when exploring California desert parks such as Mojave Trails National Monument, Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Death Valley National Park.

Amboy Crater Natural Landmark is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For more information, visit https://www.blm.gov/visit/amboy-crater-national-natural-landmark


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