Mojave Desert Joshua Tree Road Scenic Backway

Mojave Desert Joshua Tree Road Scenic Backway



The Mojave Desert Joshua Tree Road Scenic Byway was designated part of the Utah Scenic Byways and Backways program in 1990. It roughly parallels Highway 91 from the Shivwits Paiute Indian Reservation towards the Arizona towns of Beaver Dam and Littlefield. In its short distance, the road passes through 4 federally designated areas including the Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness, Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area (NCA) the Woodbury Desert Study Area, and the Joshua Tree National Natural Landmark.

Elevation Range:   1750 ft
Low Elevation:   3000 ft
High Elevation:   4750 ft
Distance:   18.9 miles
Area:   Arizona Strip
Cost:   Free
Rating:    (4.0)
Aerobic Intensity:    (1.0)
Technical Difficulty:    (2.0)
Scenery:    (3.0)
  1 ratings
Last Edited: Oct 03, 2016


This scenic backway is distinctive for its desolation and remote nature.  At times nearby power transmission lines are the best indication of human existance, other times the road itself is the only reminder that there is anything out thee besides the rocks and plants that comprise the desert landscape.

The road is regularly maintained, and while it is a dirt and gravel road, it can usually be passed by most vehicles.  Immediately following the periodic maintenance just about any passenger car could make the journey; during or after a storm it would require 4 wheel drive or be completely impassable.  Generally the condition of the road is somewhere in the middle, where 2-wheel drive would be fine but higher clearance might be reccomended.

The road starts on the north end just inside the Shivwits Indian Reservation.  No public access to the land is permitted inside the reservation, so stick to the road and keep driving.

The exit from the reservation is well marked, with both a sign announcing your departure and a BLM sign marking the scenic backway.  This whole segment of the road is well-maintained, since mining operations nearby require large vehicles and wide, smooth roads. 

The Beaver Dam Mountains are visible throught the journey, with Jarvis peak as the most distinctive and highest visible.  As you head South, much of washington county is visible, from the Bloomington area of St. George up past Zion and Kolob.  Futher in the distance and to the north, Pine Valley Mountain is distinctively visible, with Cedar Mounain visible even further away.

As the road gets higher and closer to the mountains, a well-travelled road will be visible to the left - Hollow Washington Road.  If you were to take this turn, you would descend past the Bloomington Cave towards Bloomington, coming in on Navajo Dr.

A few hundred yards past thig point will be a sign for the Apex Mine road as a continuation to the right.  Stay to the left, and follow the road through.  A few hundred yards past that will bring you to a meadow with some ranching equipment, including water-gathering apparatuses and a corral.  Another sign will indicate the continuation of the Mojave Desert Joshua Treeto the south, with another side road on the left Which will also wind its way down towards Bloomington.

From here forward, there are no mining trucks and the road is not quite as wide.  Two vehicles can still pass each other in most places, but as the road starts winding a bit and passing up and down, the scenery and the driving both start to get more interesting.

For the next 10 miles, the road just meanders through the Beaver Dam mountains.  The scenery can be bleak, yet quite astounding at the same time.  Gaping valleys, scraggly peaks, and distinctive rock formations make much of the rest of the drive.  After dropping a few hundred feet in elevation, the namesake Joshua trees start to appear, and after passing through several large monoliths the road largely levels out except for a slow decline back towards Highway 91 a few miles forward.

To complete your run, you can turn around and come back the way you came, or turn left on the highway towards I-15 to come up through the Virgin River.


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 Getting There

From St. George:

  1. Head East on Sunset Blvd toward Santa Clara and Ivins
  2. Keep following the road as it turns into Hwy 91
  3. Keep left towards Las Vegas when the road forks between Las Vegas and Gunlock
  4. The turnoff for the road on the left is well marked, and 11.5 miles from the intersection of Dixie Dr. and Sunset Blvd in St. George

From LIttlefield/Beaver Dam:

  1. At I-15 exit 8, drive north on LIttlefield Ln
  2. Continue North as the road turns to Highway 91
  3. 9.8 miles from I-15, follow the sign to turn onto the Scenic Backway on the right.