The Rings Trail loop at Hole in the Wall in Mojave National Preserve (CA) begins at the far end of the visitor center parking area. About a quarter mile into the hike, you will see a large boulder next to the trail which has a number of petroglyphs on it:
I always get confused what to call these when I see them (petroglyphs or pictograms), so I had to finally took the time to figure out the difference between the two. Petroglyphs (often times referred to as rock engravings) are created by removing part of a rock surface to make the picture or symbol. Pictographs are images drawn or painted on a rock face rather than engraved into it.
While the petroglyphs at Hole in the Wall aren’t the best examples to see at National Parks (they are fully accessible and it appears that people have touched them over the years), they are still worth stopping for and admiring on your hike.
One place that I would definitely recommend when visiting Mojave National Preserve (CA) is Hole-in-the-Wall which is perfectly named. A few million years ago, the eruptions of a nearby volcano covered the area with a mixture of lava, gas and ash. As the ash cooled and the gas began to dissipate, the gas bubbles within the cooling lava expanded forming large holes. These large holes in the lava, which have been further enlarged through natural wind and water erosion, give the site its appropriate name.
The best place to begin your exploration of this area is at the visitors center where you can learn about the 1.5-mile loop Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail, nearby camping, nearby picnic areas and other activities in the area. The visitors center has running water and bathrooms and the park rangers were extremely helpful. Best of all, there are no fees to explore Hole-in-the-Wall.
If you do nothing else, you will definitely want to take the Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Trail. The Rings Trail trail-head is at the far end of the visitor center parking lot. While you can also begin the loop trail near the camping area, I would recommend doing in this direction to leave the best for last. This will lead you first through the desert shrubland to a rock with petroglyphs, then around the back side where you will get a wondrous view of the lava rocks that give the site its name which you will ultimately climb through with the help of metal rings drilled in the rock to make it possible to get through. You will emerge at the camping site and then it is a short walk from there down the main road back to the visitors center. definitely worth doing to see the interesting rock formations and you will want to give yourself some extra time to explore all the nooks and crannies that make the area so interesting.
When you visit Mojave National Preserve (CA), it makes sense to stop by the Kelso Depot Visitors Center to get information on all the different places and activities at Mojave National Preserve. As you walk from the visitor center parking lot toward the visitors center, you will see a couple of fairly low tan cages sitting out in front of the train tracks. When you first see them, you will likely wonder “what the hell are those things?” and eventually assume they are some type of animal cage. In reality, these “cages” were at one time the Kelso Depot jail:
The two stalled jail was made out of metal strapping. When it was actually in use, a shade roof was built over the jail with corrugated tin walls added around the cage at a later date. The jail arrived at Kelso Depot in about 1944 which was a time when Kelso depot had a large number of drunk men wandering around from both the Kaiser (Vulcan) mine and Union Pacific railroad. The jail was mainly used to house these drunkards.
This must have been a pretty miserable place to be locked up, especially since the jail is less than 6 feet high. I’m not sure if the roof and tin walls would have helped relieve the heat or only add too it, but it certainly would not be a place that anyone would want to wake up with a hang-over.