I recently drove some 4wd trails across part of the Mojave National Preserve just to reach the Black Tank Wash Petroglyph site. The weather was nice with calm winds and temps of about 75F. The screencap from Google Earth below shows the route I drove. I started at the Cima Road exit of I-15 (about 25 miles north of Baker, CA) and headed in a southwesterly direction. I marked the location of the petroglyphs with a tacky green star.
After turning off Cima Road, I stopped briefly and noticed that one of the locals was watching me.
At least it was the furry kind of local, and not the fangy kind.
I've driven almost all these roads many times. The trails were in good condition and the sand wasn't deep at all. Any car with 8 inches of clearance could have easily driven it. Sometimes that same road is very sandy.
I turned west onto Aiken Mine Road. That intersection is roughly the location of the once-famous Mojave Desert Phone Booth. Google that if you're curious. It no longer exists. Roman Mars released a 99% Invisible podcast about it a few years ago. When I started driving these roads, only the concrete pad remained. Now, even that is gone.
Heading west, I was already close to the petroglyph site. I just needed to take a side trail in order to stay down in the wash. My GPS receiver didn't accurately record the actual route. It showed me staying on the bigger road, then it jumps over to the smaller road. I parked where the road exits the wash up onto the ancient lava flow (yellow square on map below). The petroglyph site is only a quarter mile walk from there (green circle on map below).
First I visited the arch. That site has some colorful glyphs that I was looking forward to seeing.
These are on the left outside of the arch formation.
The rest of photos here are of glyphs I found on the dark boulders walking eastward from the arch.
There a lot of glyphs. I'm sure I didn't find them all, and I'm not posting all the photos I took.
After returning to the car, I continued to drive southwest. This was the only section of trail that was new to me. It was also the only section where I used low range - up the rocky hill exiting the wash.
Instead of returning quickly to Aiken Mine Road, I decided to continue on the smaller trail. Just because.
This trail passes right by the Lava Tube site. I visited the Lava Tube back in 2009. I think they've improved the safety of the ladder since then. On my visit, the ladder was so sketchy, I simply climbed up the lava walls to get out. On this day that trail was almost entirely blocked by a handful of KTM bikes parked in the road. Their riders were obviously visiting the lava tube.
Aiken Mine Road from the Lava Tube parking area to Kelbaker Road is currently washboarded and unpleasant in my truck unless I drive over 35 mph. I've seen people camping along this short stretch of road on 3 recent weekends. There are much nicer places to camp in the area.
If you plan to take this same route, then you might also stop off and visit the Cow Cove Petroglyph site along the way. It's a longer hike, but there are many more glyphs. I've visited that site many times. Here's my post from 2009 that includes a map.