Joshua Tree National Park is a most unique place and a special one in my history with the outdoors. I originally visited the park as a young Boy Scout when it was still a national monument. The massive boulders and other world qualities of the landscape gave rise to many wild imaginings and simple adventures.
As a young adult, I returned to climb monstrous boulders as I learned and then taught the basics of rock climbing. I would return many times to climb the rocks there, hone my skills and test my nerves. It would be the last place I would climb as well. February 18, 1989 was the last real climb I went on. I remembered it began to snow on a 3 pitch climb and my climbing partner and I had to rappel off the face to safety.
As an adult, I have returned to walk about the canyons, washes and ridges. Each visit brings new discoveries and new found appreciation for this most unique place. If you haven't been, you must see this place with your own eyes. It's a bucket list destination.
My current favorite hikes in the park are, in general order of preference:
Lost Palms Oasis: A 7.4 mile up-and-back that begins at Cottonwood Springs. For the first 3.2 miles, it is a moderate hike but increases in difficulty for the last .5 as you approach a deep canyon bearing a surprising number of California Palms. You can add an additional 1.5 miles by taking the Mastodon Peak loop, which intersects with this trail.
This hike provides a wide variety of terrains, views and fauna. The only thing it does not give you are Joshua Trees. PROTRAILS: Lost Palm Oasis
Lost Horse Mine: You can do this hike as an up-and-back to make it a 4 mile hike or do it as a loop for 6.2 miles. It’s a moderately strenuous hike that gives you some great views of the park as you climb, as well as a great visit to an old gold and silver mine, complete with tipple and mill ruins. NPS Map
Pine City: A 3.5 mile up-and-back hike to the only pine trees in the park. A moderate hike that has options to make it much longer. The trail leads to a collection of giant boulders shaded by California Juniper and Pinon Pine trees. A wonderful place for lunch as you sit beneath the shade of the trees and boulders. The “city” was apparently a small collection of wooden cabins inhabited by miners who worked the nearby Lucky Boy Mine. LOCALHIKES: Pine City
Barker Dam / Petroglyphs Loop: An easy hike of maybe 1.5 miles. It is my favorite to take as the last hike of the day. The setting sun casting a warm glow on the rock faces. You are more likely to see a few critters visit during this time as well. The trail takes you to the small lake created by a dam built to hold water for cattle then into a boulder lined valley. There is a small side track to the “Movie Petroglyphs” named so because a movie crew enhanced ancient petroglyphs with some paint to make the filming of them easier. MODERNHIKER: Barker Dam Loop
Hidden Valley Nature Trail: This easy hike is only 1 mile but is a complete delight. This small valley is home to an abundance of life. Do not pass it up. PROTRAILS: Hidden Valley Loop