Amboy Crater Hike

Amboy Crater Hike

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Amboy Crater Hike
  • Getting to Amboy Crater by Mojave National Preserve
  • Amboy Crater Eruption History
  • Recommendations and Tips for the Hike
Total Distance (?)3.7 miles (6 km)
Hike Time1:30-2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Easy
Total Ascent (?)400 feet (122m)
Highest Elevation984 feet (300m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark
Park Phone760-326-7000

The Amboy Crater hike takes you across the Mojave Desert, onto an ancient lave field, and then up the 250 foot extinct Amboy cinder cone. It’s a hike like no other, with wide-open views, tons of lava rocks, a circuit around the rim of the volcano, and all in a short 3-mile package right off of historic Route 66. I highly recommend making a stop to experience this fantastic hike.

Where is Amboy Crater?

Amboy Crater is just south of Mojave National Preserve on Route 66, and is just a reasonable detour off of Interstate 40. Use this trailhead address:
Amboy Crater Parking Lot and Trailhead, Amboy, CA 92304

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Look for this sign right off of Route 66 and turn in. You have to drive a few minutes to the end of the road to reach the parking area.
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The parking area is massive, with space for RVs and trailers.
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There is an overlook and several shaded picnic tables around the parking area.
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And there’s a bathroom here as well.

There is no water at the trailhead. Bring water with you to the hike.

When To Hike Amboy Crater

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You need to take the heat seriously here; people who didn’t have died.

Even though this isn’t a long hike, it can be deadly. People who were not prepared have died here, for real. In the warmer months it can routinely hit 110F. This hike is best done between October and April. Always check the nearby temperatures and expect the heat at Amboy Crater to be several degrees warmer than the forecast. Sunrise and sunset are great times to experience the hike.

Gear For the Hike

This is a short hike and you don’t really need anything special to do it. Light hiking gear or fitness clothes work best. Bring at least 1L of water, sun protection, and good shoes to hike on top of the sharp lava rocks with. Watch your step for the normal desert creatures like rattlesnakes and lizards. If you’re scared of heights, having trekking poles to steady yourself at the rim can be helpful. Most folks can walk around the rim without any additional gear though.

Griptightone Gpod Tree

Joby GripTight Smartphone Flexible Tripod
Take your selfie stick game to the next level. Part of the fun of a hike is taking pictures, and a flexible JOBY smartphone tripod takes it to the next level. You can use it as a selfie stick, as a regular tripod, but more importantly, as a flexible tripod that can attach to tree branches and other objects. It’s not expensive, and it’s something you can use when not hiking too.

Latest Price – Amazon

Astro Headlamp

Black Diamond Astro 250
It’s your biggest asset if you get lost. If something goes wrong and you get lost, sprain your ankle, or get delayed, you might be caught out after dark. And one of the top items that search and rescue departments recommend you carry is a light. Now smartphones have lights, but they drain the battery quickly. It’s better to invest in an expensive yet high-quality headlamp like the Black Diamond Astro 250. It takes AAA batteries, can last 200 hours, and has an emergency strobe. Carry it with you off the trail to use in emergencies as well.

Latest Price – REI | Amazon

Rei Member Card 2

REI Membership Saves You Money Forever
Have you shopped at REI before? They have all kinds of active clothes and gear, from fitness, to hiking, to snow sports, to casual wear. It’s an overall great place to shop (here’s why) and they offer a $20 membership that gets you 10% back on everything for life, along with frequent coupons, discounts, and member-only sales. It’s a no-brainer.

REI Membership – REI

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated January 2022.

My January 2022 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

Amboy Crater Map

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The trails are well-maintained and well-marked. Where the trail isn’t obviously visible, you’ll see these trail markers.
Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.


How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 6. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

3D Map

Amboy Crater 3d Map
From the parking area we’ll hike across the flat desert and around the side of the volcano, where there is a break in the wall. Once you hike into the break, you just climb up to the rim and hike around, then return the way you came.

Amboy Crater Eruption History

Amboy Crater Eruption
If you look at the area around Amboy Crater from above, you can clearly see the 24 mile-wide lava field from the original eruptions, as well as the darker lava flow from the last eruption, which happened only 10,000 years ago.

There’s some dispute about the timing of the eruptions at Amboy Crater, but the consensus has the first happening around 79,000 years ago, and the last happening 10,000 years ago. Today the volcano is extinct, although there is still tectonic activity here. In 1999 the powerful 7.1 magnitude Hector Mine earthquake’s epicenter was just miles away.

Full disclosure: I was inspired to visit Amboy Crater after watching the 2021 Iceland volcano live cams. Here’s the type of stuff that you can see when watching, and I hope that seeing this gets you as excited to visit the (much cooler) real thing too.

Hike Brief

Amboy Crater Historic Postcard
Amboy Crater used to be a big tourist destination when Route 66 was in its hay-day. This postcard from 1934 incorrectly lists the last activity happening 500 years ago. Photo Pomona Public Library

Amboy Crater Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

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The trail starts behind the two picnic benches at the end of the lot. There are some other “trail” signs in the area that are old and no longer correct.
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Follow the concrete path around the benches.
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And then you’ll see the big trail board. The trail continues past the board.
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There’s a little uphill in the beginning.
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The trail is easy to follow as it’s mainly lined with rocks.
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You’ll be surrounded by basalt as you hike through the lava field.
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When you get to the top of the small rise, you’ll see Amboy Crater in front of you.
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There’s a small rest bench with limited shade. Watch your footing around shaded areas around the shelter, which provide a cool refuge for snakes and lizards.
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Keep hiking toward Amboy Crater.
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The trail turns to the right and starts to head uphill. There’s one last shelter before you climb up the cinder cone.
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Hike up the small switchbacks into the gap in the cinder cone.
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When you get to the gap, take the trail up to the left to hike up to the rim. The center of the crater is right in front of you.

Once you’re at the gap, you can go into the middle of the crater. It’s not super-exciting, and I think the rim is better, but if you want to do it, do it here and then come back and continue at the last step. The trail into the middle from here is much safer than scrambling down the side of the cone on the other trails.

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You’ve got a small climb up to the rim.
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And soon you’re at the rim!
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Enjoy the spectacular views from the rim in all directions. In the distance is Granite Peak at 6,761 feet. It’s one of the four mountain ranges in the Mojave and is very remote.
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From the rim you’ll also get great views into the middle of the crater. The crater is about 0.25 miles across.
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Take the trail around the rim of the crater and complete the circle, staying up on the rim and avoiding the side trails into the crater.
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When you get around the whole rim, you’ll come back to the gap in the cinder cone where you arrived. We’re going to hike down there and head back the way we came.
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At the end of the rim you’ll see a series of switchbacks heading back down.
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After you descend the switchbacks, you’ll arrive at the junction where you entered the cinder cone. Make the left and head back on the trail you hiked in on. That’s the hike!

This guide last updated on January 18, 2022. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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