Surrounded by the 1.6-million-acre Mojave National Preserve, the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area rises to an elevation of 4,300 feet like a 5,900-acre island amid the arid flatlands. It occupies the east side of the Providence Mountain range, which affords dramatic views of the Mojave Desert in all directions.
There are three main hiking trails in the recreation area, ranging from 0.5 miles to 2.0 miles long with a maximum elevation gain of 600 feet. Big-horn sheep may be seen on the slopes amid the pinyon pine and juniper. Interpretive guides are available at the visitor center, as are sign-up sheets for first-come first-served camping. Note that pets are permitted only within the developed campground and visitor center areas, and they must be kept on a leash at all times.
The main attraction at Providence Mountains State Recreation Area is a section known as the Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve. Guided walks with park rangers lead to natural limestone caverns the so-called "Crystal Caves." Providence Mountains State Recreation Area can be reached off Interstate 40, about 116 miles east of Barstow and 56 miles west of Needles. Take the Essex Road Exit northwest for 16 miles to the entrance. Free parking is provided at the visitor center.