Amboy Crater truly is a fantastic natural wonder to experience when exploring the Mojave Desert or when doing a California Route 66 tour. This volcanic cinder cone stands alone in a desolate flat desert valley that is as inhospitable as can be. The summer temperatures can be deep in the triple digit range in this area, so winter is the best time to visit this natural wonder. In fact, winter is the best time to explore all that this region has to offer, which includes the Mojave Trails National Monument, Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. A tour of these destinations will certainly be a crash course in low desert environmental sciences and the Amboy Crater is a great place to start!
Amboy Crater is one of the youngest geological features in the Mojave Desert and the most recent eruption was about 10,000 years ago. The desert has a way of preserving landmarks over time and the lava flows look as if they are only a few hundred years old. The edges of the lava rocks are sharp and the cinders certainly are still abrasive, so proper footing must be worn when taking on the hiking trails. It is very easy to twist an ankle or break toes when hiking in this kind of volcanic environment, so it is best to wear heavy duty boots, especially if hiking to the top of the cinder cone is in the plans.
There are a few hiking trails that are well worth taking on and one actually goes to the top of the volcano rim. There is a lava lake inside Amboy Crater that is interesting to see and this actually is a famous spot because scenes from Planet Of The Apes were filmed here. Amboy Crater certainly does fit in with a Hollywood apocalyptic movie theme and gazing into this crater will make a visitor realize just how powerful the forces of nature can be.
Canopy covered picnic tables and sanitation facilities are located by the parking area, so Amboy Crater is a nice choice for a day trip venture. Doing a lengthy stay is an option too, because there are plenty of BLM and National Monument camping options nearby. There are several information placards and a trail map kiosk on site, so the orientation process will be easy. The signs also state the rules to follow and staying on the trail is most important. Heavy foot traffic will increase erosion rates, especially on the cinder cone, so staying on the path is the way to go. Staying hydrated is another important thing to remember, because this is one of the most unforgiving places on earth and rescue will not be timely.
Old volcanoes are fascinating places to visit and many people actually do plan complete volcano tours of the west. Amboy Crater certainly is at the top of the volcanic tour charts, but this landmark most definitely is way out in the middle of nowhere, so be sure to stock up before doing the drive. The entire Mojave Desert section of Route 66 was bypassed long ago, so very traffic goes through the town of Amboy on any given day. The classic Roy's Motel & Café tourist trap in Amboy has been abandoned for many decades, so no rooms will be found there. For this reason, it is best to pack the camping gear when touring this region. When considering how comfortable the winter temperatures are in the low desert, this certainly is an appealing way to go!
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