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Trona Pinnacles RV Camping: An Experience From Another World

Trona Pinnacles RV Camping: An Experience From Another World

During 20+ years of full-time RVing, we’ve discovered many remote and unusual camping areas. But Trona Pinnacles in California is one of the most interesting places we’ve been. If you’ve ever considered camping in the Mojave Desert or if you just enjoy boondocking in special places the way we do, this post on Trona Pinnacles RV camping is for you.

What and Where Are the Trona Pinnacles?

The Trona Pinnacles, named for the indigenous Mohave people, is a unique geologic landscape in the Mojave Desert, 20 miles east of Ridgecrest, California. Managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), this unique section of California desert has over 500 “tufa” spires made of calcium carbonate spread out over a 14-square-mile area.

Formed somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago in the Searles Lake basin, (primarily in southeastern California and southwestern Nevada, with small areas in Arizona and Utah), this amazing boondocking destination features spires ranging in size from small boulders to 140 feet tall.

In 1968, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the Trona Pinnacles a National Natural Landmark, preserving it as one of North America’s best examples of tufa tower formation. You may recognize the unique landscape from the movies Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) or Planet of the Apes (2001).

Camping at Trona Pinnacles is so far away from any populated area that the night sky provides an amazing stargazing experience. That alone is worth the trip down the 5-mile dirt road from SR 178 you’ll take to set up camp here. And in case you were wondering, the area is accessible with 2WD vehicles.

The GPS coordinates of the Trona Pinnacles entrance road are 35.68143, -117.39033. You can access the Trona Pinnacles travel map here to follow the 23-mile route from Ridgecrest, CA. Trona reminds us a little bit of another favorite place of ours: Death Valley — wonderfully desolate, only smaller.

What Should I Know About Trona Pinnacles RV Camping?

Before heading out, there are a few things you’ll want to know about Trona Pinnacles camping.

No Campgrounds and Virtually No Facilities

Dispersed camping is permitted on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land surrounding the area. However, you should know that there are no designated or developed campgrounds within the Trona Pinnacles. There’s also no potable water only a single vault toilet.

Check Weather Conditions

You’ll want to be aware of weather conditions in advance of your visit to Trona Pinnacles, especially during the summer months when temperatures can soar (this is the Desert SW after all). Plan your visit accordingly and take steps to stay safe in extreme heat. We visited in early December, and the weather was stellar.

Have Adequate Provisions

As always, when you travel off the beaten path, be prepared with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. Your Trona Pinnacles RV camping trip will be a lot more fun if you bring everything you need with you since it’s a long way from resources of any kind.

Check BLM Restrictions

Check the Bureau of Land Management website ahead of your trip for any alerts or restrictions in the area. For example, if there’s been a lot of recent rain, the ground may be soft and the road could be closed. That doesn’t happen often, but it’s best to know ahead of time rather than risk getting stuck.

The road to Trona Pinnacles

The road to Trona Pinnacles is long and dusty but generally accommodates 2WD vehicles and even large diesel pushers. This is us following our friends Jason & Nikki Wynn into Trona back in their pre-boating days.

Leave No Trace

You’ll need to pack out all of your trash, leaving nothing behind. Practice “Leave No Trace” when you’re camping at Trona Pinnacles, leaving the environment as you found it. Avoid disturbing wildlife and fragile desert vegetation. For more information on these important principles, see our post entitled “What Is Dispersed Camping?

Stay On Established Roads and Trails

Travel only on obvious roads and trails to avoid harming local vegetation (yes, that exists in many desert areas). In dry regions like this, it’s difficult for vegetation to recover once it’s been trampled or driven over.

Outdoor Recreation Abounds

While camping at Trona Pinnacles, outdoor enthusiasts can explore the surrounding desert terrain. Hiking, photography, and drone videography are amazing here! Nearby attractions include the Trona Railway, the ghost town of Ballarat, and the Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark.

A split screen showing day and night photos of Trona Pinnacles

The photography and videography opportunities at Trona Pinnacles are amazing both day and night.

It’s Dusty Getting To Trona Pinnacles, But Worth the Drive

A long, well-graded road will take you back to the area where you’ll camp in this out-of-the-way spot at Trona Pinnacles. But it’s well worth the dusty ride. The pinnacles are easily accessible and are pretty amazing.

Cellular Coverage Is Spotty at Best

It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Pinnacles, but last time we were there cellular coverage was spotty at best. So, you’ll want to be prepared to be offline unless you have Starlink RV Internet or a backup communication plan.

Trona Pinnacles is off the beaten path but still easily accessible. It’s a great destination for free and scenic boondocking in the Mojave Desert. We took our drone up to showcase its stark beauty, as you can see in our video below. Since our visit to this alien landscape coincided with the release of a new Star Wars movie, us dweebs staged a mock lightsabre battle. 😂  We also included some amazing time-lapse nighttime videography!

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John S.

Tuesday 9th of April 2024

I remember the first time you introduced us to the Trona Pinnacles. We were all a little less, ah, wrinkled. (Except for Nikki - she hasn't changed!)

It's pleasing to think about the changes in our lives and lifestyles since the geeks and the Wynns were out dancing in the desert.

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