Just off Route 66 and outside the Mojave National Preserve is the little town of Amboy. Now it’s a (admittedly kind of run town) collection of a few buildings referred to as a “ghost town” in Atlas Obscura, in it’s heyday, however, it was an important stop for travelers making their way from Chicago to Los Angeles (or vice versa) along Route 66. Unfortunately when Interstate 40 opened in ’73, the town lost its lifeblood and quite literally found itself for sale on Ebay. It has passed through several owners since then, and has seen a few updates, but largely exists as a tourist novelty to those who care to brave the heat of the Mojave. If you are looking for a little off the beaten path adventure, Amboy is a great spot to add to your itinerary. Particularly if you’re headed up from Southern Cali to the Mojave Desert National Preserve!



Amboy Crater

As you drive up to Amboy, for miles you can see this 250 foot inactive cinder cone which rises from the ground. The volcano, which is said to be ~6,000 years old, was designated as a National Landmark in ’73.


The hike is a short (~3 miles roundtrip), but packs a lot of scenery in for its length. The footing is very uneven and varies from sand to lava rock. We suggest exploring the area when temperatures are cooler and you can enjoy the plentitude of desert wildflower blooms.


The trail takes off from the very far end of the parking lot, close to the public restrooms and starts off wide. The terrain, albeit uneven, is fairly flat until you near the volcano and the trail winds around the back. Here along the western side, the trail tapers down a bit and the elevation starts to pick up. Once inside the crater you can hike around the rim or hike right through the caldera (the rocks can be a little loose, so just watch your footing on the way down into the caldera). We opted to head around the rim first and then cut back through the middle. The views (especially around the rim) here are ridiculous and offer a 360 degree panorama of the desert.



Additionally, there are shaded picnic tables across from the restrooms at the start making it a great spot to stop before/after the hike to enjoy your surroundings. No shade will be found on the trail, however, so make sure to load up on sunscreen and bring lots of water before you take off.



Note: There is also an ADA accessible overlook for those that are unable to make the trek out to the crater.



Amboy Crater:

  • Hours: Daily, Sunrise to Sunset
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free



Guardian Lions of Route 66

Part lion + Part Dog = Foo Dogs. Quite randomly, as you drive on Route 66 out of Amboy (on your way towards the Mojave National Preserve) you’ll notice that there is a pair of large, white, marble Foo Dogs just hanging out in the middle of the desert. Referred to by many as the guardians of the desert. Oddly enough, no one really knows how this duo landed here. How’s that for bizarre? Feel free to pull over and snap a couple shots as they are pretty intriguing. As you walk closer to the lions you’ll also find a guestbook with messages from other desert travelers as well as various trinkets and coins (offerings?) that others have left behind.

The pair of statues stands about a quarter mile apart and are set a bit back from the highway, so just keep an eye on your odometer and once you hit 4 miles past Roy’s Motel and Cafe look for the odd real estate sign and you’ll be able to spot one. The male can be identified as the one with a ball while the female has a cub under her paw. Perhaps the couple is keeping watch over the Mojave? So much about these remains a mystery about these two.


Guardian Lions of Route 66:

  • Hours: Daily, 24/7
  • Admission: Free
  • Parking: Free



With its glowing retro sign and midcentury modern architecture, its impossible to miss Roy’s Motel and Cafe as you pass through the area. While it used to be a functioning motel, it now serves mainly a a rest stop for those traveling through the area. Perhaps the most accurate description is “roadside attraction” as the Route 66 sign pictured below so accurately describes.


Initially opening in 1938 as a gas station by Roy Cowel, it was expanded in the 1940s to include a cafe, auto repair shop, and even a motel. Roy’s son-in-law, Herman Burns helped to develop the entire infrastructure of Amboy, even helping to personally set up power lines to deliver electricity from Barstow. After the opening of Interstate 40, however, Roy was quoted as saying his business “went to zero” essentially the day of the opening. Roy’s, along with the rest of Amboy, went into a state of disrepair until 2005 when the down was bought by Albert Okura and partially restored.


  • Hours: Daily, 0800 – 1900
  • Admission: Free
    • They now sell gas, but it’s at a premium! $$
  • Parking: Free

Sunscreen: We love mineral-based sunscreen and our family go-to has been Blue Lizard. sIt’s a bit more expensive than many of the other brands out there, but, in our opinion, well worth it. Mineral sunscreens are a bit different than the typical ones you can find on store shelves (many of them chemical-based) as it sits directly on your skin instead of penetrating into the skin’s layers. This essentially creates a better barrier from the sun. It also doesn’t rely on chemicals that can stain your clothes and is generally regarded as better for the environment. While they all include zinc oxide, note that NOT all Blue Lizard sunscreens are oxybenzone free. Check out their website for details, but in short their face, regular, and original sport variations do have oxybenzone . We’ve tried many of their products and have been extremely happy with how they feel when we use them as well as how they don’t leave us looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost!

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