This is without doubt a place of superlatives: one of the hottest places on Earth, and North America's lowest point at 86 metres below sea level. It's also got rocks that apparently move of their own accord, hills stained multiple colours by mineral deposits, and amazing sand dunes. Make sure you drink in the view from Dante's View, 1600 metres up in the Black Mountains.
Mojave National Preserve
At the heart of the desert is this astonishingly isolated area, a stunning mix of canyons, mountains volcanic cinder cones and the largest Joshua tree forest in the world. Two stand-out sights are the Kelso sand dunes, which cover 70 square miles and stand over 180 metres tall; and the stunning Hole in the Wall rock formation.
Throughout Mojave desert tours you'll find evidence of the days when prospectors scoured the land for gold, silver and minerals - and sometimes struck lucky! Cerro Gordo, perched in the Inyo Mountains, was once a wild silver-mining town with a population close to 5,000. Today you can tour what remains, and discover the town's history at Beaudry's General Store, now a museum.
Joshua Tree National Park
So-named for the trees that early Mormon settlers thought resembled Joshua's outstretched arms as he led his people to the Promised Land, the rocks and boulders here are a rock climber's dream. Not only are there with 8,000 climbing routes, but superb hiking through spectacular geological formations.
It takes some work to get to see these early rock carvings, since they are hidden within a military base at China Lake, and entry requires prior permission. But the sight of 100,000 images of humans, animals and other objects carved into the canyon walls, some of them 16,000 years old, is nothing short of mind-blowing.