Amboy Crater, Cal - Route 66

Trek Date: October 7, 2016

Located just a short distance off Route 66, Amboy Crater had been on my radar for several years, and the opportunity to finally have the time to make the hike coincided with nice weather. I hit the trail. With my feet.

Amboy Crater was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973. While it's not unique for any geological reasons, it is an excellent example of a very symmetrical volcanic cinder cone. The crater is 250' high and has a breach on the west side where the inner secrets of the crater can be accessed. Out beyond the crater are some 24 square miles of lava flow, which contain such features as lava lakes, collapsed lava tubes and sinks, spatter cones and massive flows of basalt. It's rather eerie and very cool.

I pulled Tacoma Red into the BLM provided area that includes a parking lot, several picnic tables, a restroom and an overlook spot to check out the crater. It was about 10:30 in the morning and the weather was beginning to get a little warm, so I quickly gathered my gear and hit the trail.

There are little markers along the trail, that used to have small signs on them, giving information about the geology of the area, plant life, and animals that make the Mojave home. Unfortunately, idiots have broken/stolen all of the signs.

It's slightly over one mile from the parking area to the base of the cinder cone. The trail is easy to follow, but you do need to watch your footing, as the area is full of small rocks that would like nothing better than to trip you up and break your ankle.

Along portions of the hike, the smooth trail gives out and the path follows along what was at one time a road that led to the cone. Still, easy to follow and pretty hard to get lost, at least on your way to the crater.

A quick look back to check my bearings.

As the trail reaches the north side of the crater, low and behold, there is a bit of shade and a bench. As the previous pictures show, there are no trees along this hike, no shade. Which is probably why it's not recommended to do this hike during the summer months.

After rehydration, I continue hiking and reach the backside (west end) of the crater, and being the approach.

The trail heads up the slope and enters the hopefully dormant volcano at its west side, which at some point in the past suffered an explosive eruption which breached the west wall.

Almost inside, the trail gets a bit easier, which I was thankful for.

Here's the first view of one of the two flat areas inside the crater.

From inside the crater, there are four well-used paths that lead to the rim of the volcano. I chose the one that headed up the south wall, as it appeared to be the easiest.

The views from the top are amazing. Most of the crater is surrounded by lava flows. Way off in the distance, at the upper left corner of this image, is the town of Amboy.

With the help of a telephoto lens, it's a bit easier to see. You can easily make out the iconic Roy's Cafe & Motel sign.

My plan was to walk entirely around the rim of the crater and then head back down using that trail at the upper left hand corner of this picture. This was a great vantage point to see both of the cups down in the crater, evidence of past volcanic activity.

Continuing my circumnavigation of the rim trail.

About halfway around the rim, the trail became almost non-existent and instead of following along that narrow rim, I decided that halfway around the rim was good enough. I headed back down into the caldera.

The crater floor. 

When it came time to start heading back to T-Red, I could have simply backtracked the trail (shown in green) that I used to reach the crater. But that would have been too easy and you never know what you're going to find on the east side of a volcano. So I decided to return to civilization by the "trail" shown in red. There was no trail. It was cross-country, cross-lava beds, cross-rocks, cross-sand dunes but eventually crossed off my list of things to do. I wouldn't recommend it though. 

But I did get some nice photos of the crater from vantage points most people won't see. This shot shows the huge chunk of the crater wall that was blown away in some past eruption.

Some very sandy areas around the base.

The lava road.

I eventually got back on the trail and followed it the rest of the way back to the parking area. After dropping my gear and grabbing a cold drink from the ice chest, I headed over to the Amboy Crater lookout for one final shot of the cinder cone. I wonder how many people who traveled along Route 66 during the old days stopped here to climb Amboy Crater, so they could tell folks back home that they had climbed up, around and into a real volcano. I'll bet that's a favorite memory for a lot of travelers of Route 66, even to this day.

The lookout.

Here's a quick, 1-1/2 minute, hectic, dis-jointed time-lapse of my 2-1/2 hour hike. But that's how I do things. I think my roundtrip distance traveled for this hike was about 3 miles.

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