Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lost Palms Oasis Hike in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park offers arguably some of the best hiking trails in all of Southern California. The Lost Palms Oasis Hike is on the eastern side of Joshua Tree National Park. The Lost Palms Oasis Hiking Trail journeys to a back country Oasis deep in Joshua Tree National Park where you are rewarded with lush palm trees and spectacular views. Ashley and I highly recommend this scenic hike. For more pictures make sure to check out our Facebook Page.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the Lost Palms Oasis Hike in Joshua Tree National Park, take interstate 10 toward the eastern entrance of Joshua Tree. From interstate 10, take exit 168 and head north on Cottonwood Spring Road. After approximately 7 miles, turn right just before the Cottonwood Visitor Center and ranger station where you pay your day fee. Continue approximately 1 mile to the Cottonwood Springs trailhead at the road’s end. Parking at this location can get crowded as this is a very popular hiking spot. Entrance fees for Joshua Tree National Park are $15 per vehicle or $5 for bicycles, motorcycles, walk-ins, and bus passengers. The park fee provides a 7 day permit for access to the park. For more information about Joshua Tree National Park fees, including annual fees, click Here. Additionally for a map of where Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California, click Here.

Description of Trail: The hike to Lost Palms Oasis departs from Cottonwood Spring on the east side of Joshua Tree National Park. When you begin at the trailhead you will notice the smaller Cottonwood Springs Oasis, right at the trailhead. From this location the trail heads east on the 7.2-mile roundtrip out and back hike to the Lost Palms Oasis. The trail has a lot of elevation gain and loss for a total elevation gain of approximately 400 feet. The hiking trail is well maintained by the national park service and is easy to follow. You will notice plenty of signs with trail markers directing you where to go. The trail terrain repeatedly changes from a granular sandy dry creek beds to rocky dirt trail. It goes through stream beds and canyons to end at an overlook of Palm Canyon where the Lost Palms Oasis is located. From the overlook, a steep path descends to the Lost Palms Oasis. For a printable map of the Los Palms Oasis Hiking Trail, click Here. The best seasons to do this hike are Fall, Winter, and Spring.

Further Thoughts: Ashley and I really enjoyed our hike to the Lost Palms Oasis. This is truly a spectacular hike that offers the chance to see vast amounts of scenery and potential wildlife. We saw big horn sheep while on our hike, a black-tailed jackrabbit, a red-tailed hawk, and numerous lizards. Along portions of the trail you can even see the Salton Sea as well as on a clear day all the way into Arizona. This is truly a desert hike and you will notice the extremes in terrain as well as the fascinating rock formations along this hike. It is neat to begin your hike at the smaller Cottonwood Springs at the trailhead and then later soak in the views at the Lost Palms Oasis at the end of the trail. When you are at the overlook for the Lost Palms Oasis, make sure to look on the ridge-lines located above you as that is where we saw bighorn sheep.

The best seasons to do this hike are fall, winter, and spring when the weather is cooler. It would not be recommended to do this hike during the summer due to the heat. Normal high temperatures for June, July, and August in Joshua Tree National Park (taken at an elevation of 1,950) are all over 100 degrees. Additionally, water in Joshua Tree is scare as the park receives on average only about 4 inches of rain each year with the wettest months being July and August due to summer monsoonal thunderstorms. Bottom-line is bring plenty of water with you for your hike and make sure to have sunscreen as there is little shade along the majority of this hike.

Joshua Tree National Park encompass 794,000 acres of space where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge. It ranges in elevation from 900 feet to over 5,000 feet above sea level. The eastern half of the park, below 3,000 feet above sea level, lies within the Colorado Desert. The hike to Lost Palms Oasis is within the Colorado Desert portion of the park. This habitat of the lower Colorado River valley is part of the much larger Sonoran Desert, which spans the southern Arizona and northwestern Mexico. The western half of Joshua Tree National park at elevations above 3,000 feet, is Mojave Desert habitat. Amid the boulder stacks are pinyon pines, junipers, scrub oaks, Mojave yuccas, and Mojave prickly pear cacti. What tells you that you are truly in the Mojave desert is the Joshua Tree.

Despite the impression that the desert is lifeless, many animals make their homes in Joshua Tree National Park. Birds, lizards, and ground squirrels are most likely to be seen because they are largely active during the day. However, it is at night that the Joshua Tree National Park animals come out to roam. Mostly nocturnal animals include: snakes, bighorn sheep, kangaroo rats, coyotes, and black-tailed jack rabbits. Dusk and dawn are good times for viewing many kinds of animals, both those just going to bed and those just getting up.

When you're at one of the Joshua Tree's fan-palm oases, you're atop a crack in the Earth's crust. Geological faults crisscross the park area. When groundwater hits a fault plane, it rises to the surface and creates conditions for an oasis. Dependable surface water nourishes lush vegetation, a welcome refuge from desert extremes. Besides the majestic California fan palms, there are cottonwoods and mesquites that inhabit these areas. Look carefully and you may see un-desertlike species like orchids and amphibians. For more information on the earthquake faults in Joshua Tree National Park click Here.

Ashley and I really enjoyed this hike and highly recommend it for the unique geography, spectacular scenery and views, and lastly for the neat Oasis at the end of the hike. Additionally, this hike can be combined with the hike to Mastodon Peak in Joshua Tree National Park.

Rating:  Elevation Gain: 400 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 7.2 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).

Time to Complete Hike: 4 - 6 hours.

MORE TRAIL WRITE-UPS ON JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

Lost Palms Oasis Hike (This Post)


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