Historic Roads and Trails


The Mojave Desert has a rich history and several historic roads and trails that played significant roles in the exploration and development of the region. Many of these routes were used by Native Americans, pioneers, miners, and traders.

Here are some notable historic roads and trails in the Mojave Desert:

  1. Old Spanish Trail:
    • The Old Spanish Trail was a trade route that connected Santa Fe, New Mexico, with California. It passed through the Mojave Desert, providing a path for traders and explorers. The trail was crucial in developing trade between the Spanish colonies and later American settlements.
  2. Mojave Road:
    • The Mojave Road is a historic trail that crosses the Mojave Desert from the Colorado River to the Mojave River. Used by Native Americans and later by explorers, pioneers, and military expeditions, the Mojave Road played a vital role in westward expansion during the 19th century. Today, parts of the Mojave Road are popular for off-road enthusiasts seeking a historic and adventurous route.
  3. Old Trails Road:
    • Old Trails Road, also known as National Old Trails Road, was a transcontinental auto trail that passed through the Mojave Desert in the early 20th century. It was a predecessor to U.S. Route 66 and connected the East Coast to the West Coast.
  4. Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad Grade:
    • The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad was a historic railroad that operated in the early 20th century, connecting the mining areas around Tonopah, Nevada, with the tidewater port of Ludlow in the Mojave Desert. The railroad grade can still be traced in some areas.
  5. Death Valley Scotty’s Castle Road:
    • This road leads to Scotty’s Castle, a historic Death Valley National Park mansion. Albert Johnson, a wealthy Chicago businessman, and his associate Walter “Death Valley Scotty” Scott, a colorful character in Mojave Desert history, built the castle.
  6. Zzyzx Road:
    • Zzyzx Road leads to the site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, a former health resort built by Curtis Howe Springer in the 1940s. The site has a unique history and is now part of the Mojave National Preserve.
  7. Pioneer Mail Picnic Area (Butterfield Overland Mail Route):
    • This area marks a section of the historic Butterfield Overland Mail Route, which was a stagecoach and mail route that operated from the East Coast to the West Coast in the mid-19th century. The Pioneer Mail Picnic Area is located in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

When exploring these historic roads and trails, it’s essential to be mindful of preservation efforts and follow Leave No Trace principles. Some of these routes may be accessible for recreational use, including hiking, off-roading, and exploring the remnants of historical sites. Always check with relevant authorities for current trail conditions and regulations.