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Amboy Crater
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Mojave National Preserve
Amboy Crater
Amboy CraterConcrete trail (view W from the edge of the pavement)

Overview

Amboy Crater is a volcano -- a fresh volcano -- that stands some 250 vertical feet above the surrounding terrain, which is a lava field partially covered with windblown sand. The volcano last erupted about 10,000 years ago, so the land looks fresh and raw.

The 3-1/4-mile, round trip, trail to the summit leaves the trailhead and winds among ridges of lava, then sets out across open terrain covered with loose sand and a few sand-loving plants and lizards. The trail wraps around the west end of the cone, then climbs into the crater via a lava "waterfall." Inside the crater, several trails lead to the rim from where the 360-degree views are grand.

If the marines on the nearby 29 Palms Marine Corps Base are out playing with their big toys, they can add eerie, earth rumbling sounds to the "inside the crater" experience.

Link to map. See BLM Amboy Crater brochure (pdf).

Amboy Crater
Information sign beyond the picnic tables (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this hike is pretty safe. There are plenty of places to stumble off a steep hillside, but there are no unusual hazards along the trail. There is little shade along the route, so this hike is best done at cooler times of year, but two shade shelters are helpful.

On the volcano, hikers follows use-trails that were not well designed or placed, so be careful on steep, loose terrain, and stick to the existing trails and do not start new ones.

The corner of the 29 Palms Marine Corps Base lies a mere mile from the volcano, so be careful if unexploded ordinance is found, and don't stray too far southwest from the crater.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this is a short hike, be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

Amboy Crater
Information sign (view S)
Getting to the Trailhead

Amboy Crater is located south of Mojave National Preserve, about 2-1/2 hours south of Las Vegas. From town, drive out to the Mojave National Preserve Visitor Center at Kelso, California.

From the Visitor Center, continue south on Kelbaker Road. Drive over the mountains, exit the National Preserve, and continue south under Interstate 40. From the interstate, drive due south 11.5 miles to a T-intersection with National Trails Highway, also known as Historic Route 66.

At Route 66, turn right and drive west through the "town" of Amboy and crossing over the railroad tracks. After crossing the railroad tracks, Route 66 passes Amboy Road (to 29 Palms) on the left. In another 1.1 miles, Route 66 arrives at Amboy Crater Road, on the left.

Turn left onto Amboy Crater Road and drive 0.5 miles to the end of the road. Park here; this is the trailhead.

Amboy Crater
Some text on the information sign (view S)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01) at the southwest end of the parking lot, a cement trail leads west to a large information sign (Wpt. 02) at the far edge of the picnic area.

Beyond the information sign, a carsonite sign indicates that the trail runs west along a sandy route, but then in only a few yards, it bends left around a lava flow and runs through S-curves among lava ridges before emerging into a sandy plain. Watch for carsonite signs and concrete monuments that mark the trail. The trail continues southwest across the sand, but watch for trail markers on highpoints in the near distance.

Crossing the next lava field, the trail passes the first shade shelter (Wpt. 03) and winds generally south following the sandy path through the lava ridges.

Amboy Crater
Smaller sign near the large information sign (view N)

From a highpoint, such as highpoints are on these flat lava flows, the trail runs southwest across a broad sandy plain heading towards the center of the volcano. Near the base of the volcano, the trail bends right and runs up to a cement monument (Wpt. 04) with a shiny metal sign about desert tortoises. The more useful information on the sign is the arrow pointing towards "Amboy Crater."

Out in this area, the trail can be hard to follow and the markers are a bit sparse, but if the trail is lost in the shifting sands, hikers can simply hike towards the west edge of the volcano.

Continuing from the tortoise sign, the trail runs west to another shade shelter (Wpt. 05), then continues southwest, but now wrapping around the base of the volcano.

Amboy Crater
Carsonite signs mark the trail (view SW)

Approaching the west end of the cinder cone, which is not visible from earlier on the trail, it becomes apparent that the west wall of the cinder cone collapsed as lava welled up within the crater. The lava spilled out making a "frozen waterfall" of lava here, and the use-trail runs up along the edge of the lava flow (Wpt 06).

The use-trail climbs steeply to the top of the "frozen waterfall" (Wpt 06), which is the level of the base of the crater. Continuing east into the crater, the trail forks (Wpt. 08). The trail left leads to the rim of the crater, but it makes a good way to come down.

Still continuing east into the crater, the trail runs up onto a low ridge (Wpt 09), which is one of two inner craters. After the main wall of the crater collapsed and the lava flowed out, this ridge formed a dam that held lava inside the crater. The dirt covered flat area below is part of the second-to-last lake of lava that once filled the crater. Just ahead to the east is another low lava ridge, and it too holds a flat, dirt covered area -- the very last of the lava lake.

Amboy Crater
Concrete monuments mark the trail too (view SW)

From this point, use-trails lead north, east, and south to the rim of the crater above. It probably makes for the best volcano experience to turn right and hike south, climbing onto the south edge of the rim. From there, hikers can turn left and hike east, circling all the way around the rim of the cinder cone to the north edge (Wpt. 10).

After enjoying the grand scenery inside and outside the volcano, the route continues west along the edge of the rim until the use-trail cuts back down steeply inside the crater to the rejoin the main trail (Wpt. 08). Following the main trail back, the route exits the crater (Wpt. 07) to the flats below, then winds around the the north side of the volcano and sets out across the sandy flat on the way back to the trailhead (Wpt. 01).

Amboy Crater
Lava ridge, creosote bush, and sand
Amboy Crater
Carsonite sign on a highpoint (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Concrete monument marks sandy trail (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Desert Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa)
Amboy Crater
Sandy trail winds among low lava ridges (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Hikers setting out across sandy plain (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Hikers approaching the first shade shelter (view SW)
Amboy Crater
First shade shelter (view SW)
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Amboy Crater
Highpoint, exiting lava ridges onto sandy flats (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Carsonite sign on sandy flats (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Hikers on sandy flats (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Sandy flats (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Metal tortoise sign (view N)
Amboy Crater
Hikers approaching the second shade shelter (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Second shade shelter (view SW)
Amboy CraterSandy hills leading towards west side of cinder cone (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Sandy flats on northwest side of cinder cone (view S)
Amboy Crater
Sandy flats on northwest side of cinder cone (view S)
Amboy Crater
Hikers approaching the collapsed wall of the volcano (view S)
Amboy Crater
Hikers starting up along edge of "frozen waterfall" (view SE)
Amboy CraterHikers starting up along edge of "frozen waterfall" (view SE) Amboy Crater
Steep, loose trail along edge of "frozen waterfall" (view SE)
Amboy Crater
Hikers climbing along edge of "frozen waterfall" (view E)
Amboy Crater
Hikers at the lip of the crater (view E)
Amboy Crater
Hikers in the crater (view E)
Amboy CraterHikers in the crater, just past fork in the trail (view E)
Amboy Crater
Hikers in the crater (view E)
Amboy Crater
Hikers climbing onto first lava dam (view E)
Amboy Crater
Mud-filled crater bottom (view E from first lava dam)
Amboy Crater
Hikers on first lava dam (view N)
Amboy Crater
Mud-filled crater bottom (view SE from first lava dam)
Amboy Crater
Hikers climbing towards north edge of crater rim (view N)
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Amboy Crater
Hikers arriving at north edge of crater rim (view N)
Amboy Crater
Hikers on north edge of crater rim (view NW)

Summit Views

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more to come ...

Returning to the Trailhead

Amboy Crater
Hikers on the north rim (view W)
Amboy Crater
Hikers on the north rim (view W)
Amboy Crater
Hikers departing the north rim (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Hikers descending back into the crater (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Hikers arriving at fork in the trail (view SW)
Amboy Crater
Hikers atop the "frozen waterfall" (view E)
Amboy CraterHikers descending from the crater (view NW) Amboy Crater
Hikers arriving on desert flats (view N)
Amboy Crater
desert flats (view NE)
Amboy Crater
Hikers returning towards second shade shelter (view NE)
Amboy Crater
Hikers crossing sandy flats (view NE)
Amboy Crater
Hikers crossing lava flow (view NE)
Amboy Crater Amboy Crater
Amboy Crater
Hikers at first shade shelter (view NE)
Amboy Crater
Crossing sandy flats (view NE)
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Amboy Crater
Hikers returning to the picnic area (view NE)
Amboy Crater
Hikers returning to the trailhead (view NE)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Amboy Crater Trailhead 611884 3824395 647 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Amboy Crater Trailhead Info Sign 611825 3824405 648 0.04 0.04 GPS
03 First Shade Shelter 611553 3823931 670 0.41 0.45 GPS
04 Tortoise Trail Sign 611200 3823396 683 0.55 1.00 GPS
05 Second Shade Shelter 611004 3823366 708 0.14 1.14 GPS
06 Base of Gully 610825 3823065 750 0.27 1.41 GPS
07 Top of Gully 610899 3823028 827 0.06 1.47 GPS
08 Trail Forks 610920 3823033 832 0.01 1.48 GPS
09 Center of Crater 611004 3823031 852 0.06 1.54 GPS
10 North Rim of Crater 611037 3823171 947 0.11 1.65 GPS
08 Trail Forks 610920 3823033 832 0.14 1.79 GPS
07 Top of Gully 610899 3823028 827 0.01 1.80 GPS
06 Base of Gully 610825 3823065 750 0.06 1.86 GPS
05 Second Shade Shelter 611004 3823366 708 0.27 2.13 GPS
04 Tortoise Trail Sign 611200 3823396 683 0.14 2.27 GPS
03 First Shade Shelter 611553 3823931 670 0.55 2.82 GPS
02 Amboy Crater Trailhead Info Sign 611825 3824405 648 0.41 3.23 GPS
01 Amboy Crater Trailhead 611884 3824395 647 0.04 3.27 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170107

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