Turtle Mountains, California | Camping

Turtle Mountain Road

The Turtle Mountains are located in southeastern California, 20 miles southwest of Lake Havasu as the crow flies. The mountains are named after the desert tortoise, which calls this area home. Most of the mountain range lies within the Turtle Mountains Wilderness.

The volcanic activity that created the Turtle Mountains has led to some stunning rock formations such as pointy spires and shear cliffs. The mountains are colorful with a spectrum ranging from black, red, brown, tan, and gray. The landscape looks stark at first glance, however there is water at several springs.

Getting out to explore these wondrous mountains isn’t hard, as there are numerous jeep roads outside of the wilderness area that are fun to hike, mountain bike, or 4×4. Much of the surrounding desert is on BLM land and is open to dispersed camping. There are a few campsites off Turtle Mountain Road, which is the main access road to the mountains.

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Where in The World?

Camping Elevation: 1,500 feet

GPS Coordinates: 34°31’39.4″N 114°39’47.2″W

Directions to Campsites: From Needles, California head south on Highway 95 for 21.5 miles. Turn right on Turtle Mountain Road and drive 1 mile to the turnout on the left, which leads to a campsite. There’s not much room for more than one RV, though two friendly neighbors could be parked side by side.

There is another campsite, just a short ways to the southwest. There’s also a good campsite 5 miles down the road at Chemehuevi Wash. I can see an RV camped there now as I write this. There are more places to camp about 10 miles down Turtle Mountain Road. These campsites are close to the Turtle Mountains. You’ll need a small 4WD RV to get through the sandy jeep road to these sites. Turtle Mountain Road becomes a sandy wash southwest of Chemehuevi Wash.

Turtle Mountains Camping Area Map

Turtle Mountains RV Camping Journal

December 15, 2012

I’m camped off Turtle Mountain Road, 1 mile from Highway 95. The vegetation is mainly creosote bush. There’s also ocotillo and several cacti including teddy bear cholla and barrel cactus. Palo verde trees line Chemehuevi Wash.

I’m camped close enough to Hwy 95 that I can hear traffic, which is light – but in a way it’s surprising that there’s even light traffic here. This feels very, very remote. Most traffic is semi-trucks. There are no towns or services for several miles going south. I’m heading to Indio tomorrow, about a 3 hour drive, and I think there is one gas station along the way. That’s the extent of development in this part of the desert. It’s a nice feeling.

There aren’t many campsites along Turtle Mountain Road, and there’s virtually no traffic.

Recreation: OHVs can explore Chemehuevi Wash southeast of Turtle Mountain Road (that is, if it’s legal – I don’t know for certain since it is not an established road). There are numerous jeep roads to explore among the Turtle Mountains, outside of the wilderness area. Hiking is very easy – it’s so flat, only a paved street could be any easier. Just stay clear of the jumping cholla!

Near the Turtle Mountains there are several neat historic sites with interpretive signs. There are also a few springs and several old mines. Turtle Mountains Wilderness and Stepladder Mountains Wilderness make excellent hiking areas, for a closer look at this remarkable landscape.

Weather: During my 2 weeks here in December, the first week was warm with highs in the 70s, lows about 50 and sunny about every day. The second week it cooled off to 60s for highs, 40s for lows – but the last 3 days have had only 50s for highs. A storm system moved in and brought clouds and light rain. It rained all night for the last two nights. The clouds broke up today and it was mostly sunny, but still cold with a high in the 50s and breezy.

Wildlife: I found several desert tortoise shells south and southwest of my campsite. All were found by the sides of small washes. When biking along Turtle Mountain Road late in the afternoon I saw 2 big tarantulas walking on the road. More wildlife included several black-tailed jackrabbits, gambel’s quail, a few ravens, and many small birds.

I stepped out one night to find a juvenile coyote that was curious of my campsite. The coyote hung around for 5 minutes or so after I spotted it. It sniffed my truck tire and nearly walked right up to me, but got scared and leaped back as soon as I moved.

Insects: A couple bees and a couple tarantulas. No issues.

Peacefulness: Zero to two vehicles a day was typical on Turtle Mountain Road while I camped here. The only noise comes from Hwy 95 and the jets overhead. It sounds like quite a few military jets fly over here. And way up, there’s lots of airliner traffic, which usually can’t be heard, only white streaks across the sky can be seen.

RV Solar: You probably won’t find more sun anywhere. There is no shade here.

Cell Signal: I had a pretty good Verizon cell phone signal. It helps to be outside or near a window. I did lose the connection once while talking, but otherwise it did not cut out. Verizon mobile broadband internet is pretty fast too – not fast enough for watching videos, but otherwise it’s quick.

RV Campsite Rating: 8 out of 10. This is about the most peaceful campsite I’ve found. The far ranging views are incredible and there is plenty to explore in and around the Turtle Mountains.

Turtle Mountains Video Slideshow

Turtle Mountains, California

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