Since spring is touted to be the very best time for hiking in Joshua Tree, I decided that Easter weekend would be the ideal time to visit my daughter in Twentynine Palms.
Recently I was contacted by a hiker named Alan who has hiked many of the established trails in JTNP and offered to share advice with me. So in planning the trip, I emailed Alan and he was most helpful in telling me about various trails. I planned on a short hike on Friday afternoon after we arrived, and set aside all day Saturday for a peak. There are nine peaks in JTNP on the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks list (HPS) (above 5,000 feet), and five on the Lower Peaks list. I decided on an HPS summit: Warren Point (AKA Warren Peak) in Black Rock Canyon. And it worked out that Alan was available so we were able to hike together.
below and on the topo map.). The sign reads, “Access to West Side Loop, Panorama Loop, Warren Peak.” We proceed south on the trail which is surrounded by the desert flora. The sun is strong and the temperature pleasant. We continue to get acquainted as we walk the gentle grade. We veer left past the big tan water tank and follow the sign on the right hand side of the dirt service road for “West Side Loop” (B). Bearing right, we continue southeast.
We reach a Y junction (C). To the right is West Side Loop. To the left is Panorama Loop and Warren Peak (via Black Rock Canyon). We stop and consult the topo map, which is a good practice at junctions. We veer left.
they are the only persons we have encountered thus far. I’m puzzled. It’s a beautiful spring Saturday in a popular national park on a well-publicized trail to grand destinations. Why is there virtually no one here? A ragged ridgeline rims the canyon. There are some splendid stands of metamorphic rock with its twisted, marbled patterns.
I’m still enjoying the array of wildflowers and pleased to find some familiar plants from my San Gabriels, such as blue dicks, phacelia, and wild cucumber.
Our trail curves to the left, cuts back right, and makes the final pitch.
Panorama west. Highpoint 5005’ is on the far left (south) and Warren Point (5103’) is on the far right (north)
We soak in the setting. Shortly the gals in pink and orange arrive and we enjoy chatting. After they leave we linger longer. We leave the summit at 11:00 and retrace our steps down. Alan spots a horned lizard (AKA “horny toad”) scurrying under a bush. I am delighted to capture a picture of it.
and Joshua Trees and picturesque landscape. The ascent gets steeper. At 11:20 we reach an ascending/descending ridge which rewards us with views north and northeast. I study the topography and contemplate various routes that I had scoped out in my pre-hike research. A gentleman passes us heading down. I’m still amazed at how few hikers are here. We continue up and the trail gets steeper. Alan with his 30-pound pack sets an aggressive pace. I stop and photograph flowers as an excuse to catch my breath. I always feel an excitement as I approach a new summit. I love hiking!
Panorama north from Warren Point
There is a peak register in a container (after I finished the hike I realized that I neglected to even look at it! Bummer!). A clear path heads north along the ridgeline, which I had considered as an option in getting here while hitting summits 4789 and 4842 en route via High View Nature Trail. Maybe another time. This peak is certainly worth a return visit. Alan activates his SPOT Messenger to send an OK message to the responsible persons back home that indicates a goal of this hike has been attained and that we do not require assistance.
We pass Warren View Junction (H) at 12:08, exactly one hour since we passed through heading up. At 12:17 we arrive at Panorama Loop Junction (upper) and turn right to proceed south up canyon. We pass a couple small groups coming down. It’s good to see others enjoying the park. The route bends southeast as it follows the wide canyon bottom on soft sand.
We continue up the canyon with its gentle slopes and gangly Joshua trees. The route bends east following the drainage. Behind us, Warren Point punctuates the horizon. Wildflowers continue to grace the desert floor. I’m eager to reach some panoramas that this loop promises.
He continued down the other side into the merciless desert wilderness descending nearly 2,000 feet and wandering 7 or 8 miles. Somehow he survived and a massive search effort found him six days later. There are huge lessons to be learned from this indeed. There is a new sign at this junction which wasn’t here when Alan first hiked the Panorama Loop. Alan notes that surprisingly it is more difficult to navigate in the desert than in the mountains. Every gully, ravine and feature has a similar look. The canyons twist and turn so that you are not always sure that you are heading up the right one. Alan says that here a GPS receiver should be one of the essentials. I’m thankful to be hiking with Dr. Gadget today!
1:33 - Highpoint 5160’+ (K). What a great 360-degree panorama! Wispy high-level clouds add interest to the scene. We are surrounded by rugged desert. Ragged peaks accentuate the skyline.
Panorama southwest. Highpoint 5191’ is on right.
Panorama north from west (left) to east. Highpoint 5191’ is on the far left.
Many of the peaks are unnamed. (I hadn’t been paying close attention to the elevations, but after I got home and studied the topo more, I realized that highpoint 5191’ is the highest point on the rim of the Black Rock upper-western watershed, including being higher than Warren Point (5103’). It seems to me that 5191’, the pyramid-shaped pinnacle, needs a name. And it has a clear path climbing its eastern flank. I shall indeed aim to climb it on my next trip here.) We sit and have lunch and enjoy good conversation. A couple of hikers approach the summit from the east but disappear before getting here.
We had seen this trail from that peak. The route primarily stays west of the ridgeline as it descends. I’m enjoying the fascinating desert scenery and expansive views. This is so different from hiking in my San Gabriels. Shortly the trail leaves the ridgeline and descends northwest to the canyon bottom. I’m still enjoying photographing interesting plants. After a while the canyon narrows and we wind through a narrow slot canyon with fascinating rock.
2:53 - Junction with Black Rock Canyon Trial (F). We have completed the 2.8-mile loop and now retrace our steps north down the wash. We pass Black Rock Spring (E) at 2:59 and the full lighting now makes for a better picture. The canyon gets broader. A group of four men pass us as they head up canyon.
At 3:32 we reach the West Side Loop junction (C) and veer right.
We encounter a small group with a dog and I ask if they are aware that dogs are not permitted on the trails. They say they didn’t see any signs and continue up the trail with seemingly no regard for the prohibition. Such ignorance and defiance boggles my mind. There are very clear and important reasons for keeping pets out of this protected habitat. For example, as explained on the JTNP website, the very presence of pets in the park alters the natural behavior of native wildlife. Pet dogs are descended from wolves and still show predatory behaviors. Even the scents left behind by dogs may turn wildlife away from important habitats such as fan palm oases.
3:50 PM - End hike. We go into the visitor center and thank the rangers for the excellent new switchbacks on the Panorama Loop. We also point out the mileage error on the loop sign. When we report the dog on the trail, the rangers are noticeably disconcerted and press us for details. It is obvious that these rangers passionately care about protecting this wonderful wilderness.
Waypoints (from Alan’s GPS)
View topo map with Waypoints
(using WGS84 datum, at an elevation of 4,071 ft)
B - N 34° 4.152’, W 116° 23.498’, 4,139 ft / Water tank junction
C - N 34° 4.072’, W 116° 23.472’, 4,158 ft / West Side Loop Jct
D - N 34° 3.883’, W 116° 23.310’, 4,126 ft / Four-point Jct, Burnt Hill
E - N 34° 3.376’, W 116° 23.774’, 4,368 ft / Black Rock Spring
F - N 34° 3.225’, W 116° 23.792’, 4,450 ft / Panorama Loop Jct, lower
G - N 34° 3.046’, W 116° 23.969’, 4,577 ft / Panorama Loop Jct, upper
H - N 34° 3.079’, W 116° 24.288’, 4,743 ft / Warren View Jct
I - N 34° 3.126’, W 116° 24.494’, 4,880+ ft / Warren View
J - N 34° 3.305’, W 116° 24.432’, 5,103 ft / Warren Point
K - N 34° 2.700’, W 116° 23.132’, 1,560+ ft / Highpoint 5160’
See Warren Point on Peakbagger.com (includes GPS tracks on topo map for various routes)
See Joshua Tree hikes at Dan's Hiking Pages
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