Afton Canyon is one of the hidden gems for spring and fall camping in the Mojave desert and perfect for any van or RV nomad looking to spend time in the desert. The canyon offers a wide array of activities, including hiking the canyons, mountain biking along the dirt roads, exploring the geology, and taking amazing nighttime photographs of the Milky Way.
Afton Canyon is a great place for any van or RV nomad to explore the Mojave desert and spend a few nights camping under the stars. Activities in the canyon include rock climbing, hiking, photography, horseback riding, and exploring the historic Mojave Road, which runs through the canyon.
The Mojave River also runs thru the canyon and is known locally as “The Grand Canyon of the Mojave” for its dramatic geological formations. This is the only place where the Mojave River flows above ground year-round – providing significant wildlife habitat amid the desert.
The natural bounty created by this water source has made Afton Canyon a focus for living things. Dense willows and cottonwoods shaded the river, and mesquite thickets produced bean pods for food. The ponds, marshes, and streams provided habitat for various wildlife species. This makes it a great place to watch the local wildlife utilize the water source.
Hike The Mojave Road
The Mojave Road is a 150 miles long east-west road that traverses the Mojave Desert between the Colorado River and Wilmington, CA. It runs thru Afton Canon and provides a good hiking path to explore the canyon. If you want to drive on the road past the campground, I recommend you have a high clearance Van with 4 x 4 capability. It is not regularly maintained and is very sandy in sections. There are opportunities for primitive camping along the road. All campsites along the Mojave Road are first-come, first-serve.
The campground is first-come, first-service, and costs $6 a night, but there is a 14-day stay limit. Each site is equipped with a shade structure, parking area, table, fire pit, and grill. Vault toilets are centrally located. Campfire permits are required and may be restricted in fire season (typically May-October). You can obtain campfire permits online.
There are train tracks located next to the campground, but the train doesn’t run that much. I think I saw 4 trains in a 24 hour period all during the day. The campsite is located along the Mojave River’s only section above ground.
It’s a privilege to have Afton Canyon for our enjoyment, so please practice Leave No Trace principles.
From Barstow, take Interstate 15 east for 35 miles. Take the Afton exit south. Drive south three miles on the graded dirt road to the parking area above the canyon or a little further to Afton Campground. The dirt road is easily accessed with any type of car but drive slowly. Visitor information is available at the campground and at all entrances into the area.
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