Our first stop was the Joshua Tree Visitor Center off of CA 62 on Park Boulevard. Be sure to check out the exhibits here about the terrain, wildlife and plant life in the park. We spoke with a ranger about the loop drive on Park Blvd and the sights of interest along the way.
Continuing south on Park Blvd is the West Entrance to the park.
Our first stop was the Quail Springs picnic area. Belonging to the lily family (yucca brevifolia), the Joshua tree is neither cactus or tree. It occurs most commonly at about 3,000' elevation in the southern Mojave Desert. It was named by Mormon pioneers who thought its arms resembled Joshua beckoning them to the promised land.
This rock was once a solid mass of granite (monzogranite). Earthquakes stressed and cracked the rock. Tectonic plates pushed the rock closer to the surface, creating a rock climbers' paradise.
The Hemingway Buttress and Banana Cracks are a few of the 5,000 rock climbing routes in the park. Can you see the hikers in the first two photos?
Hidden Valley was our next stop where we hiked the one-mile loop trail. A campground is located nearby. In the 1870s is was used as a hide-out for cattle rustlers (and their cattle)! The 55-acre valley ends in a box canyon ideal for a concealed corral. The rock formations were pretty amazing.
We continued south to Keys View where you can see expansive views of valley, mountain and desert at 5,185'. Along the way is this large Joshua tree forest at around 3,000', the preferred environment in the Mojave Desert for the giant yucca plant.
There is a short (.25 mile) loop trail at Keys View that is great way to see the spectacular views here of the San Andreas fault in the valley below, Coachella Valley, Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. San Gorgonio, and the Salton Sea. On the day we visited it was very hazy, not uncommon, and caused by water vapor, air pollution and dust.
Near Skull Rock is another loop trail through the Jumbo Rocks. The strange formations were formed by cavernous weathering and undercutting.
Our last short hike (.3 miles) for the day was at White Tank Campground where we explored more of the unique rock formations including the natural Arch Rock.
We left the park via the North Entrance Station. There is much more we want to see here, so we will be back a couple of more times before leaving the area. As always, the sights in this National Park are spectacular!
Admission to the park is $15/vehicle for a 7-day permit. Our Senior Pass gets us at no charge. Pets must be leashed and are prohibited on all trails and more than 100' from roads or campgrounds. For additional information about campgrounds and things to do in the park, see their website.