Joshua Tree National Park

Park Location:   40 miles northeast of Palm Springs to the west entrance via California Highway 62.

We had the opportunity to visit Joshua Tree National Park near Palm Springs, California last weekend.  We were in Palm Springs for a wedding and took an extra day to drive over to Joshua Tree and spend the day hiking and exploring.  Certainly some different landscape than what we are used to in Colorado with different flora and fauna.

There are three entrances to the park.  The west entrance at the village of Joshua Tree, the north entrance at Twentynine Palms, and the south entrance at Cottonwood Spring.  We drove to the west entrance to begin our exploration of the park.

Joshua Tree Map


The park gets its name from the Joshua tree.  Years ago the Joshua tree was recognized by American Indians for its useful properties: tough leaves were worked into baskets and sandals, and flower buds and raw or roasted seeds made a healthy addition to the diet.

By the mid-19th century, Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River. Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.  Here’s a shot of some Joshua trees standing out against the desert rocky landscape of the Mojave Desert.



A couple of close up shots of the trees.





A view to the snowcapped peaks off in the distance.



Another shot of a Joshua tree against the rocky landscape.



We continued further into the park and stopped in Hidden Valley to hike the trail here.  This rock-enclosed valley is rumored to have been used by cattle rustlers.  Heading down the trail in Hidden Valley, this is one of the larger trees that we saw.



Further down the trail, we saw several huge yucca plants.




Prickly pear cactus along the trail.








Beavertail cactus.





Cholla Cactus.





Another type of cactus – I’m not sure of the name.



Lisa heading down the trail.



A shot of my shadow in the afternoon sun.



Another shot of the Joshua trees.



After hiking the Hidden Valley trail, we headed on down the road.  A small side road lined with Joshua trees.



We stopped at the Barker Dam trail for another hike.  The dam was constructed by early cattlemen in 1900.  Because of very dry conditions, there was no water behind the dam.  A jackrabbit we saw as we hiked along this trail.



Some nice silhouettes of Joshua trees, one complete with a starburst!




From Barker Dam, we headed down the road for a quick stop at Skull Rock.  Can you see the skull?



From Skull Rock, we headed down the road to the Arch Rock trail.  A picture of Lisa and I sitting under the Arch Rock.



The sun was starting to get lower in the sky by this time, providing some good color to the rocks.



A Pencil Cholla cactus we saw along the trail.



We headed out of the park through the Twentynine Palms entrance and drove over to the 49 Palms Oasis trail, hoping to complete this hike before it got too late.  However, we were heading up the trail about 4:15pm so we didn’t have a lot of time.  A couple of barrel cactus we saw along this trail.





Although we were hiking quickly, we knew we were not going to make it to the oasis and back before it got dark.  We at least wanted to get far enough to get a view of it.  Here you can see the palm trees of the oasis rising up from the canyon floor in the distance.



We hiked a little bit further, and with the zoom lens, we were able to get a little better view of the oasis.


What a stark contrast these palm trees make against the otherwise barren desert landscape.  It is very interesting how they are able to grow in the middle of the desert.

As the sun was going down fast, we turned around and headed back to the trailhead.  We got some great views across the valley of the final sun hitting the mountains.





We made it back to the car just as the final light was fading on the mountains.  After a great day exploring Joshua Tree National Park, it was time to head back to Palm Springs for the night.  We’ll have to return another time for more exploration.  It would also be great to visit in the springtime when the the cactus and other plants are blooming!

6 thoughts on “Joshua Tree National Park

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