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Amboy is a ghost town along Route 66 in the Mojave Desert region of Southern California. Nearby is Amboy Crater, a popular tourist attraction since the Route 66 days, a 6,000-year-old cinder cone volcano and one of the youngest volcanic fields in the U.S.

Understand[edit]

Roy's Café & Motel
The Salt Ponds of Amboy at sunset

Amboy is a ghost town located in south central San Bernardino County along Route 66 and the BNSF Railway line between Kingman, Arizona and Barstow, California. It has a population of five (2000); what remains of the town is owned by a private preservationist.

First settled in 1858, the town was established in 1883. It was founded by the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad as one of a so-called "alphabetical series" of railway outposts in the steam locomotive era – but trains no longer stop, not even to deliver water to this tiny desert point. Back in the day, railroad lines from several companies catered to mining interests – from gold and other ores in the nearby hills, to borax from Death Valley and Beatty, Nevada – carrying bulk product to Amboy and the long distance lines of the (then) Santa Fe Railway.

Route 66 provided another boom-bust cycle. In the 1930s, the road supported the economies of the communities like Amboy through which it passed. During the 1940s, tourism declined but the remaining travelers' need for lodging, meals and gasoline kept the town going. The town largely remained this way until 1973 when Interstate 40 opened. The Interstate took a more direct route to the north through the Bristol Mountains, bypassing Amboy altogether.

Today, the old US Route 66 through Amboy is on a 70 mi (110 km) segment of San Bernardino County Route 66, connecting with Interstate 40 on either segment end. It has a historic restaurant-motel (no services) and a Route 66 tourist shop (as of 2020).

Just to the west is the Amboy Crater, a 6,000-year-old cinder cone volcano making it one of the youngest volcanic fields in the United States. And as one of the few extinct volcanoes along Route 66, this was a popular sight for travelers. It is an example of a very symmetrical volcanic cinder cone and has a 24 square miles (62 km2) lava field to the west. In 1973 it was designated the Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark.

Southeast of Amboy is Bristol Lake, a dry lake with salt evaporator operations. The lake is approximately 14 mi (23 km) long and 12 mi (19 km) at its widest point.

Get in[edit]

Most travelers will arrive by car on what was once Route 66, also known as National Old Trails Highway, now San Bernardino County Route 66, from direction of Barstow and Ludlow (west) or Needles and Arizona state line (east). Other travelers may arrive on Amboy Road from the south from Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park.

There is a private landing strip in the immediate area. A few cinema stars have flown in on private aircraft to reach the area, as the town's deserted and remote location has occasionally been used in movie location shooting.

See[edit]

  • While much of the town has been demolished, a few buildings still stand: the former Amboy School, closed since 1999; an abandoned church.
  • A shoe tree once stood along Route 66 in Amboy, but collapsed under their weight in 2010 and is no more. There was a subsequent attempt to decorate a "lingerie bush" with various undergarments.
  • Train watching — a major BNSF railroad line runs through Amboy, paralleling Route 66. The line carries long cargo trains for BNSF and Amtrak's Southwest Chief passenger line. Railroad enthusiasts may find interest in the nearby ghost towns to the west enroute to Ludlow. Refer to the Ludlow article for more detail.

Do[edit]

Amboy Crater
  • 1 Amboy Crater (2 mi / 3.2 km east of Amboy on County 66). The hike to the crater and back to the highway can take 2–3 hours. Amboy Crater (Q4741685) on Wikidata Amboy Crater on Wikipedia

Buy[edit]

  • 1 Roy's Motel & Café, 87520 National Trail Hwy, +1 760-733-1066. The only working fuel station in the area. This site was a busy automotive garage and eatery in Route 66's heyday. When the Interstate highway bypassed the town, the repair garage and motel closed. Fuel is still available (but expensive, given the remote location) and the next station is many miles across the desert. The cafe had continued operation for several years but difficulties getting potable water to the site forced its closure.

Eat and drink[edit]

There is no restaurant in Amboy. Snacks and canned or bottled drinks are available at Roy's, but the cafe's kitchen is closed.

The nearest available restaurants are in Ludlow, just 30 mi (48 km) west on Route 66. Additional restaurants are further along Route 66: in Barstow, 80 mi (130 km) west, or in Needles, 80 mi (130 km) east. Or in Twentynine Palms, 50 mi (80 km) south.

Sleep[edit]

The motel at Roy's, while still standing, is no longer functional and in poor, deteriorating condition.

The nearest available lodging is also in Ludlow, west; or Barslow, west; Needles, east; Twentynine Palms, south (same as Eat options above).

Connect[edit]

Cellular phone service[edit]

Cellular phone service can be patchy and unreliable in remote areas, so don't count on being able to use it in an emergency. However, in an emergency always try 911: even if you have no service it may connect with another carrier.

If using maps on your phone, download maps before you go. Take a paper map with you, and know how to read it.

Stay safe[edit]

See also: Hot weather, Arid region safety

Hiking[edit]

Hydrate! Drink water, take water with you. Inexperienced and unprepared hikers have died here (from Aug 2017).

Amboy Crater is bigger than it looks. The hike into the crater can be brutally hot and debilitating, crossing open desert with no shade as mid-day summer temperatures enter the 115 °F (46 °C) range. Black volcanic rock radiates heat during the afternoon, making temperatures unbearable. Hiking in open desert mid-day, the hottest time, is dangerous in summer. One quart (one liter) of water per person per hour (or more) may be needed for survival; as soon as you've used 40% of your potable water, turn back lest you run dry during the return trip.

Go next[edit]

  • West towards I-40 at LudlowTrain watching and railroad ghost towns of Bagdad, Siberia and Klondike: once stops on the railroad, now mostly razed ghost towns.
  • North towards Mojave National Preserve — Sand dunes, mountain ranges, and mesas with three types of deserts: the Mojave, Great Basin, and Sonoran.
  • South to Twentynine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park — Nearest city with services. The park is home to the Joshua tree and two desert ecosystems, and is a favorite for campers, hikers, and rock-climbers.
Routes through Amboy
BarstowLudlow  W US 66 (historic).svg E  → Essex → NeedlesKingman


This city travel guide to Amboy is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.