Afton Canyon Campground
Afton Canyon is one of the hidden gems for spring and fall camping in the Mojave desert and perfect for any van lifer looing to spend some time in the desert. The canyon offers a wide array of activities to include hiking the canyons, mountain biking along the dirt roads, exploring the geology and taking amazing night time photographs of the Milky Way. You can also spend time looking at the wildlife utilizing the Mojave River. Afton Canyon is well worth a visit for a day or spending a few days at the campground.
Afton Canyon is a great place if you want to explore the Mojave desert and spend a few days camping under the stars. The Canyon’s surface water makes it unique in the southern California desert. 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 riparian (riverbank) wildlife habitat amid the desert.
Since prehistoric times, 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 thickets of mesquite produced bean pods for food. The ponds, marshes and streams provided habitat for a wide variety of wildlife species. This makes it a great place to watch the local wildlife utilize the water source.
The campground is first come first service and cost $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). Campfire permits can be obtained 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. The campsite is located along the only section of the Mojave River that is above ground. It’s a great place to explore the desert landscape.
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.