Now that we’re in February and the rain keeps pouring here in the Bay Area, I keep day-dreaming about the beautiful sunny days we had in Joshua Tree waaay back in December. The places my brain goes to are the hikes and the amazing desert scenery that we encountered along the trails. Recalling these memories can instantly bring a smile to my face. You can never have enough of those smile-evoking thoughts in your memory bank, right?
As a continuation of my last post, I wanted to mention the other hike at Joshua Tree National Park that we really enjoyed and would highly recommend. I wrote about Desert Queen Mine Hike in my last post, and wanted to mention one last one, the Mastodon Peak Loop hike. This is an easy 2.6 mile loop hike that has so much packed in to it: an oasis, a climb to a peak with views of the Salton Sea, an old mine, and so much more. It was cold in December, but the sun, as well as the uphill climb warms you up considerably. So, dressing in layers will keep you comfortable on this hike.
This trail is located at the southern end of the park near Cottonwood campground, so this may be a reason that this hike was not crowded in the morning. We got to the parking lot by 9 am (we camped on the BLM land just south of the park) and the parking lot was about 60% full. We immediately started our hike and although we encountered people along the trail, there were many sections of the trail that allowed us to have solitude. We even had Mastodon Peak to ourselves! I should mention, however, that when we returned to the van a couple of hours later, the parking situation was pretty messy with parked cars lining the road to get to the parking lot. So, try to do this hike earlier in the morning if you want solitude.
Mastodon Peak Loop Hike:
This loop trail starts with a slight descent into Cottonwood Springs Oasis. The lushness of the trees, which includes the majestic California fan palms, and other colorful plants seems out of place in the desert setting. Once you leave the canopy of the trees in the oasis, this part of the trail is actually called Lost Palms Oasis Trail which leads to the junction of Mastodon Peak.
The final part of the trail back to the parking lot, seemed to have been washed out by the rains, so we made our way next to the road, sometimes catching parts of the trail that were intact. You can do the loop in either direction, but most people seemed to do it counter-clockwise, since we rarely encountered people going the opposite direction.
Great places to scramble over boulders in Joshua Tree:
It’s pretty easy to find places to climb among rocks and giant boulders in Joshua Tree, but we had some favorites.
- Rock climbing along Skull Rock Trail:
This trail is a loop trail, but part of the trail goes through Jumbo Rocks campground. So, we decided to just walk the short trail to the campground and back. There are beautiful rock formations with many areas to climb. We ended our exploration by taking a picture of Skull Rock and crossed the street to explore the huge rock formations (hence the name Jumbo Rocks). This is a very popular place!
- Live Oak Day Use Area:
This day-use area is another good place to stop by if you want to climb boulders. This popular place, which we couldn’t even enter into earlier on in the day, emptied out by late afternoon.
- Rock Climbing challenge:
A little south of White Tank campground, there is a small parking lot at the intersection of Pinto Basin Road (the main road) and Stirrup Tank Road. There is a rock formation that people were eyeing and taking pictures of, but not attempting to climb. It has a smooth face all the way around, but has some areas with ledges that make it seem “doable.” My daughter decided to take on the challenge as people watched. She eventually made it to the top, but as a parent I have to admit it was hard to watch, since I was too busy doing my calculations on how I would catch her if she slipped down the rock face. She, of course, raved about how much fun it was, and that the challenge made it that much more rewarding to get to the top. I hope she continues to approach life like that because life is full of challenges!