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  • Writer's pictureKathy Condon

The Journey from Las Vegas to Palm Springs on the Backroads

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

After spending a couple of days or more in Las Vegas, many of you feel like your senses are overloaded. You wake up and acknowledge it is time to pack up and head back; yet, the prospects of going back the same way or finding yourself stuck in traffic is not an ideal way of ending your get-away on a high note.

There is an alternative. There are, however, a few caveats.

1. Make sure you have a map or captures directions before you leave Las Vegas. Internet reception can be spotty. There are many different roads you take, so do not rely on your inner sense of guidance/intuition.

2. Avoid this backway during the heat of the summer for The Mojave National Preserve can reach 120 degrees in this area. The road is not highly traveled; thus, any breakdown would cause a severe challenge for gas stations are practically non-existent.

3. During the rainy season, some roads flood. They are blocked with gates and would make it impossible for you to continue your journey.

Assuming you are not discouraged by the above caveats, your drive is about to begin. With the gas tank full, you have had a satisfying breakfast, and extra packed water, it is time to head out.

The Journey Begins

The trip will take you south on Hwy 15 for about fifty miles. Take the time to follow the

turnoff to Seven Magic Mountains. The road parallels Highway 15 and is an easy on and off.

Make sure you have your walking shoes on for the walk from the parking lot to the 30-foot high structures, while a compacted path, still has to be maneuvered. The site is wheelchair accessible.

Be sure to take your camera with you. If it is hot, grab your water bottle for once you are there, you become mesmerized by the grandeur of the art.

Return to your car, get back on Hwy 15. Soon, your directions will tell you to turn off on a country road: next stop, Kelso. The landscape in this valley frequently changes, for it has diverse plants and rock formations. You will see hundreds of Joshua trees in one area, and low bushes in another area bloom profusely in the spring.

Kelso Depot Visitors Center

As you approach the town of Kelso, you will see one of your first signs of humanity. You will have been traveling along a railroad track on your journey. This is where the workers lived while constructing the railroad. Their small houses are still inhabited, and you can see them in the distance.

Keep your eyes open for the Visitors Center located on a bend, for it has a small sign. It is easy to miss. Once you park your car, you will be happy to see a structure that houses, clean restrooms.

Plan to spend some time in the original depot. The first person that welcomes you as you walk in the door is a US Forest Ranger. He or she has a wealth of information about the area, including brochures detailing the many sites one can explore--everything from the Kelso Dunes to Mitchell Caverns National Reserve.

Take 15 minutes to watch the film in the little theatre so that you get a better understanding of the entire area. The small museum helps you understand the history of your surroundings, the plants, and animals that inhabit the area. A newly added upstairs exhibit illustrates how the railroad works lived. There is always a revolving featured artist exhibit.

Now back in your car, the journey continues with an occasional stop to take photographs of the ever-changing landscape. Be sure to stop at Amboy. The owners have done a terrific job bringing this stop on the original Route 66 back to its glory.

Twenty-Nine Palms Stop

A delightful stop is in Twenty-Nine Palms. The home of the largest Marine Military Training Base in the United States. If you are hungry, you might want to stop at the 29 Palm Inn. Their food is organic, drinks terrific, and you will find the grounds delightful to explore.

An interesting factoid, the backway to and from Las Vegas is about equal distance. Thus, if you go up Hwy 15 and come back as outlined in this blog, you will have made an entire circle and will have seen over 550 miles of this beautiful state.

Kathy Condon is a freelance travel writer and blogger. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide Her book It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: It’s All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News 760-902-3094

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