More than Just Joshua Tree(s) National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is part of the Mojavi and Colorado Desert on the border of San Bernardino & Riverside County, California. If you need a point of references its near Palm Springs off highway 10. The Park is only a two hour drive from the Southern California area. I’ve always wanted to visit but for some reason I never did. U2 named an album after it, the park couldn’t be that bad, right?
Last week, April 14, 2015, my brothers and I made our way to the park for a day of hiking. My perception of the park was a flat desert filled with Joshua Trees, which really aren’t trees but a large cactus in disguise. To my surprise, the terrain varied from a flat landscape to mountains of 5,000 feet to rocky terrain which draws rock climbers.
Our first hike was the forty nine palms oasis trail. A three mile hike consisting of a rocky hillside with a barren landscape with an oasis in a small canyon as the reward at the end of the trail. If you can walk you can complete this trail. For my complete post please see: forty nine palms oasis trail.
After a short drive, we arrived at our next trail, or what I call a short walk. The Arch Trail was just a few hundred yards from a camp ground and it was a short trail with a great reward. Of course, it doesn’t compare to the Arch’s you see in southern Utah but it’s still picturesque. People may see it as an arch but in my point of view it looks like an elephant, at a certain angle it certainly does. It’s a great place to let your inner child out and play, or bring your children, since this is a great place for boulder hopping.
Our 3rd hike was the popular Hidden Valley Trail with the trail head beginning at the Hidden Valley picnic area. This trail can become crowded with hikers and I recommend doing this early if it is on your list of trails. We arrived at noon and there were only a couple of parking spots available and all the shady picnic tables were already in use and now our best option was to have lunch in the back of my SUV. I opened the back of the vehicle and we sat in the back of the vehicle well shaded from the sun on a warm day. The temperature for the day was about 85 degrees farenheit which is manageable compared to the 100 degree weather of the summer.
The campground is surrounded by the famed Joshua Tree and is one of the best areas of the park to view them. The trail is a popular spot for rock climbers with rocky out cropping throughout the valley.
Our last hike was the Barker Dam trail, home to a reservoir ranchers once used to nourish their herds. It’s hard to imagine there was once a cattle ranch here, in this desolate arid desert. I actually enjoyed this trail more than the popular Hidden Valley trail.
The Barker Dam trail is flat with rows of Joshua Trees inside the valley, as if they were planted in specific distance from each other. The dam would be a much better draw, and photo opportunity, if it were full of water. With the lack of rain this year and the desert environment, there was little chance we would see this dam, in actuality a reservoir, brimming with water.
An added site to this trail was the petroglyphs on a rock wall, a reminder that man lived here hundreds of years ago before the ranchers and eager hikers.
Joshua Tree National Park was much more than I expected and is definitely worth a visit if your ever in the area.