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Las Vegas Detours

To most people traveling on the I-15 from Orange County to Las Vegas, it's just a boring straight shot through an empty desert, stopping only for gas and food until reaching the sprawling oasis of Las Vegas. Typically with no traffic it's a 4 hour drive but during holiday weekends that time can sometimes be doubled or even tripled. Breaking up the trip by stopping for scenery is a great way to stay alert and not be bored. Here are some things you can check out on the drive while driving through the largest county in the United States.

List is in order traveling from Orange County to Las Vegas. More stops will be added as we discover them for you, please email us if you have any suggestions.

Zzyzx Springs

Route 66

A piece of American History lies right next to busy I-15, just after passing the 215 freeway as you begin your ascent up Cajon Pass, exit Kenwood Ave and go left and cross under Interstate 15, as you parallel the freeway, you are now driving on infamous Route 66 which was the original route through the cajon pass that allowed travelers to get from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1926. After a few miles, you'll notice older sections of Route 66 next to the newer roadbed. Just before you pass a small road called Swarthout Canyon Road, you'll notice an area you can pull off with trees and a natural creek that flows through, also if you look up away from I-15, you'll notice mountain with a pretty straight slit between them with a road going right up it, that is the San Andreas Fault. If you drive up Swarthout Canyon Road just a mile up the dirt road, you'll see a parking lot for "Lost Lake" which is a sag pond that sits directly on the San Andreas Fault which is why that lake is there.

As you continue up Route 66 you will go back under I-15 where it crosses with Cleghorn Road where you will enter the freeway and continue on your way to Las Vegas.

  • Lightning

Calico Ghost Town

Another part of history lies just a few miles off the beaten path in Yermo, a historic silver mining town known as Calico Ghost Town where over 500 mines once produced silver. In the early 1950's, Calico Ghost Town was purchased by Walter Knott who also created Knott's Berry Farm, this is also what Calico Ghost Town at Knott's what themed after. Mr. Knott restored the old mining town and all of its building by referencing photographs of it in order to keep it exactly how it looked in its boom days. Walter Knott donated the ghost town to San Bernardino County who currently owns it and charges a small fee to enter, it is a great stop on the way!

  • Calico Ghost Town

Zzyzx Springs

You probably have noticed this exit with the really weird name and wondered who came up with that? Well the area got its name in the 1940's when a man developed a mineral springs resort that served as a spot for travelers to get fresh water and also to relax in the spas.

Located only 4.5 miles from I-15, keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep anywhere along this stretch of seldom traveled road. The road dead ends at a parking area where you'll find a natural spring fed pond, restrooms, abandoned bath houses and pools, and buildings that are still in use for desert studies for several Southern California colleges. The remnants of the old spa facilities are cool to check out, they were abandoned when the government took the land back in the 1970's.

Notable animals you are likely to encounter while walking around Zzyzx Springs are bighorn sheep, gray fox, lesser nighthawk, vermilion flycatcher, bat, and coyote. Watch for bighorn sheep along the drive in on the rocky hills next to the road.

  • Zzyzx Springs
  • Zzyzx Springs
  • Zzyzx Springs
  • Zzyzx Springs
  • Zzyzx Springs
  • Zzyzx Springs

World's Tallest Thermometer

Probably the most noticeable icon during the road trip is the World's Tallest Thermometer which is fun to look at, back before cars had temperature gauges on them, it would be fun to guess what the temperature as you approached Baker, CA.

Exit here and check out the gift shop here while stretching your legs and enjoying the ice-cold air-conditioning. The current owners purchased the monument and gift shop in 2014 after the previous owner stopped operating it in 2012, for 2 years the thermometer sat unlit and abandoned, the current owners are family of the original owners that sold it to another man in 2005.

  • Baker
  • Baker

Mojave National Preserve

You won't pass much signage for this area but there are a few really cool sights to see here! Managed by the national park service, Mojave National Preserve has lava tubes, sand dunes, caves, and cool slot canyons to hike through, as well as some cool history! Typically this are would take a full day or two but the lava tube and Kelso Dunes can be done in a few hours. The lava tube is the closest thing to see from I15 which makes that specifically a very cool and easy stop.

For these locations, Google maps or Waze works great!

Mojave Lava Tube: About a 30 minute drive each way from the 15 freeway on Kelbaker Rd. The last few miles of it is dirt/gravel, high clearance is recommended but it's more of a groomed road with some washboard/annoying sections. I've seen Ford Mustangs and Toyota Prius' make it. From the parking area, it's a very short walk to the lava tube. To see this beam shining through the hole, you'll want to be there in the early to mid afternoon.

Kelso Dunes: Just under an hour drive from the 15 freeway on Kelbaker Rd. These are one of only 30 "booming" sand dunes which is a sound created when sliding down during certain atmospheric conditions. This is a large sand dune field which you can hike on and explore. It's not recommend to venture out on the dunes during extreme heat in the summer unless you have plenty of water and are well prepared. Other times of year when it's cooler, it's a great detour!

  • Mojave Desert Lava Tube
  • Kelbaker Road
  • Kelso Depot
  • Kelso Post Office
  • Kelso Dunes
  • Tortoise
  • Bighorn Sheep