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Steve, Katherine, and Norah | profile | all galleries >> California Spring Break 2020: Joshua Tree, San Diego, Laguna Beach and LA >> Joshua Tree National Park tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Joshua Tree National Park

Norahís main objective for spring break was a visit to Six Flags Magic Mountain in CA and we planned a road trip along the southern California coast. Joshua Tree National Park was an ideal first stop to break up our drive to San Diego and a perfect way to get in some outdoor time. Norah was too small to remember her first trip to JTNP in 2010, so this was like a new park for her.

We arrived late Thursday evening and were leaving Saturday morning, which meant we had one full day to visit the park. I had a list of the spots I wanted to visit and we were able to do everything we wanted to - itís nice that many of the main attractions are clustered together and only require short walks to see them. We stayed in 29 Palms Thursday night and drove into the park Friday morning when it was still dark so we could watch sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden in Pinto Basin. This was a highlight of the day! The cholla looked amazing at sunrise and itís an impressive garden. This type of cholla is also called teddy bear or jumping cholla - the barbs are nasty. There is a short path through the garden that makes it easy to experience the garden safely. New cactus grow from joints that drop on the ground, so any deviation from the established path requires care as there are what I like to call ďcholla balls of painĒ scattered on the ground.

After sunrise we backtracked on Pinto Basin Road to Arch Rock. The trail starts from the campground, but there is additional parking further up the road and a trail to come in the backside of the loop. Itís a short walk and it didnít take long to get to Arch Rock. There are a lot of neat rock formations in this area and we spent some time scrambling around before heading back to our car.

Next up were the spots off of Park Boulevard in the Mojave Desert section of the park, west of Pinto Basin. Hidden Valley is one of the most popular spots, so we went there first in case it would be crowded later (overall, we had no problems with parking or crowds the day we were there, although it looked the park was going to be a lot busier on the weekend when we were leaving). There is a mile loop in Hidden Valley that wanders among a variety of rocks and desert plants. Close by is Barker Dam, so we did that one next. Itís another mile loop and although it was dry and there was no pond, it was still a nice walk - there are more Joshua Trees in this area.

From the Barker Dam parking area there is a dirt road that goes through Queen Valley back to Park Boulevard. There are a few hikes off of this road, although we have not done them. On this trip we just did the drive through Queen Valley, which has a lot of fantastic Joshua Trees. Few people go to this section of the park, so itís nice also for the solitude. And the dirt road is fine for passenger cars.

Back on Park Boulevard we did another drive, this time up to Keys View on the Little San Bernardino Mountains. From here we had panoramic views of the Coachella Valley, San Andreas Fault, Santa Rosa Mountains, and San Jacinto Mountains. At the base of Keys View Road is Cap Rock, so we stopped on our way back down. There is a short nature trail here that is a nice walk - I like where the trail goes through a split rock.

By this point, it was later in the afternoon and we were able to set up our camp at Jumbo Rocks Campground. After getting settled in, we walked over to Skull Rock on the trail from the campground. This is another fun area to scramble around on the big rocks and we spent quite a bit of time here before going back to camp. To finish off the day, we drove back out to Queen Valley for sunset.

We covered a lot of ground on Friday, so had time for an extra hike Saturday morning before leaving. We opted to do Ryan Mountain, which is a hike of 3 miles round trip and 980 feet elevation gain (summit is 5,457 feet - the fifth highest peak in the park). We got an early start and there werenít too many people on the trail yet. The trail wound around the mountain and we had views of Hidden Valley and Wonderland of Rocks on the way up and even more views at the summit, including Mt. San Jacinto and Mt. San Gorgonio. A nice way to cap off our time in JTNP. It was a short visit, but a good one!
Mater!
Mater!
Lunch in Seligman
Lunch in Seligman
Route 66!
Route 66!
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Sunrise at Cholla Cactus Garden
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Arch Rock
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Western scrub jay
Western scrub jay
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Barker Dam
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Keys View
Keys View
Cap Rock
Cap Rock
Cap Rock
Cap Rock
Cap Rock
Cap Rock
Jumbo Rocks campground
Jumbo Rocks campground
Interesting dike that looks like large teeth
Interesting dike that looks like large teeth
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Jumbo Rocks
Skull Rock
Skull Rock
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Queen Valley
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain
Ryan Mountain