Much cooler and higher than the neighboring Great Basin Desert to the north and the Sonoran Desert to the south, the Mojave Desert is considered a rain shadow area, which occurs when an area of land is forced to become a desert due to mountains that block out rain that would otherwise allow most plants to grow. The Mojave Desert spans across a large region of southeastern California and through portions of Nevada, Arizona and Utah. In total, it encompasses more than 25,000 square miles of land.
The most notable areas by name are the Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks. The area also includes Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Mojave National Preserve, meaning the Mojave Desert is home to an array of stunning, protected areas. The desert sits between 3,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation, much higher than the nearby Sonoran Desert. The elevation keeps temperatures slightly cooler.