Joshua Tree National Park encompasses more than 800,000 acres and straddles the boundary between the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in Southern California. The park consists of six mountain ranges with ten peaks higher the 5,000 feet. It’s surreal landscape with towering rock formations, jumbles of boulders, and gangly Joshua Trees, has been described as Seussian, resembling the fanciful illustrations of children’s author Dr. Seuss. JPNP is located about 120 miles east of Los Angeles and about 12 northeast of Palm Springs. Interstate 10 runs along the southern boundary, Highway 62 borders the west and north, and Highway 77 borders the east.
On Hwy 62 (29 Palms Hwy), I drive west from Twentynine Palms a few minutes to Canyon Road (1.75 miles east of Indian Cove Road). It’s easy to miss but the small animal hospital on the corner helps as a landmark. I turn left (south) and drive through open desert 1.7 miles to the trailhead at the base of the mountains. There are about 10 cars in the paved parking lot. Trailhead amenities include informational signage, a pit toilet, and a split-rail fence creating a funnel into the trail. I’m eager to hike.
A solo hiker passes me…my first encounter for the hike. I snap pics of a few plants for further investigation. A party of three passes me climbing out. Soon I emerge to my first full view of the oasis below, nestled in morning shade.
Park guests are coming and going. As one who prefers destinations of peaks and waterfalls, my attention is drawn to the rocky crags high above as I ponder their climbablity. And throughout the hike I’ve pondered if there is a reasonable alternate route to get here coming up the canyon. From my observations on the ground and in studying the topo map and Google Earth, it looks like a route is possible starting near Encelia Road behind Stater Bros. It certainly would not be a hike that the Park Service would promote to tourists, but as an adventurer, I am lured to it.
10:56 - I reach the next hip before my final descent and take a short side jaunt to a craggy outcropping. It provides an ideal perch to capture the sweeping panorama to the north.
A pyramid-shaped peak near the trailhead far below calls me to climb it...on another day. My descent is entirely in the sun now and I enjoy the fascinating tan scenery.
Epilog - What a pleasant outing for my first hike in Joshua Tree National Park. The cool weather was most agreeable. Warm sun, amazing landscape, sweeping panoramas, splendid trail, intriguing plants, interesting destination. This short 3-mile round-trip hike with 660 feet in total elevation gain was an ideal introduction to hiking in this amazing desert place. I am eager to return for my next adventure in JTNP.
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