Friday, January 9, 2015

Top 10 Best Urban Exploration Sites In California's Mojave Desert

The Old Boron Housing - Boron, California
OK, maybe the title is an exaggeration. I have not been to all of the abandoned sites in the deserts of California. Not even close, really. I've actually just begun to scratch the surface. But I've been to quite a few, and, as far as I know, the ones listed below are the 10 best. Besides, the title is catchy.

These abandoned places are all fascinating but for very different reasons. Some are houses. Some are workplaces. Some are recreational facilities. Some are military installations. Some are in good shape, some are not. They all have two things in common: they were once active places and now they are empty and abandoned. Oh, and they're great places to explore and photograph.

Let's begin.

#10 - Small Ranch - Rosamond, California
Now Unused - Rosamond, California
This is a great easy-access urban exploration location. It's located right off of the California Highway 14 Freeway between Lancaster and Rosamond. If you are just passing through (perhaps traveling from L.A. to Las Vegas), this is a good place to stop.

What you'll find are a half-dozen or so abandoned buildings, including a house, a stable of some sort, a storage building, an office or work building, and some other structures. There's a surprising amount to see.
Forgotten Mess - Rosamond, California
The house doesn't look all that old. I think it may have been built in the 1960's or 1970's. Some of the other buildings might be a little older, although it is difficult to know.

Inside and around the property I found some old furniture and other remnants. I found a note from someone who claimed that the property had belonged to their grandparents and to please have respect. Vandals have certainly made their way through the place, destroying things and adding graffiti. I'd say it has been abandoned for at least 15 years.
Light From Above - Rosamond, California
The property is easily visible from freeway. If you want to remain inconspicuous, there are some lines of trees that will hide your car from those passing by. There is one neighbor, but I think they're far enough away that they won't notice anyone on the site.

To get to this place, exit Highway 14 at Avenue A. Follow the frontage road on the west side of the freeway north to Elder Avenue, turn left. The property is behind a radio antenna, and is easily seen and found.

#9 - Neighbors - Mojave, California
Tragic Home - Mojave, California
Hidden in the desert brush in the desert near Mojave are two abandoned houses. These were next-door neighbors. Now both places sit forgotten and dilapidated.

One house was more simple. It's a small rectangle with just a few rooms. The roof was flat. Wood from old signs had been used in the construction. Whoever lived here had likely built it himself. The other house was a little larger and had a more modern design. It's construction looks a bit more professional.
Forgotten Doll - Mojave, California
The smaller house had a lot of remnants left--furniture, toys, clothes, keepsakes. There were a lot of clues scattered throughout the house and property. A family lived here, and they had a young daughter and a baby. Now it's all a mess. And you've got to wonder where did the people go and why they left so much behind.

The other house was mostly empty. It was a nicer place, but when they left they took most of their belongings with them. There is also an old garage and workshop on the property.
Girl Roller Skate - Mojave, California
If I were to guess, and it is just a guess, I'd say that these two places have been abandoned for 15-20 years. I don't know why the residents left, and, while it appears that they departed roughly at the same time, they seem to have left under completely different circumstances. There is certainly a story here, but that story may just become lost to time.

These two house are located near the intersection of Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road and Backus Road west of Mojave. There is a barely-visabale dirt driveway about a quarter mile south of Backus Road on Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road. Take this dirt driveway west between the creosote bushes to get to both of these places.

#8 - Small Farm - Mojave, California
From The Past - Mojave, California
There is a small abandoned farm out in the desert near Mojave and Rosamond. It's pretty close to the historic (and tiny) community of Willow Springs.

There are two houses on the property: a main house that's probably 100 years old and another house that may have served as an apartment for the workers (it looks pretty darn old, too). There are some greenhouses and other farm-related structures on the site, as well.
Web of Neglect - Mojave, California
The main house is falling down in one corner. The windows are shattered and the place is mostly empty. The other house has some old appliances and furniture inside, including a vintage washing machine. Neither are in great shape. Pigeons and spiders are what live in these old structures now.

The Mojave Desert is a harsh land with tough conditions. I imagine that the desert is what did this place in, perhaps one of the droughts that this area is known for. Based on what I found inside, this farm has been abandoned since the 1980's, perhaps even longer than that.
Remnant Chair - Mojave, California
There is an active property right to the east of the old farm. I'm not sure how much they care about visitors to their abandoned neighbor, so this is a place you should consider keeping a low profile at. There are some trees that might hide your car a bit.

The abandoned small farm is located off of Hamilton Road, about 3/4 mile west of Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road. You'll find it on the north side, just prior to some high-tension power lines.

#7 - Inland Truss - Mojave, California
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
Inland Truss made wood trusses for houses. Lumber was delivered, the trusses assembled and then shipped off to nearby homes that were being constructed.

The housing market collapsed, beginning in 2007. That meant for businesses like Inland Truss things were going to get rough. And, not long thereafter, Inland Truss closed up shop.
Copy Machine - Mojave, California
Interestingly, judging by how things were left, when the doors closed, those that worked there expected to open the next day. It appears as if some things were hastily packed, but a lot was left behind.

There are two manufactured homes that were made into offices. There are a couple of small sheds, as well. I think initially everything was locked up, but someone at some point broke in, so it is all easily accessed now.
Old Coffee Cup - Mojave, California
I found some speakers that may have initially been in someone's office, a copy machine, a coffee cup, trophies and awards, tons and tons of blueprints, several desks, and some other items that one would expect to find in an office.

To find Inland Truss, exit California Highway 14 at Backus Road and head east. Turn south on Sierra Highway and then turn east over the railroad tracks at Sopp Road. Follow the road around the 90 degree north turn (the name changes to North Butte Road). Turn left at Gibbs Avenue, which is a small dirt road just before a junk yard, and it will take you straight there.

# 6 - Motel/Apartment - Rosamond, California
Abandoned Window Morning - Rosamond, California
There is an abandoned motel, that I believe was later used as an apartment complex, in Rosamond. It is surrounded by a chain-link fence, but the fence has fallen in one spot allowing access. I didn't spot any "no trespassing" signs.

There are two buildings on the property. They both look old, but I think the one that's further back from the road might be a little older (or perhaps the closer building had been remodeled at some point). The closer building is where the office was located. The rooms are accessed from the outside, and the south side rooms appear to have been in the process of being remodeled. In the further building the rooms are accessed from the interior and the individual rooms did not have plumbing (there was a common bathroom instead).
Shelvador - Rosamond, California
I don't know when this motel was built, but a guess would place it in the 1940's. I think towards the end it was used as apartments. Someone continued to live in the old motel for some time after it closed, perhaps the property owner or a caretaker. I would guess that it has been completely abandoned for at least 15 years. I couldn't find information on what the motel's name was.

There are some cool things inside of the motel. I found some chairs, an old bed, a vanity, some vintage appliances, and a bunch over other relics inside. It's like stepping back in time.
Room 7 - Rosamond, California
This is a risky place to explore. It is in town along a major road. There are active neighbors on two sides. You have to cross a fence (granted, the fence is on the ground at one spot). There is a higher chance of getting "caught" if you decide to visit.

The motel is found on Sierra Highway in Rosamond a little south of Marie Avenue on the west side of the road.

#5 - Silver Queen Mine - Mojave, California
Silver Queen Home - Mojave, California
The Silver Queen Mine opened in 1933, but gold and silver had been mined from the mountain since 1894. Over ten million dollars worth of silver and gold came from this mine and others nearby. Some men became quite rich. Others worked really hard to make their bosses wealthy.

During World War II the federal government put a hold on gold and silver mining. The mine shut down, and, like most mines in the area, did not reopen. That is, until a couple years ago, when this mine did reopen, but on the other side of a hill from the old ruins. Someone continued to live at the site well after it closed, but it has been abandoned for 30 or more years now. 
The Lost Chair - Mojave, California
There is an old home and ruins from some mine structures. Some things are still standing, some things are completely flattened.

Some remnants were left behind. There's a couple of old chairs, a vintage television, an old piano (that's in ruins), and miscellaneous junk.
Abandoned Boot - Mojave, California
The Silver Queen Mine is one of the more hazardous stops on this list. The structures are not all that sound, there's broken glass and rusty nails that might get stepped on, lots of uneven footings and potential falls, as well as possible venomous spiders and snakes.

Getting to the mine is easy. Exit California Highway 14 at Silver Queen Road and head west. About 1/4 mile down turn north on 20th Street, which is a dirt road that will take you straight there. 

#4 - Abandoned Neighborhood - Mojave, California
Abandoned Home Front - Mojave, California
Just outside of Mojave at the base of the Tehachapi Mountains among tall wind turbines is a vacant neighborhood. In the desert, right along with cactus and creosote, are over 50 abandoned houses.

The reason that these homes are abandoned--at least one of the reasons--is that the wind farms have been expanding. As the wind farms expand the home owners get bought out.
Seat Unused - Mojave, California
Some of the houses are newer, some are older. Some are in pretty descent shape, others are dilapidated. Some are full of furniture and junk, others are completely empty.

The homes are on acreage, so they're pretty spread out. You don't notice all of the houses at once. When you find one, you can see a few others here and there. But as you move along you find more and more and more. I've only made it through a half dozen of them myself.
The Comfortable Chair - Mojave, California
There are a few homes that are still occupied. Most are empty and abandoned, but a few people continue to live among the wind turbines. The wind farm itself is also quite active with lots of commotion and construction.

Going north out of Mojave on Business Route 58, turn west onto Arroyo Avenue and cross the railroad tracks. Continue straight west even as the road becomes dirt. You'll start seeing the houses past the aqueduct. There are a number of roads to explore and it's easy to get lost, so GPS is quite helpful. A four-wheel-drive high-clearance vehicle is necessary for some of the roads.

#3 - George Air Force Base Housing - Victorville, California
Old Life, New Life - Victorville, California
George Air Force Base in Victorville was active from 1941 to 1992. It was initially a flight school for pilots during World War II. From 1965 until closing it was home to F-4 fighter jets.

As the Cold War began to end, a whole bunch of military bases across the country were closed and consolidated. George Air Force Base was one of those that closed. The airfield would become the Southern California Logistics Airport.
Window Shadow - Victorville, California
My younger sister was actually born at the George Air Force Base hospital. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I was seen at the hospital for second-degree sunburns. My dad was in the military, and although he was never stationed at this base, it did play a small role in my family continuum. 

After the base closed cleanup was slow or nonexistent. The parts of the base that were not converted into civilian use were abandoned, left to decay in the desert. The military housing was one of those areas left untouched.
Setting Sun On The Forgotten - Victorville, California
It's quite fascinating because there are so many abandoned structures, and the area has an apocalyptic feel, yet a church, park and golf coarse (which were a part of the base when it was open) are still active, right among the dilapidation. It seems so odd.

Access to the base is easy. There are a couple of streets off of Air Base Road that lead right in (George Boulevard and Nevada Avenue). There are a few signs warning you to keep out, but there are no fences to keep you out. There is a security patrol that drives around. I was stopped, but was simply told to "be careful" after I told him what I was up to. Some of the buildings are not particularly safe, so use extreme caution.

#2 - Lake Dolores/Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark - Newberry Springs
Waterpark - Newberry Springs, California
Along Interstate 15 just east of Barstow in the small community of Newberry Springs sits the abandoned Lake Dolores (later Rock-A-Hoola) Waterpark. The origins of this park go back to the 1950's, but as a waterpark it opened in 1962. Some credit it as the first modern waterpark in America.

In 1999 an employee used one of the water slides after the park had closed, and he was unaware that the catch pool was being drained. The employee became paraplegic and was awarded a large settlement. That was the beginning of the end for Lake Dolores.  
Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
Over the next four years the park opened and closed several times and changed owners a couple of times, as well. It closed for good in 2004, and some parts of the park were sold piecemeal to other waterparks across America and Canada.

The buildings look both retro and modern. This is because of the different themes the park had over the years. Some structures are in good shape and some are not. Vandals have found their way through much of the park, yet a couple of spots seem untouched. In 2013 a New York "guerrilla art group" visited the site and put their mark on things.
Lazy River Bend - Newberry Springs, California
The Lake Dolores Waterpark is interesting because it was an active recreational stop not very long ago. You can pretty easily find and talk to people who vacationed there. Perhaps this is a place you splashed at as a kid.

To get here, exit Interstate 15 at Minneola Road and head south to Yermo Road (which parallels the freeway). Drive east on Yermo Road for a couple miles and turn north over the freeway on Hacienda Road. Follow that for a mile or so and the waterpark will be on your left.

#1 - Boron Air Force Station/Boron Federal Prison - Boron, California
Old Yield Sign - Boron, California
In the Mojave Desert, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, near the small town of Boron, is the abandoned Boron Air Force Station (later Boron Federal Prison). This was a remote assignment, and would become a resort-like prison for white collar inmates.

The base opened in 1952. It was part of an air defense network that operated RADAR sites, providing detection and early warning of any non-friendly aircraft. The base closed in 1975, but the Federal Aviation Administration continues to operate a RADAR antenna at this site to this day. 
The Turned Table - Boron, California

In 1979 the Boron Air Force Station was converted to the Boron Federal Prison. The dormitories became "cell blocks" for inmates. But this was not a typical prison. If you had to be "behind bars" this is where you hoped to go. There were no bars or fences.

Boron Federal Prison was a minimum security prison for white collar non-violent offenders. According to some, they were free to leave just as long as they were back when they were required to be accounted for. Some prisoners apparently had jobs in some of the nearby small towns. One inmate supposedly was a little league baseball coach for a number of years. But, due to a water shortage, the prison closed in 2000.
Old Dormitories - Boron, California
There are over 50 buildings to explore, including the old military housing, dormitories, hangers, work structures, fire station, and a whole bunch of other structures. Some buildings are in good shape, but most are dilapidated and some are in really bad condition. This is a place to use extreme caution.

To get to the old Boron Air Force Station, go north on U.S. Highway 395 out of Kramer's Junction. A few miles up the highway there is a paved road (called Locust Road, but I didn't see a sign) to the west. Follow that straight to the base.


There are a lot of interesting abandoned treasures in California's Mojave Desert to explore. There are many great locations in additions to the ones listed above. Half of the fun is simply discovering some place that you never knew existed.

All of these 10 places are on private property. All of them are hazardous to visit. Use caution. Be smart. Be safe. I don't condone breaking to enter. "Take only pictures, leave only footprints," please.

Happy exploring!


  1. Thanks so much for posting this! Beautiful pics and useful information. In a few days I am leaving on an urban exploration road trip for the next few weeks, and I will definitely be stopping at some or all of these places. Thank you!!

    1. Thank you, Jimplicit, for commenting! I'm glad that the article was helpful. Another place I'd recommend that should have made the list (but I didn't visit until after the article was published) is Atolia:

      Anyway, good luck on your trip. It sounds like it will be a great adventure!