In the dry, dry Mojave, water holes aren’t just oddities; they’re critical lifesavers. Rock Spring in the heart of Mojave National Preserve is a perfect example of a spot that has slaked the thirst of native tribes, explorers, and hikers (not to mention animals) for years. These days it’s easily visited on a 1-mile loop hike.
From the trailhead, it’s easier to head south (right) on the loop as opposed to east. No compass? Just use the New York Mountains to the north to orient yourself in the barren landscape. You’ll walk among juniper and pinyon pines before heading down a series of easily traversable granite ledges that you can scramble or slide down to reach the location of the spring.
Depending on rainfall, the spring may be filled either with freshwater, stagnant water, or with no water at all. No matter what, take some of your own on the hike. The spring and its surrounding granite alcove make a great setting for a picnic before you wrap up the loop.
As you continue, you’ll see remnants of an old mining claim and an abandoned stone house that was originally built for a World War I veteran who had suffered from poison gas attacks. While that soldier was supposed to recuperate in the dry climate for just a couple of years, he ended up living in the small outpost for over three decades. As you enjoy the stunning and subdued beauty of the Mojave, it’s easy to understand why. And, of course, he had water nearby!
From paved Kelso Cima Rd., go east on Cedar Canyon Rd. for 9.4 miles and turn right. Continue 0.5 mile, turn left, and continue 1.2 miles to Rock Spring Rd. Turn right and proceed 0.1 mile to the parking area. Generally fine for 2WD vehicles. The nearest camping is 8 miles west at Mid Hills Campground ($12). Bring your own water. Dog-friendly!