Mastodon Peak Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

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.

Cottonwood Springs Oasis
A pair of ocotillo frame the path
Lost Palms Oasis trail
Brittlebush adds a pop of yellow color to the scenery
After the Mastodon Peak Junction, the path meanders among boulders
From this sign, it’s a short scramble up the east (and towards the rear) side of Mastodon peak to get to the top for some incredible views
View from Mastodon Peak
Salton Sea in the distance
Mastodon Mine
Mastodon Mine history
Love the Mojave yucca
Walking the wash
Climbing detour, see the “ant” on the round boulder?
Concrete foundations of mill buildings that once housed mining equipment

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!
Starting out on Skull Rock trail, Skull Rock is immediately on the left
The boulders and rocks here are great for climbing
More climbing areas
We kept finding things that the rocks resembled
Skull Rock
Across the street from Skull Rock is a great “jumbo” rock to climb and take a picture
  • 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.


Abundance of Joshua Trees in the area
You can try out different climbing techniques with so many different types of rock formations
  • 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!
The challenge of climbing to the top made it that much more rewarding




15 replies to “Mastodon Peak Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

  1. So much fun, and amazing views! You are definitely right, we can never have too much of THIS in our memory bank. I try to “take some of these memories out and re-live them” before getting out of bed in the morning, as a part of a gratitude ritual. thanks for taking us on this amazing experience. Have a wonderful new week.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful views!! As I was scrolling through the pics, I kept thinking the rocks looked like fingers- then I got to the one pic of the finger imitation. Now I know my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just wanted to return here and say i was just in Joshua tree last week!! When i was at junbo rocks i remembered your pictures from this blog post. I was there just a short time so didnt do all the hikes you posted about but i did the skull rock trail, climbed ryan mountain and did the barker dam trail. Beautiful place!

      I also did death valley, sequoia, and pinnacles. All in 5 days too! Lol.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
close-alt close collapse comment ellipsis expand gallery heart lock menu next pinned previous reply search share star