We went back to Keys View in the morning to see if there was any better visibility of the San Adreas Fault earlier in the morning. It was better but still pretty hazy. We stopped at Lost Horse Mine to hike out and see some of the remains of the mining operations that used to exist. It’s about a 3.5 mile round trip and pretty remote, or at least remote feeling. On the way to the mine, we came across a herd of big horn sheep that let us get pretty close for some good pictures.
After the mine, we went to the Hidden Valley area and wandered along the Hall of Horrors trail for a while before heading South toward the other end of the park. On the drive south, we made a few stops at the Cholla Cactus Garden, home of the jumping Chollas that seem to magically (and painfully) attach themselves to people, Ocotillo Patch (different kind of cactus) and the Cottonwood Visitor Center / Lost Palms Oasis before leaving the park to the South. We must have been pretty tired from the heat, because we chose not to hike the Lost Palms Oasis trail but instead to stick to the short trail near the parking lot. Continue reading
We planned to spend two days in Joshua Tree, but we didn’t know a lot about the park, so the first order of business on Thursday was stopping at the visitor center (very upper left of the map above) to get some maps, figure out what campgrounds were likely to have spaces and figure out what areas were most interesting to hike. You can somewhat see that Joshua Tree is a sizeable park with the concentration of roads, campgrounds and attractions in the Northwest corner. We entered from the Northwest and kind of drove through the most popular areas just checking out campgrounds.
The campsite was huge and remote... worth the search.
The ranger pointed us in the direction of Jumbo Rocks campground and then further on to Belle and White Tank, the latter two being campgrounds that did not take reservations and which were thus likely to have open spots. We drove through both and then circled back to Jumbo Rocks where we found a site to our liking (it was a pretty fantastic site) and set up camp. We could have saved some time by poking around Jumbo Rocks first, but we were of the impression that sites were going to be in short supply and that we’d need to find something quick so our first stop at the more distant sites seemed to be playing the odds. Turns out, Joshua Tree was not nearly as busy as Grand Canyon and there were probably open sites in all the park’s campgrounds.
Joshua Tree definitely has a unique feel to it. The Joshua trees aren’t only found in the park (we drove through some significant expanses elsewhere) but they’re definitely there in a much higher density than anywhere else. Side note – Joshua trees are not actual trees, they are a large variety of yucca. Their trunks are fibrous and they split when the bloom after the end of a branch sustains frost damage. https://www.nps.gov/jotr/learn/nature/jtrees.htm