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Joshua Tree Nationl Park
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Joshua Tree National Park Information
Joshua Tree National Park Wildflowers
Joshua Tree National Park
There are many different types of cacti in Joshua Tree National Park
Things to do in Joshua Tree National Park
Birding:

Joshua Tree’s resident bird species, such as roadrunner, phainopepla, mockingbird, verdin, cactus wren, rock wren, mourning dove, Le Conte’s thrasher, and Gambel’s quail can be sighted in the park throughout the year. The park’s winter migrants: white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, sage sparrow, cedar waxwing, American robin, and hermit thrush can be viewed in the park into March. Spring and summer species includes summer nesting species such as Bendire’s thrasher, ash-throated flycatcher, western kingbird, Scott’s oriole, northern oriole, and western bluebird.

A brightly colored bunch of transient warblers: Wilson’s, black-throated gray, Nashville, Mac Gillivray’s, yellow, yellow-rumped (a species also here in winter), and orange-crowned are among the species that just pass through the park. Other transients are black-headed grosbeaks, western tanagers, indigo buntings, and lazuli buntings. In addition to these smaller migrants, the park hosts a migration of birds of prey: sharp-shinned hawk, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier, osprey and Swainson’s hawk. There are several resident hawks as well: red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Cooper’s hawk, and prairie falcon.

If you are lucky, you may see the occasional groups of 200 or more turkey vultures spending the night in the trees at the oasis of Mara during their spring migration. An occasional shore bird also finds its way into Joshua Tree during spring. Do not be too surprised if you see a black-necked stilt or an eared grebe standing on a park road. Grebes have their feet placed so far to the back of their bodies they cannot make a running takeoff on land-once grounded, they are stranded. Please report any sightings to park personnel so the stranded bird can be transported safely to a water site.

Fan palm oasis, and water impoundments are good places to search for birds. Even “lakes” that are dry, such as Barker Dam, offer forage vegetation for birds. The Oasis of Mara, including the 29 Palms Inn at the west end, is a good bird viewing area. Cottonwood Spring has both cottonwood trees and fan palms to provide vegetation and shelter for a number of birds and can be a wonderful place to spot birds in the park. Lost Palms Oasis, 49 Palms Oasis, and the riparian habitat associated with Smith Water Canyon require more extensive hiking but provide good birding as well.


Wild Flowers:

The extent and timing of spring wildflower blooms in Joshua Tree National Park may vary from one year to the next. Fall and winter precipitation and spring temperatures are key environmental factors affecting the spring blooming period. Wildflowers may begin blooming in the lower elevations in February and at higher elevations in March and April. Normally desert annuals germinate between September and December. Many need a good soaking rain to get started.

In addition to rains at the right time, plants also require warm enough temperatures before flower stalks will be produced. Green leaf rosettes may cover the ground in January; however, flower stalks wait until temperatures rise. Desert regions above 5,000 feet may have plants blooming as late as June.

Biking:

Bikes and four-wheeled drive vehicles are welcome in the park. For your own safety and for the protection of the natural features of this park, please stay on established roads. Tire tracks on the open desert can last for years and will spoil the wilderness experience of future hikers; there are also many unseen animal burrows that can be destroyed when riding off road.

The park's new Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan designates approximately 29 miles of trails for non-motorized bike use. Part of the California Riding and Hiking Trail is now open to biking. The seven-mile section located between the North Entrance and Pinto Basin Road traverses a sandy wash much of the way, but includes a short, rather fun, section of compacted trail. If you start at Pinto Basin Road and travel north, it will be a downhill ride and somewhat easier.
Desert Queens Mine Hike
Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
Road Length mi/km Description
Black Eagle Mine 9.0 / 14.5
Begin 6.5 miles (10.5 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Center. This dead-end dirt road runs along the edge of Pinto Basin, crosses several dry washes and winds through canyons in the Eagle Mountains. After the 9.0 miles, you then enter Bureau of Land Management land.
Covington Flats 3.8 / 6.2 (one way)
From Covington Flats picnic area to Eureka Peak. You may view some of the park's Joshua trees, junipers, pinyon pines and lush vegetation on this road. The dirt road is steep near the end, but the top offers views of Palm Springs, the surrounding mountains, and the Morongo Basin. Your trip will be 6.5 miles (10.5 km) longer if you ride or drive over to the backcountry board.
Geology Tour 18.0 / 29.2
Self guiding driving tour along a dirt road winds through some of the park's most fascinating rock formations. Four-wheeled drive vehicles are recommended.
Old Dale 23.0 / 37.3
Begin 6.5 miles (10.5 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Center. In the first 11 miles (17.8) you will cross Pinto Basin, a flat sandy dry lake bed. Leaving the basin, the road climbs a steep hill then crosses the park boundary. A number of side roads veer off toward old mines and residences. The main road leads to Hwy 62, 15.0 miles (24.3) east of Twentynine Palms.
Pinkham Canyon
20.0 / 32.4
This is a challenging route beginning at Cottonwood Visitor Center and then travels along Smoke Tree wash, later cutting through Pinkham Canyon. Sections of the road run through soft sand and rocky flood plains. This route connects to a service road next to I-10.
Queen Tour 11.4 / 18.6
The road turns south from the paved road 2.0 miles (3.2 km) west of Jumbo Rocks Campground. The distance from the junction to Squaw Tank is 5.4 miles (8.8 km). This section is mostly downhill but bumpy and sandy. Starting at Squaw Tank a circular route explores Pleasant Valley.
Maintained Hiking Trails:
Name Miles Elevation Information
Boy Scout Trail 8 1,340
Starting in the north by the ranger station on the road to Indian Cove, the sometimes sandy Boy Scout Trail crosses open desert slopes dotted with cholla cacti and creosote bushes then follows a narrow canyon into the Wonderland of Rocks. Several miles of the path run right through the scenic boulders and cliffs, before it enters open country once more though now filled with Joshua trees, before ending at the southern trailhead along the main park road. A car shuttle would be useful here.
California Riding and Hiking 36 Varies
One of many unconnected sections of the California Riding and Hiking Trail crosses the western half of Joshua Tree National Park, running from the Black Rock Canyon campground through mountainous terrain to Upper Covington Flat, then down into the Joshua trees and creosote bushes of Lost Horse Valley where the path crosses the road to Keys View. It next skirts Ryan Mountain, the Jumbo Rocks campground and Belle campground, ending with a descent past the edge of the Pinto Mountains alongside the main park drive to the northern entrance station. Various rewarding day-hikes are possible over sections of the path, or a several night backpacking trip along the whole length.
Fortynine Palms Oasis 1.6 300
This relatively easy and quite popular path climbs to the top of a barren ridge overlooking the town of Twentynine Palms then drops down to a sizeable group of California fan palms, growing at the junction of two rocky canyons.
Lost Horse 2 480
On the road to Keys View, a side track branches westwards ending after a mile at a small parking area at the edge of 5,178 foot Lost Horse Mountain, from where a trail (also once a vehicle track) ascends to the summit, en route passing several restored buildings from the Lost Horse Mine. One of these, the old ten-stamp mill, is particularly well preserved. Past the mine, a less used, unmaintained path continues along the mountain ridgetop for a while then descends a ravine and loops back to the start - total length 4 miles.
Lost Palms Oasis 4 450
Perhaps the best day hike in Joshua Tree National Park, the route to the fan palm trees and pools at Lost Palms Oasis encounters rocky ridges, sandy washes, many Sonoran desert cacti and granite boulders, with frequent impressive views over the surrounding mountains. The trailhead is close to the southern entrance to the park, at Cottonwood Spring.
Mastodon Peak 3 (Loop) 300 Forming a loop with the first part of the Lost Palms Oasis Trail past Cottonwood Spring, this path crosses a mixture of rocky slopes and dry sandy washes, reaching a highpoint at Mastodon Peak, near which is the remains of an old gold mine. The summit affords long distance views in all directions, especially south where the Salton Sea is clearly visible, 20 miles away.
Ryan Mountain 4 1,060
Ryan Mountain is a somewhat isolated yet easily reached peak surrounded by open plains so the views from its summit are some of the best in the park. The well used path to the top begins at a parking area along the main road, a mile west of the turn-off for the Sheep Pass group campground, and climbs steadily up the slopes, passing scattered vegetation of Joshua trees at first then pinyon/juniper pine at higher elevations.
Nature Trails:
Name Miles Elevation Information
Arch Rock 0.5 (loop) level
From the White Tank campground (near site 9), this easy path leads to a small natural arch in the whitish granite rocks that are abundant in this section of the park.

Barker Dam 1.2 (loop) 40
Built by cattle ranchers at the end of the nineteenth century, Barker Dam is a small construction that in wet times holds back a pool in the granite boulders just inside the south edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. The loop hike past the pool also encounters plenty of Joshua trees, and a petroglyph panel (defaced by a film crew); it starts from a side road near the Hidden Valley campground.

Fortynine Palms Oasis 1.6 300
This relatively easy and quite popular path climbs to the top of a barren ridge overlooking the town of Twentynine Palms then drops down to a sizeable group of California fan palms, growing at the junction of two rocky canyons.
Cap Rock 0.4 (loop) level
The paved, level Cap Rock nature trail winds past Joshua trees through piles of large, rounded monzonite boulders in the middle of Lost Horse Valley. The trailhead is along the main road by the junction with the side road south to Keys View.

Cholla Cactus Garden 0.25 (loop) level
On the west side of Pinto Basin, the short Cholla Cactus Garden nature trail provides a close-up look at the densely-spined Opuntia Bigelovii (Teddy Bear Cholla), which in spring bears large, greenish white flowers.

Hidden Valley 1 (loop) Hidden Valley is a small open area enclosed on most sides by tall boulder piles; the short path to the center begins at the end of the side road to the Hidden Valley picnic area.

Indian Cove 0.6 (loop)
Starting at the west edge of the Indian Cove campground, this well marked path encounters large boulders, dry washes and a variety of Mojave desert plants.
Keys View 0.2 (loop) At the end of the paved Keys View Road, a path climbs to the top of a small peak just to the south for a 360 degree panorama over the Little San Bernadino Mountains, and many places to the south. A longer path (half a mile) heads north from the parking area up to an even better viewpoint, on the top of a summit at 5,558 feet.
Oasis of Mara 1.5 (loop) level At the main Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms, a paved path reaches the most accessible of Joshua Tree's six California fan palm oases, though also the least natural, as the surroundings are relatively well developed.
Skull Rock 1.5 (loop) level
This popular loop trail circles the large boulders either side of the Jumbo Rocks campground, including the distinctively-shaped Skull Rock (which can also be viewed from the main road). Interpretive signs along the way describe the plants and animals of the Mojave Desert.
Unmaintained Trails:
Name Miles Elevation Information
Panorama 6 (loop) 1,070
The Panorama Trail affords wide ranging views of the Little San Bernadino Mountains, passing Joshua trees at the start (near the Black Rock Canyon campground), then pinyon/juniper pine at higher elevations. Several side trails branch off, including a short spur to 5,103 foot Warren Peak.


Queen Mountain 2 1,100
From the end of a side road across Queen Valley, a little-used trail climbs the steep southern slope of Queen Mountain, ending at an elevated viewpoint near the summit - one of the highest peaks in the park.


Fortynine Palms Oasis 1.6 300
This relatively easy and quite popular path climbs to the top of a barren ridge overlooking the town of Twentynine Palms then drops down to a sizeable group of California fan palms, growing at the junction of two rocky canyons.
Cap Rock 0.4 (loop) level
The paved, level Cap Rock nature trail winds past Joshua trees through piles of large, rounded monzonite boulders in the middle of Lost Horse Valley. The trailhead is along the main road by the junction with the side road south to Keys View.

Rattlesnake Canyon 1.2 400
A faint path enters the lower end of Rattlesnake Canyon, near the Indian Cove campground, and follows the narrow drainage into the north section of the Wonderland of Rocks, offering a quick introduction to this scenic area.


Hidden Valley 1 (loop) Hidden Valley is a small open area enclosed on most sides by tall boulder piles; the short path to the center begins at the end of the side road to the Hidden Valley picnic area.

Indian Cove 0.6 (loop)
Starting at the west edge of the Indian Cove campground, this well marked path encounters large boulders, dry washes and a variety of Mojave desert plants.
Victory Palms 5 850 Victory Palms and nearby Munsen Canyon are two rarely-visited fan palm oases east of the maintained trail to Lost Palms Oasis <http://www.americansouthwest.net/california/joshua_tree/lost_palms_oasis.html>, reached by heading down canyon after the end of the main path; the ravine becomes quite rough and narrow, and travel requires scrambling over boulders in places during a quite steep descent. The palms grow near sandy ground as the drainage becomes wider and more level. A side trip northwards leads to the even more remote oasis in Munsen Canyon.

Willow Hole 3.5 Level overall The main path into the heart of the Wonderland of Rocks begins 1.5 miles along the south section of the maintained Boy Scout Trail, crosses open Joshua tree flats then enters the rocks, tracking along narrow, sandy washes as the surrounding boulders become ever larger and more impressive. Easy travel ends at Willow Hole, a transient water source in a hollow beneath a willow tree.

Wonderland Wash 1 level
Starting at the same trailhead for Barker Dam, a well trodden path heads a little further north then follows a wide, sandy wash into the south edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. There are limitless opportunities for off trail exploration, both for regular hiking and rock climbing.
Rattlesnake canyon after a rain in Joshua Tree National Park
Spring wildflowers in Joshua Tree National Park
Biking Roads:
 
 
 
Joshua Tree’s nearly 800,000 acres were set aside to protect the unique assembly of natural resources brought together by the junction of three of California’s ecosystems. The Colorado Desert (below 3,000 feet) occupies the southern and eastern parts of the park. It is characterized by creosote bush, ocotillo plants and cholla cactus. The southern boundary of the Mojave Desert reaches across the northern part of the park. It is the habitat of the ancient Joshua Trees. Extensive stands of this peculiar looking plant are found in this area. Joshua Tree’s third ecosystem is located in the western most part of the park above 4,000 feet. The Little San Bernardino Mountains provide habitat for a community of California juniper and pinyon pine. There are also five fan palm oasis througout the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally at or near the surface, meeting the special life requirements of those stately trees.


The plant diversity of these ecosystems is matched by the animal diversity. It is host to a wide variety of animals including big horn sheep, bobcat, mountain lion, rabbits, desert tortoise, snakes, and lizards to name a few. Joshua Tree National Park also lies astride the Pacific flyway of migratory birds, and is a rest stop for many. It was for this unusual diversity of plants and animals that Joshua Tree National Monument was set aside on August 10, 1936.


The park also encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California’s desert areas. Exposed granite monoliths, twisted rock and rugged canyons testify to the tectonic and erosional forces that shaped this land. Washes, playas, arroyos, alluvial fans, pediments, gneiss, bajadas, desert varnish, igneous and metamorphic rocks interact to form a pattern of stark beauty and ever changing complexity.

As old as the desert may look, it is but a temporary phenomenon in the incomprehensible time-scale of geology. Humans have occupied the area encompassed by Joshua Tree National Park’s nearly 800,000 acres for at least 5,000 years. In more verdant times, one of the Southwest’s earliest inhabitants, members of the Pinto Culture (followed by the Serrano, the Chemhuevi and the Cahuilla), lived, hunted and gathered here along a slow moving river that ran through the now dry Pinto Basin. Later, Indians traveled through this area in tune with harvests of pinyon nuts, mesquite beans, acorns, and cactus fruit, leaving behind rock paintings and pottery ollas as reminders of their passing. The park now protects 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, 19 cultural landscapes and houses 123,253 items in its museum collection.


In the 1800s explorers, cattlemen, and miners came to the desert. They built dams to create water holdings and dug tunnels in search for gold. They are gone now, and left behind are their remnants, the Lost Horse and Desert Queen mines and the Desert Queen Ranch. Homesteaders began filing claims in the 1900s seeking free land and the chance to start new lives. Today Joshua Tree National Park welcomes over 1.5 million visitors every year seeking clear skies, clean air, peace and tranquility, and a beauty that only the desert can offer.


For all its harshness, the desert is a land of extreme fragility. When viewed from the roadside, the desert only hints at its hidden life. Take your time while touring the park. Walk lightly on the earth and notice a tiny flower bud, the moss on the shady belly of a massive boulder, or a lizard sunbathing on a warm surface. The desert is a place of beauty and vitality; it provides space for self-discovery, and can be a refuge for the human spirit.

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Joshua Tree National Park Information
Joshua Tree National Park information on Hikes, Rock Climbing, wildflowers and photography.