Amboy Crater Hike
|In This Guide|
|Total Distance (?)||3.7 miles (6 km)|
|Hike Time||1:30-2 Hours (Total)|
|Total Ascent (?)||400 feet (122m)|
|Highest Elevation||984 feet (300m)|
|Fees & Permits||Free|
|Alerts & Closures (?)||Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark|
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
There is no water at the trailhead. Bring water with you to the hike.
When To Hike Amboy Crater
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.
Altra Lone Peak 5
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. Watch my video explaining why they are a great shoe here.
Latest Price on Women’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s Shoe – REI | Amazon
Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.
Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.
Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2021.
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
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?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.
Amboy Crater Eruption History
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.
- Before Interstate 40 opened nearby in 1973, most travelers crossing the country on Route 66 would pass by Amboy Crater. The town of Amboy a the major refueling stop between LA and Vegas.
- The nearby Roy’s Motel & Cafe in Amboy is worth a quick stop. Today it’s mainly used as a movie location.
- If you hear loud explosions and feel the ground shake when hiking, don’t worry, it’s not an eruption. Amboy Crater borders the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, and there is often training going on. It can be a bit unnerving to hear the explosions if you’ve been enjoying the silence in the Mojave.
Amboy Crater Hike Directions
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Turn by Turn Directions
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.
This guide last updated on May 20, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.
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