Nicole, my good friend since 3rd grade, and I took a trip out to California! Her parents live out there so it was a perfect way to see her family and get some hiking in.
We arrived late in San Diego and then woke up early to drive the two hours to Joshua Tree National Park. My mom had been to this park last year and she kept telling me how amazing it was, but I really had no idea what to expect.
We entered the park through the west entrance near the town of Joshua Tree. It is really hard to describe how I felt as we drove in, but the towering, reddish boulder piles made me feel like I was on Mars and my level of excitement was over the top. The park felt otherworldly.
Our first hike was the 1 mile Hidden Valley loop. This trail is a great introduction to the park as it gets you up close to all of the neat natural features found within the park. This trail can get fairly busy since it is a good family friendly trail.
I was pretty excited to see a Joshua Tree since it is only found in this area. Part of the agave family, this tree has twisty branches and spiky “leaves”. Each Joshua Tree was different with its’ arms stretching in all directions.
Next, we headed for the Barker Dam parking lot. We noticed that two trails start from this location so we hiked the 2 mile Wall Street Mill trail. This out and back trail leads to the remains of a historic gold milling site.
From an old windmill to abandoned cars, this trail had a lot of neat stuff.
I think this was my favorite trail that we hiked since there was hardly anyone on the trail! It gave us a chance to slow down the pace and really take in the beauty of the park.
The next trail we hiked was the Barker Dam trail. This trail is popular since it is one of the only areas within the park where there is water. A 1 mile loop trail leads to a rain-fed reservoir that was built in the early 1900’s.
We had a quick lunch at the Split Rock Picnic Area and then headed for the Cholla Cactus Garden trail. One thing to note is that the park is so much larger than you think! It takes a while to drive between interest points. The Cholla Cactus Garden is a little ways away, but I highly recommend going to this place. As you drive Southeast down the Pinto Basin Road, you cross into a different desert. Two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado, meet in the middle of this national park.
I thought the cactus garden was incredible. I thought it was going to be like many different species of cactus planted in neat rows. Nope! The short trail winds between tons of cholla cacti.
I also loved the sweeping desert views beyond the garden! We made a quick stop at Skull Rock, but there was so many people climbing on and around it, we took a quick picture and hopped back in the car.
Our final stop in Joshua Tree was at Keys View. An overlook provides stunning views of the surrounding Little San Bernadino Mountains and we could even see the Salton Sea in the distance!
I wanted to say ‘THANK YOU” to Sherry and Steve for making this epic adventure possible!
And a big shout out to my friend, Nicole! So glad we could finally take our adventures outside of Missouri lol!