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Kelso-Cima Road - Southbound
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Mojave National Preserve
Kelso-Cima Road
Street signs at Cima

Overview

Kelso-Cima Road is a paved road and a main highway through the central part of Mojave National Preserve, connecting the "towns" of Kelso and Cima. The road generally is fine for sedans, but sections of the road are badly pot-holed and bumpy from years of throwing patch. The speed limit is 55 mph, partly because the bumps tend to throw cars from one side to the other, especially on curves and in dips.

This road provides access to hikes, homes, ranches, primitive camping areas, and the Kelso Visitor Center. This is also a main road used for travel between southern California (e.g., Palm Springs, 29 Palms) and Las Vegas.

Link to map.

Kelso-Cima Road
Crossing uncontrolled railroad tracks into Cima

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about the desert, ... the road is fine for sedans. Use your own good judgment about the road conditions, as the road is subject to washouts. The road is posted at 55 mph, but pay attention to curve-ahead signs, especially on rough sections of the highway.

While out in the desert, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, the area is remote, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Kelso-Cima Road
Cima Store (view W)

Getting to the Road

This road is located in Mojave National Preserve, about 2 hours south of Las Vegas. From town, drive south on Interstate-15 to Mojave National Preserve. On the interstate, either exit onto Nipton Road or continue and exit onto Cima Road.

If exiting onto Nipton Road, turn right onto Ivanpah Road and then right onto Morningstar Mine Road, which ends in Cima. If exiting onto Cima Road, turn left onto Cima Road and drive south to Cima.

Kelso-Cima Road
Cima Store (view N)

The Road

From the 3-way intersection of Morningstar Mine Road and Cima Road (Site 0831), Kelso-Cima Road runs southwest across railroad tracks. These tracks are little used, but they are unguarded, so look carefully both ways before proceeding.

The road passes Cima, which was founded in the 1900s as a railroad siding, but it grew to serve the area as a commercial center for ranching and mining. Cima is essentially a ghost town now, with the remaining central feature being the Cima Store. The sign on the door suggests the store is open weekends, but don't count on it. Railroad cars often are parked on the tracks in this area, and there are some interesting old buildings, but always keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and open mine shafts. A recent (May 2013) 40-acre wildfire will be interesting to watch as plants grow back in the coming decades.

Kelso-Cima Road
Rough road with lots of patch (view SW)

South of Cima, the road winds through a gap in the hills and descends quickly onto the desert flats below. The rough road and sharp curves here will get your attention, especially at night as the road drops out of view and the bumps throw vehicles to the outside of the curve. Fortunately, the road surface improves farther out.

At 4.6 miles out, Kelso-Cima Road passes a 4-way intersection. To the left, the paved Cedar Canyon Road runs east towards campgrounds and the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Center (pavement ends 2.3 miles out). To the right, a monument marks the historic Mojave Road. This was the original road used by travelers, traders, and the army during early days of western expansion and white settlement of the wild west.

Continuing, the road runs south-southwest heading down gently sloping desert flats with grand views in all directions. To the left are the rugged Panamint Mountains, and far to the south, the white patch is the Kelso Dune complex.

Kelso-Cima Road
Smooth road (view SW; note curve-ahead sign)

At 10.3 miles south of Cima, the road passes a side road to the left that runs under the railroad tracks and heads up Macedonia Canyon to the Hole-in-the-Wall area. This short cut requires, at the least, a 2WD-HC vehicle, and I'm not sure I would do it without 4WD because of deep sand high in the canyon.

The Kelso-Cima Road continues, angling more to the southwest, as the road surface improves greatly. Eventually the trees and old buildings of Kelso come into view, and at 18.7 miles south of Cima, the road passes the Kelso Depot Visitor Center (Site 1269). This is the main Visitor Center in the Preserve with exhibits, movies, and information about the area.

In another 0.1 miles, Kelso-Cima Road road ends at a T-intersection with Kelbaker Road (Site 0837). The road right leads to Baker on Interstate 15, and the road south leads to Interstate 40.

Kelso-Cima Road
Kelso-Cima Road runs parallel to the railroad (view S)
Kelso-Cima Road
Pay particular attention to this curve-sign
Kelso-Cima Road
Desert flats with pretty good pavement (view SW)
Kelso-Cima Road
Desert flats with pretty bad pavement (view SW)
Kelso-Cima Road
Distances to recreational points of interest (view SE)
Kelso-Cima Road
Approaching Cedar Canyon Road - Mojave Road intersection (view S)
Kelso-Cima Road
Cedar Canyon Road - Mojave Road intersection (view S)
Kelso-Cima Road
Cedar Canyon Road (view E)
Kelso-Cima Road
Monument and historic Mojave Road (view W)
Kelso-Cima Road
Kelso-Cima Road - Cedar Canyon Road street sign
Kelso-Cima Road
Approaching Macedonia Canyon Road (view SW)
Kelso-Cima Road
Kelso Depot Visitor Center (view SW)

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

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
0831 Kelso Rd at Cima 636500 3900110 35.23656 115.49990 4,176 Yes
0832 Cima-Kelso Rd at Cedar Cyn Rd 635848 3893416 35.17631 115.50817 3,727 Yes
0837 Kelbaker Rd at Kelso-Cima Rd 622882 3875002 35.01197 115.65325 2,119 Yes
1269 Mojave Natl. Preserve, Kelso Visitor Center 623051 3875074 35.01260 115.65139 2,133 Yes
1476 Kelso-Cima Rd at Macedonia Canyon Rd 632168 3885015 35.10107 115.54991 3,103 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130610

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