January 1, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park

We decided to start the New Year off with a short roadtrip to Southern California. On our first day we headed to Joshua Tree National Park. This was our first visit ever to the park and our first stop was the Visitor Center in the town of Joshua Tree. After getting some info we went right across the street to Subway to grab sandwiches that we could have later for lunch since there is no food available inside the park. We began our drive into the park from the west entrance and soon could see the Joshua Trees that the park is named for. Our first stop in the park was the short hike or nature walk to Barker Dam. It's a loop about a mile in distance that takes you past the dam. There was very little water there. We continued on into the park and made a quick stop at Cap Rock, which was not impressive. Continuing on we went to Keys View. Now this was a bit more impressive. Sweeping views of Palm Springs, Mount San Jacinto and the Coachella Valley all the way to the Salton Sea and the Sonoran Desert Mountains in Mexico on a clear day. Next stop was Skull Rock which is basically a big bock that kinda looks like a skull. It's right off the road and you don't need to hike to it but you do have to climb over a few rocks. This was a busy place with lots of families stopped here and the kids seemed to love scrambling all over the surrounding rocks. After some photos we continued our drive through the park. Next was Arch Rock. To get to Arch Rock you drive into the White Tank campground and head towards site #9. Across from the site there is parking for maybe four or five cars. The trailhead is easily seen from there. From the trailhead to Arch Rock its a 0.3 mile nature walk. You can climb up some rocks and actually stand in the arch for some photos. By this time it was mid day so we took a break to eat our lunch. Afterwards we headed out through the north entrance of the park and stopped at the Oasis Visitor center in the town of Twentynine Palms. Here we purchased our usual souvenier magnet for the fridge. We also grabbed some information about Mojave National Preserve, but more on that in our next post. We hopped on highway 62 heading west, made a left on Canyons Road and followed it all the way until it deadends at the trailhead for the 49 Palms Oasis trail. This hike totals three miles and is an out and back and according to the brochure moderately strenuous. The hike starts with a gradual climb over the mountain, after which you have a long descent into a small valley. Halfway down the descent you get your first glympse of the palm trees that make up the oasis. The oasis is a remarkable contradiction to the surrounding dry, rocky desert terrain. After spending some time enjoying the palm trees and the sounds of wildlife we headed back on the trail. The hike proved to be moderate, not strenuous at all, and a must do at Joshua Tree National Park. There is another Visitor Center for the park at the south entrance, Cottonwood Visitor Center. There are backpacking trails and nine small campgrounds within the park.

Skull Rock

Arch Rock

49 Palms Oasis