Posted on August 20, 2022
Not that far from the Coachella Valley is the fascinating Amboy Crater.
Courtesy of Bureau of Land Management
Designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 and located just off historic Route 66, Amboy Crater is an example of geology creating geometry—it’s an almost perfectly symmetrical volcanic cinder cone. This 250-foot bump, part of the Mojave Trails National Monument that partially surrounds the Mojave National Preserve, provides panoramic views of some astounding features, including a 26-mile-long lava flow, Bristol Dry Lake, and the Marble Mountains.
A maintained trail with rest stations along the way climbs gently around the cone’s western half, leading into the breach where basaltic lava poured out over a vast area, creating lava lakes, spatter cones, and collapsed lava tubes and sinks. Once you’re in the cone’s center, hike straight into the caldera, or climb one of the steep trails to the rim. The view from the 1,508-foot-wide rim will awe you as you take in the vastness of the Mojave Desert, where faraway cars on desert highways look like miniature toys against this epic landscape.
As with other Mojave locations, you won’t want to undertake the hike to the center of the crater and back, which can take 2–3 hours, from late spring into early fall when temperatures routinely top 100°F. Time your visit in winter or early spring—not just for more comfortable temperatures, but also for the desert wildflower bloom, which can begin as early as late January, depending on winter rains. The crater is also a popular stargazing site, but nighttime visitors should be aware that camping is not allowed. However, no-fee dispersed camping is permitted in the Mojave Trails National Monument, and the Afton Canyon Campground is also nearby.
The entrance road to the park can accommodate all vehicles, and there’s a parking lot that provides ample parking, along with a crater-viewing platform, shaded and unshaded picnic tables, and restroom facilities. There is no admission fee.