What is Amboy Crater? Hike an Old Cinder Cone Volcano!

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Looking for some off the beaten path travel ideas? Landscapes with martian or lunar vibes?


Read on to learn why Amboy Crater makes for the perfect afternoon hiking destination, enjoy stunning sunsets, stargazing and views from atop the volcano!


Where is Amboy Crater?


Amboy Crater boasts an extinct cinder cone volcano located about 50 minutes north of Twentynine Palms, CA. If you find yourself in Southeastern California be sure to check out Amboy Crater!


It pairs well with a visit to Joshua Tree National Park (be sure to check out my Joshua Tree travel guide here or video guide version here) or if you're traveling along Old Route 66.


Entrance to Amboy Crater
The entrance to Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark, Southeastern California

From the parking lot you'll easily spot the extinct cinder cone volcano off in the distance, as well as signs advising you NOT to hike.


This is where I will strongly recommend you plan your visit during the colder months (I went in December) and/or planning your visit very early or very late in the day so you can avoid the harsh Mojave Desert sun.


How Hard is the Hike to Amboy Crater?


The hike itself is a little more than 4 miles out and back. The trail is well kept and pretty easy until you reach the volcano itself where you'll have to ascend around 400 feet to reach the top.


As long as you heed the heat warnings this is hike that anyone can accomplish. Be sure to bring plenty of water even if you attempt the hike when temperatures are cooler as the dry desert air really takes it out of you!

 

Is it Safe to Hike Amboy Crater?


I repeat - you NEED to bring plenty of water and avoid hiking on hotter days, especially midday when the Mojave sun is the harshest


I know I probably sound like a broken record here - but you really do need to be mindful of bringing plenty of water and not attempting this hike if the temperature is too hot and the sun is at its peak.


You're hiking through a field of lava rocks in the middle of a desert, where the air is extremely dry and surface temperatures near the volcano will be even hotter than what the local weather forecast suggests.


Be sure to check out my YouTube video guide highlighting some of the top activities at nearby Joshua Tree National Park!

Picture being out on a freshly paved blacktop parking lot on a scorching hot summer day at noon while someone shoots fireballs at you.


There are signs posted around the area reminding you to hike Amboy responsibly. If possible visit during the winter months, otherwise this hike is best enjoyed around sunrise or sunset.


If you're hiking around sunset be sure to bring flashlights for the trek back to your vehicle.


Heat warning sign at Amboy
Signs posted around Amboy Crater advise against hiking, plan ahead!

When we visited Amboy in December we spent most of our day exploring Joshua Tree National Park.


If you exit the park through the north and cut through Twentynine Palms you can reach Amboy in a little less than an hour. A visit to Amboy Crater pairs quite nicely with a trip to Joshua Tree!


Amboy Crater Volcano
Views approaching the cinder cone volcano from the hiking path

We timed our visit to the area so that we could catch a sunset around the time we were climbing up the volcano.


How Long is the Amboy Crater Hike?


The hike is mostly flat (until you reach the actual cinder cone volcano) and almost exactly 2 miles each way so budget for about 90 minutes of hiking plus how ever much time you want to spend wandering around on top or inside the volcano's basin.


I posted some of the photos shown here along with a really cool drone reveal of the entire volcano on my IG which you can check out here!


Desert Sunset
Desert sunset at Amboy Crater

If you're going to visit Amboy Crater I'd recommend timing your hike so you can enjoy a sunset or sunrise from atop the crater, it'll make the experience that much better!


Don't forget to pack flashlights if you visit at sunset for the hike back! If you're curious what hiking gear I use check out my About page! Bring a hiking backpack with a hydration reservoir to keep your hands free and ensure you have enough water for your visit.

 

Is Amboy Crater a Good Place to Stargaze?


The Nearby Mojave Desert is Prime Real Estate For Stargazing!


If you visit around sunset, you'll have two miles back to your vehicle after the sun goes down. Not a problem if you've packed flashlights as the trail is pretty well kept and marked, but it could be difficult without light. In a pinch, since the trail is well marked, your phone's flashlight would probably be sufficient.


Basin inside Amboy Crater Cinder Cone Volcano
View from the basin within Amboy's cinder cone volcano

A great perk of doing Amboy this way is that by the time you reach your car the sky will be filled with stars and a chance to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way as this area of the Mojave is particularly void of light pollution.


Enjoy some world class stargazing in the parking lot! You can also get a really good stargazing experience by pulling off nearby Route 66 (which we also did)!