off road driving
The United States Congress designated the Joshua Tree Wilderness in 1976 and it now has a total of 594,502 acres. All of this wilderness is located in California and is managed by the National Park Service. The Joshua Tree Wilderness is bordered by the Sheephole Valley Wilderness to the north and the Pinto Mountains Wilderness to the north. The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 transformed Joshua Tree National Monument into a national park and expanded the old designated Wilderness by 133,382 acres. The additions thrust north into the Pinto Mountains, northeast into the Coxcomb Mountains, southeast into the Eagle Mountains, and southwest into the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Most of the park away from road corridors is wilderness, a fabulous meeting place of two desert ecosystems. The lower, drier Colorado Desert dominates the eastern half of the park, home to abundant creosote bushes, the spidery ocotillo, and the "jumping" cholla cactus. The slightly more cool and moist Mojave Desert covers the western half of the park, serving as a hospitable breeding ground for the undisciplined Joshua tree. You'll find examples of a third ecosystem within the park: five fan-palm oases, where surface or near-surface water gives life to the stately palms. By day, you might spy bighorn sheep on mountainous slopes, numerous lizards lazing in the heat, and eagles soaring in bright sunlight. Still, it's nighttime that truly brings the desert to life, with tarantulas, rattlesnakes, coyotes, jackrabbits, bobcats, kangaroo rats, and burrowing owls responding to the lure of the dry, cool air. You'll witness some of the most fascinating geologic displays to be found in any of Southern California's desertland: twisted rock formations and granite monoliths painted with faded colors into a giant and beautiful mosaic. These rocks are an immense attraction to rock climbers. You won't find a lot of trails, but you will find travel relatively easy in multitudes of arroyos and playas, bajadas, and narrow ravines that require scrambling over skin-scraping boulders. Carry water. Joshua Tree National Park is made up of 75 percent wilderness and lies 140 miles east of Los Angeles, 175 miles northeast of San Diego, and 215 miles southwest of Las Vegas. You can approach it from Interstate 10 and Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway). The closest airport is in Palm Springs. Public transportation to the park is not available. There are three park entrance stations: 1) The west entrance is located five miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Park Boulevard at Joshua Tree Village. 2) The north entrance is in Twentynine Palms, three miles south of the junction of Highway 62 and Utah Trail. 3) The south entrance at Cottonwood Spring, which lies 25 miles east of Indio, can be approached from the east or west, also via Interstate 10.
This is a very flat trail that runs through the Wonderland Wash and has little diversity in terms of biology or geology. And the Wall Street Mill was a bit of a disappointment. Visible from a distance by way of a very tall windmill used as a water pump (we think), the site was easy to spot but not very photogenic or informative.
More interesting was a side trail that led to an abandoned building that was quite large at one point. It's hard to miss because it is ... HOT PINK! It is easily visible from the main trail. There was no information on site, but an online search after the hike indicated it was the remains of a rather large ranch called the 'Wonderland Ranch.' Some very demanding Steller's Jays were hoping we would drop some food, but we were careful not to encourage their dependency.
This is one of three trails that can be accessed from the parking lot on Desert Queen Mine Road, an unpaved road in the north half of the park. The other two trails are the Desert Queen Mine trail and the Lucky Boy Vista – Queen Mine Loop trail, which is a much longer loop that includes the first two.
This hike is rather longer than the sign in the parking lot indicates. Someone had changed the original official length on the trail head sign from 1.1 mile to 1.9 mile by scratching a little square on the one to make it a nine. But our GPS indicated that the length of the trail from the trail head to Pine Canyon/Pine City was 2.3 or 2.4 miles. Much longer than stated and almost five miles for out and back.
The first part of the trail was very flat and in spite of the trail’s name, we found only two pine trees along the way. As we approached Pine Canyon, the view was much more interesting. We were able to look down into a large gash in the rock that was, we think, Pine Canyon. This stretched for quite a distance and provided great views.
We did not go into Pine Canyon so cannot report on that part of this trail.
This is another great nature walk in Joshua Tree Park. Great views of geological features, especially the ‘dikes’ of different colored rocks, formed when hot lava is forcefully injected into cracks in older rocks, that make the rocks look as though they are wearing necklaces.
Though short and easy, this is one of the most vibrant trails in the park. Great views. Lots of plants. Two small slot canyons. And make sure to do the sidebar walk to ‘Face Rock.’ Facing the rock, it doesn’t look much like a face, but once you pass it and look back on it, it is the perfect profile of a human face.
I would give this four stars but it’s just too short. I wanted more.
This is an easy short walk that starts at the White Tank Campground. It offers great views of various rock formations and as advertised, of the only naturally occurring arch in the park.
Best of all, this is the only nature trail in the park that I know focuses on the rock formations and gives passers-by an idea of how the rocks were formed, including explanations of such things as 'cavernous weathering.' All the other informative guides on the trails point out various plants and how they were/are used by indigenous people.
Keep your eyes open for the trail guide posts ... there are often points where a guide post should be but isn't, and it's easy to get lost on this trail.
I would rank this trail at four stars except that it is just too short -- I wanted more geology!
This trail is in the south end of the park by the Cottonwood Visitor Center. It starts with a short walk through the Cottonwood Palms Oasis near the site of an old mine, which is now contaminated with heavy metals and has been roped off.
There is a second oasis, the Lost Palm Oasis, at the end of the trail. Hikers can descend into Lost Palms Canyon but it is a rather rigorous hike out.
About halfway to the Lost Palm Oasis is a side trail that leads to the Mastodon Peak loop. This is generally considered to be a moderate hike, but could be more challenging for the person who is not in peak form.
In spite of the contaminated entrance and even without the sidebar to Mastodon Peak, the trail up to Lost Palms offers a beautiful walk – a different slice at a ‘wonderland of rocks.’ Plenty of diverse plants, birds. I consider it to be one of the best hikes in the park.
Since the ride from the north to the south end of the park can take an hour one way, I recommend travelers plan to do the Lost Palm Oasis and Mastodon Peak in the morning and stop at the Cholla Cactus Garden on the way back to the north end of the park, timing arrival for sunset, when the plants look as though they are lighted from within by the setting sun.
This is a short easy trail that shouldn't be missed.
There is a boardwalk to keep people from compressing the soil around plant roots and further stressing the cacti. Of course, this trail receives the typical number of idiots who think THEIR picture-taking is more important than the plants' survival, so they leave the boardwalk. Please don’t be one of those troglodytes.
If YOU are one of those selfish idiots, I hope the cactus gets you but good.
Be aware that cholla cactus don’t have regular spines, which typically prick the skin and stay on the cactus. Cholla cactus have spines that have evolved barbs that keep the spine in the skin. These ensure that the almost invisible pricker stays in the skin for a long time. These cause a lot more pain than their size would indicate … pangs from annoying to excruciating when that patch of skin is rubbed the wrong way. And they are virtually invisible ... and victims might not even realize they been glochided until the pain strikes.
For those of you who are not rude enough to leave this or any other trail, I advise you to visit this beautiful area at sunset. When the sun is low in the sky, the cholla glochids, which are virtually transparent, will seem to glow in the sunlight and each cacti will look as though it is outlined in neon lights.
DO NOT GO ON THIS TRAIL!!!
This is my favorite trail in the park ... a beautiful example of biological and geological diversity in a desert environment ... and I want to keep it that way! Fortunately, the trail does not appear on the NPS brochure or magazine, and I hope that will keep traffic to a minimum.
As per the trail map on this website, the Willow Hollow trail splits from the main trail (Boy Scouts) and a sign post provides clear definition at the split. Wait for the sign before you go to the right ... don’t think that some of the other visible trails earlier in the trail lead to Willow Hollow … those actually lead to rock climbing sites.
The sign along the trail provides mileage information, but like some of the other trails in this park, our tracker indicated the posted distance is incorrect. It states that the Willow Hole trail is a 2.25 mile trail, but it was actually about 4 miles from the split to the end of Willow Hole and back to the sign. So 2.25 miles is neither the one-way nor the round-trip distance.
After a rain, water begins to flow downhill into the Willow Hollow gully, and provides the occasional moisture that a wide variety of desert plants and animals need to survive. We’re pretty sure we saw coyote tracks in the sand. Birds abound. It also makes the Hollow somewhat cooler than surrounding areas.
I love this place. STAY AWAY!
We went off one of the trails at Indian Cove Nature Trail by the restroom closest to all the rock formations. We didn't see the trail with the wooden posts until after we hiked the rock structure one. I really loved all the cool rocks. We learned so much by visiting the Ranger station first. We learned about the other locations in Joshua Tree National Forest. a little history from the newspaper we received too. loved it.
A wonderful hike, but longer than advertised. NPS literature claims the trail is about 3 miles round-trip, but our tracker placed the length at well over 4 miles. NPS also says the trail is moderately challenging, but for some the stairs will be quite challenging.
A generous population of barrel cacti reside along this trail and they shine bright red in the sun - great picture opportunities. I've seen desert tortoises - two different times - on this trail.
Best to do this trail very early in the morning when both the heat and the tourists won't be so overwhelming.
The oasis at the end is a cool wonder. Sadly, some idiots have carved their names in the bark of the palm trees. It was much worse several years ago, and some of that graffiti is no longer visible, but what is left is very annoying. Always report vandalism.