Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park takes its name from the tree-like yuccas which reminded early Mormon travelers of Joshua pointing to the promised land. These unique plants only exist in the higher elevations (above 3,000 feet) of the Mojave desert. The park is so large (1,240 square miles) it also includes a portion of the lower Colorado desert. Here ocotillo and cholla flourish. The area was designated a national monument in 1936 and then a national park in 1994. Seventy percent of the park is designated as wilderness. www.nps.gov/jotr
Another feature of the park is the large number of huge piles of quartz monzogranite boulders. When the monzogranite was formed over 100 million years ago, it developed a system of rectangular joints. As ground water eroded the rock along these joints, the rectangular stones weathered to spheres surrounded by soft clay which was eventually washed away leaving piles of boulders.
Gold discoveries in the 1870s and 1880s resulted in a host of mines, most of which were unproductive. For a brief time, cattle ranches thrived, but the native grasses were soon consumed and only Keys’ Desert Queen Ranch had a good supply of water.
Joshua Tree National Park provides a wide variety of hikes. You can climb mountains, visit old mine sites, enjoy serene palm oasis, and walk among the rocks and Joshua Trees. There are numerous nature trails with excellent signage or trail guides which vary in length from ¼-mile to 1.7 miles.
We also took the 18-mile Geology Road Tour.
Due to extreme winds, we only camped for three nights at Jumbo Rocks Campground. On the coldest night, it got down to 17 degrees. One night we were serenaded by a pack of coyotes. On the last morning, as the clouds began rolling in to provide much needed rain, we had a beautiful sunrise.
Trails and Treasures Home Page Journey to the American Southwest 2003 Joshua Tree NP Hikes