JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK — Between COVID-19 restrictions and cold winter weather, options for travel, camping and hiking are pretty limited for Utahns.
Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California is one place you can travel to find warm temperatures outdoors. Here are three great hikes in the park for you to check out.
Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail
Fortynine Palms Oasis Trail is a stunning, short and somewhat strenuous trek through barren terrain into a small oasis of palm trees and lush greens in the middle of the desert. This 3.1-mile, out-and-back hike is just outside the town of Twentynine Palms, according to All Trails. And despite its short length, it contains 636 feet of elevation gain.
The trail begins by ascending steeply for a half-mile and evening out over stunning views of the surrounding valleys. The trail then rolls up and down over several ridges and descends to a small, lush oasis adorned with palm trees. This short hike is an excellent way to see the nuances of one of America’s hottest, driest deserts.
Due to the elevation gain, this hike ordinarily takes 2-3 hours, the National Park Service advises. The trail is very exposed, so it is best not to go when it is hot. The best time of year to complete this hike is in the fall, winter and early spring months.
Fortnynine Palms Oasis in September of 2020. (Photo: Cara MacDonald)
You can access the Fortynine Palms parking lot from California state Route 62, where you will exit onto a dirt road to reach the trailhead.
Lost Horse Mine Trail
Lost Horse Mine Trail, located near Twentynine Palms, California, is a 4-mile, out-and-back hike through rolling hills and past wildflowers to reach one of the most fruitful gold mines in the area, the National Park Service states. The hike contains 550 feet of elevation gain and takes 2-3 hours to complete.
The trail, accessible year-round, is an excellent way to explore diverse desert landscapes and spot wildlife all while visiting a piece of California’s history. The mine — a large and noticeable structure around 2 miles into the hike — provides an opportunity for photography and may be viewed from multiple angles on the surrounding hills.
Note that the Lost Horse Mine is fenced off, according to All Trails. Additionally, due to the harsh heat in the summer, this hike is better attempted during the winter months.
To access the trail, visit Lost Horse Mine Trailhead off of Keys View Road in Joshua Tree National Park. Note that Joshua Tree charges a fee of $30 per vehicle, or $25 per motorcycle for entrance into the park, according to All Trails.
Skull Rock Trail
Skull Rock trail, located at Skull Rock parking area near the famous Jumbo Rocks Campground, is an easy 1.7-mile loop, according to the National Park Service. With only 160 feet of elevation gain, this hike will take under two hours even for inexperienced hikers and is a great option for families with young children.
The hike rolls past impressive boulder piles, through dry washes, and to the namesake “Skull Rock.” Skull Rock is accessible even during the hottest times of the year, though hikers should still bring plenty of water and supplies on any hike in Joshua Tree National Park.
Read more about hikes in Joshua Tree National Park on NPS.gov.