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Joshua Tree National Park

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Joshua Tree National Park

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Getting its name from the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), a tree native to the Mojave Desert, this National park in Southern California offers a unique landscape. Regardless of covering 794,000 acres of mostly desert land, this park boasts vegetation, wildlife and outstanding rock formations. Its multiple attractions make this park a playground for hikers, climbers and geologists.

Joshua Tree National Park Rocky Landscape 1600

Standing on Little San Bernadino Mountains at 5,185 feet above sea level, Keys View offers outstanding 360 panoramic views of the Californian Desert. Keys View is just a 25 minute drive from the park’s northwest entrance and a short but steep 0.1 mile looped trail from the car-park which is easily accessible. Visiting on a clear day is key to making the most of this gorgeous viewpoint, and if timed right sunrise and sunset are remarkable. This popular spot boasts views of the Salton Sea, a lake below sea level with extremely high salt levels. This is contrasted by the high Santa Rosa Mountains and San Jacinto peak, which are two of the highest peaks in Southern California. At the far right the snow covered peak of San Gorgonio Mountain can be seen. Coachella Valley, Palm Springs and the Indio Hills at San Andreas Fault are also visible in the distance and on an incredibly clear day it is also possible to catch a glimpse of Signal Mountain. Other trails from Keys View lead to Inspiration Peak, Lost Horse Mine and Ryan Ranch.

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Two miners Jepp and Tom Ryan made the rough desert terrain a home by building a house near Ryan Mountain in 1898, the structure of which, albeit in ruins still stands today and shows a glimpse of the Ryan family’s lifestyle. Artifacts, old machines and Native American petroglyphs can also be found on site. The house was built using the mines tailings, and that is when the brothers realized that the Lost Horse Mines contained gold particles. Reaching the ranch is possible via 2 ways, the first being an uphill trail from Ryan’s Campground passing by the Headstone Rock formation and the second starting at the trail-head on Park Boulevard, a slightly longer trail. Both trails meet at a junction and lead to Ryan Ranch through the same route. Once at the ranch, visitors can note the light orange decaying walls of the roofless house and the nearby windmill ruins. Outside a well is covered by a stone, and remains of graves and machinery can be seen. The current drought makes it hard to imagine that a natural spring passed through the area providing the brothers’ with water, an essential which helped them and 60 family members to survive. When the mining industry diminished the Ryan brothers turned their focus to raising cattle until Joshua Tree was made a National Park and grazing was banned. Once again visiting at sunset does make this trail even more spectacular, as the gold brick house glistens in the sun. A suspected arson attack and vandalism have left their mark on this historical location, and as a result archaeologists are trying to preserve the ruins and have encased them in Lime Plaster.

Joshua Tree National Park Tree In A Desert 1600

Skull Rock is a naturally formed rock formation resembling a skull, formed by water gathering in holes and eroding the granite. If hiking is not your thing Skull Rock is easily visible from the street, or alternatively a short walk from the parking lot offers a closer look at Skull Rock and the surrounding boulders which are also fun to explore. Similarly the Skull Rock Natural Trail is accessible from Park Boulevard parking area. Following a short ascent, the well defined trail passes through a narrow gap between rock formations, followed by an uphill walk to a panoramic view point, passing by monzogranite slabs and Skull Rock before returning to Park Boulevard. The rocks were once all under the surface of the earth and pushed upwards, with exposure and abrasion granite referred to as Monzogranite with particular horizontal and vertical joints was formed. Alternatively a 1.7 mile nature loop trail starts from Jumbo Rocks Campground and passes through a labyrinth of rock formations with unique finishes, with larger rocks catching rain water, creating an environment where bio-diversity, vegetation and animals such as snakes, rodents, coyotes and bobcats thrive, so keep an eye out. While spending hours at skull Rock is not necessary it is still worth making a stop at this popular attraction.

The entrance fee to enter Joshua Park is $30 for a 7 day car pass, and spending the night is easy at one of 9 camp-grounds or by camping almost anywhere around the park. Apart from the countless hiking and climbing possibilities including Ryan Mountain, the park also provides many attractions which are close to the park’s main roads, such as Skull Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden, Barker Dam and Arch Rock. A stop at Pioneertown, an 1880s style town used to shoot multiple movies in 1940s and 1950s, is also worth considering just 12 miles outside the park.

There is no denying that Joshua National Park is no ordinary desert, with mountains, stunning viewpoints, ruins of gold mines and ranches, stunning rock formations and desert flora growing around the park. When in Southern California a drive to this national park is highly recommended as it does not fall short of attractions to visit.

Joshua Tree National Park Photos

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Joshua Tree National Park Address & Directions

Joshua Tree National Park, California

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