In addition to the preserve's marked and maintained hiking trails, many hikers create their own routes using the dirt roads that crisscross the area. Some are so poor that they're passable only by off-road vehicles, so there's little or no traffic.
There are several good hiking areas along New York Mountains Road, west of Ivanpah Road (itself unpaved and rough), an area of mine ruins, ranch structures, and cool, pine-studded canyons. Several sections of the historic Mojave Road are also great for hiking but accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles; remains of a wagon route stretch from Piute Wash beyond the eastern boundary of the preserve, through Cedar Canyon and past the lava beds, all the way to Zzyzx Springs on Soda Dry Lake at the western edge. When you're hiking in the backcountry, please respect private lands, which are not always well marked.
Kelso Dunes Trail -- These are the second-highest dunes in California, covering 45 square miles and reaching almost 700 feet in height. The dunes are visible from Kelbaker Road. Three miles of graded dirt road lead to a parking area, where several interpretive signs give information on dunes ecology. Follow the trail out past the vegetation, then ramble to your heart's content, trying to spot examples of the many plants and animals that live in the seemingly barren dunes. Among them are rodents, kit foxes, lizards, sand verbena, and desert primrose, which color the dunes with brilliant blooms of yellow, white, and pink in springtime. Note: Climbing the soft dunes requires time and exertion, but tumbling back down is the fun reward. 3 miles RT (to the dunes). Moderate. Access: Parking area 10 miles south of Kelso Depot.
Mary Beal Nature Trail -- Suitable for all ages, the path winds past examples of the diverse plant and animal life found in the Mojave. Named for a prominent naturalist who spent 50 years exploring this desert, the trail has numbered posts keyed to a brochure that's for sale at the visitor center. .5 mile RT. Easy. Access: Providence Mountains State Recreation Area Visitor Center, Essex Rd., 16 miles northwest of I-40.
Mid Hills/Hole-in-the-Wall Trail -- Stretching between the two campgrounds, this maintained trail can be hiked in part or full. The entire hike is a grand tour of canyons and tabletop mesas, large pinyon trees, and colorful cacti; it's an all-day, one-way undertaking if you can arrange a car shuttle, and is much more enjoyable in the downhill direction, from Mid Hills to Hole-in-the-Wall. If you're not up for a long day hike, the 2-mile hike from Hole-in-the-Wall Campground to Banshee Canyon offers an easier alternative. From Hole-in-the-Wall, the initial segment of the trail offers the most adventure; climbers descend through a vertical chute in the rock using a series of metal rings. Even with handholds, the climb requires agility and concentration -- don't try it if you have any doubts. Note: Much of the area between Mid Hills and Hole-in-the-Wall was charred by a 2005 wildfire. 1 mile RT to 8 miles one-way. Easy to strenuous. Access: Hole-in-the-Wall Picnic Area.
Teutonia Peak Trail -- This trail leads up about 600 feet to Teutonia Peak, atop Cima Dome, an unusual volcanic formation. The top affords panoramic views of the dome and desert. You'll walk among the world's densest forest of Joshua trees, as well as Mojave yucca and cholla ("teddy bear") cactus. Near the summit, the trail is faint but marked with cairns (small piles of stones). 3 miles RT. Moderate. Access: On Cima Rd. btw. I-15 and the town of Cima.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.