A Hike into an Ancient Volcano along Route 66

The legendary Route 66 often conjures imagery of neon signs for diners, a plethora of tourist traps, and gas stations. Something that perhaps doesn’t spring to mind is a volcano. But in fact there is a volcano right off of the famed Mother Road, and you can hike into it.

The town of Amboy is most notably known for its iconic Roy’s sign (which was recently restored) but it is also home to a geological marvel, the aptly named Amboy Crater. When you hear “crater” you often think of something falling from the sky to earth to create it, but here, the crater refers to the cinder cone of an ancient volcano, with sprawling lava rock surrounding it.

On a very windy Sunday, Patrick and I trekked along the winding mile long path to the crater, which stands at 250 feet high and 1500 feet wide. We ventured into the crater, then climbed up to the rim and walked along it, which is another one mile hike.

A plaque notes the historical significance of the crater, with the crater itself visible in the distance.

Pathway to the crater, which is visible in the distance.

View of the path from the crater, the land is flat with scattered lava rock, a dirt path twisting through, and desert mountains in the distance.

The steep slope up into the crater.

The pathway into the crater.

Working our way up the crater, the slope on the side, desert in the background.

Higher up the slope, a vast desert landscape devoid of much plant life.

A sign as your arrive into the crater which reads "Crater Trail Crater Rim Loop" and arrows telling visitors which pathways they can take.

Inside the crater itself, mostly dirt on the inside with steep slopes upwards.

Myself, standing within the crater, wearing a black shirt reads "Pioneer."

View from the trim, a vast desert landscape stretches toward some mountains in the distance.

Black lava rock stretches across the ground, all the way to the horizon nearly.

The crater itself, mostly dirt on the inside with steep slopes upwards.

Myself standing on the rim of the crater.

The edge of the rim juts up from the bottom, with a train visible in the distance.

The crater itself, mostly dirt on the inside with steep slopes upwards.

Myself walking along the rim of the crater.

In the foreground, sagebrush pops up out of the sand and lava rock, the crater rises in the distance.

In 1959 the Amboy Crater served as the entrance to the center of the earth, in the film adaptation of Jules Vern’s story Journey to the Center of the Earth (currently available to stream on Disney+). Later, in 1973, the crater became a National Natural Landmark. Its unique lava rock surface makes it otherworldly, and was even used for testing the Mars rovers.

The Amboy Crater as it appears in Journey to the Center of the earth, a volcanic rock and ash slope cuts the frame diagonally with a small horse drawn carriage on the right.

Our main reason for visiting the area near the crater is Patrick and I are intermittently traveling the full stretch of Route 66 through California, and eventually plan to bring it all together in a blog post sharing the various highlights. We still have several sections to visit but I do hope to share it within the year.

Climb into the Amboy Crater, located in the small town of Amboy. Typing “Amboy Crater” into Google will give you the location and directions. As the crater is located within the Mojave Desert, so it gets quite hot, and the hike is recommended to be done between October and April. For more detailed information, please visit the Amboy Crater page on the Bureau of Land Management website.

An iconic stop along Route 66, Amboy is experiencing a bit of a revival, with more to come in the future. To learn more about Amboy visit their website!

Destination known: Mars in the Mojave.” Nevada Public Radio, 1 August 2012. Accessed 25 January 2022.
Journey to the Center of the Earth.” AFI Catalog. Accessed 25 January 2022.
Thompson, Davis R., et al. “Details of individual trials at Amboy crater.” ResearchGate, December 2010. Accessed 25 January 2022.

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