Enjoying Your Trip
Now that you’ve planned your trip, what are you going to do when you get here? These links will help you find the best places to ride, and the most exciting discovery points in the El Mirage area. Have a great trip!
El Mirage Recreation Area Off-Highway Vehicle Trail Map
El Mirage Lakebed
The lakebed is a flat playa formed in an undrained basin. Silt and clay are deposited into this basin during periods of heavy rain. When the “lake” dries, a hard clay surface is left, forming the dry lakebed.
This hard, smooth surface is ideal for the unique activities conducted at El Mirage. These include flying ultra-light aircraft, gyrocopters, and remote controlled airplanes, model rocketry, land-sailing and straight track racing. Many private pilots land on the lakebed to spend the day. The surface character has attracted the interest of many filming companies, and several major movies have scenes filmed here at El Mirage
There is no speed limit on the open lakebed, but vehicle operators are responsible for their own safety, OHV rules and regulations, and knowing what is going on around them. The maximum speed limit is 15 miles per hour within 50 feet of camps and staging areas.
During permitted events, special speed limits and traffic restrictions are posted. Please watch for these events. To maintain a smooth surface, the lakebed is closed when wet or muddy. The California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Sheriff, and BLM Rangers patrol the area to encourage safe use by visitors.
Camping is permitted on the lakebed, but should only be done no more than 100 feet from the edges. This keeps the smooth center section of the lakebed clear for night riders.
The Shadow Mountains are a group of eroded igneous peaks bordering the northern edge of the riding area. These mountains run through the center section and east of Mountain View Road, the main access road. The Shadow Mountain peaks offer moderate to hard riding terrain, and are a challenge even for experienced riders. Canyons within these mountains make excellent camping areas and offer seclusion for four-wheel-drive campers. Watch for open mineshafts in these areas, they are unsafe for visitors and often serve as important habitats for bats and other species that live in dark places. Stay out, stay alive!
OHV Riding Areas
The Basin lies between the lakebed and the mountains to the north and east. Most trails that traverse it are suitable for average riders, however, there are a few places in the Basin that may prove to be a moderate challenge for experienced riders. The Basin is home to a diverse variety of desert vegetation, like creosote bush, that are important to the habitats of numerous species, and helps to control erosion and dust.
Twin Hills Riding Area
The Twin Hills Riding Area is located in the northeast section of the park between U.S. Highway 395 and the Shadow Mountains, which isolates it from the lakebed. Visitors find this a great place to camp, though motor home campers might find driving in this area difficult. The flat basin is punctuated by small mount-like hills and gets light riding activity, making the Twin Hills easier to ride than the trails of the rugged Shadow Mountains.
What to Do
Most visitors ride motorcycles, ATVs, or tour in four-wheel-drive vehicles. There is a road network in place so visitors may camp in most sections of El Mirage. This area is also used extensively for competitive racing events and permitted commercial filming. To acquire a commercial filming and photography permit, please see our Permit page.
El Mirage’s unique, flat lakebed is a destination for many visitors with a wide range of different interests that make use of the surface. There are ultra-light, gyrocopter and other aircraft flying activity that would not usually be found in other riding areas.
There are several opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, rock hounding, and wildlife watching in El Mirage. Desert tortoises, a state and federally-listed threatened species, are found here.
Note: There are many deep mineshafts in the riding area! Please avoid these dangerous areas and the wildlife that inhabit them, and camp away from mineshafts!
Desert Tortoise Season
Every year, once Spring has sprung, warm weather returns to the desert. This also means the desert tortoise will begin roaming the desert once again.
Visitors to El Mirage must take care to check underneath parked vehicles before driving and be aware of tortoises crossing the trails. Also remember, it is illegal to harass or remove them as they are protected by federal law.
Here are some fun facts about the desert tortoise:
Adult desert tortoises may survive one year or more without access to water.
Ravens have caused more than 50 percent of juvenile Desert Tortoise deaths in some areas of the Mojave Desert.
Much of the tortoise’s water intake comes from moisture in the grasses and wildflowers they consume in the spring.
95 percent of a Desert Tortoise’s life is spent in underground burrows.
Please be careful and respectful to the desert tortoises that cross your way during the coming spring and summer months.