I had missed out on visiting Joshua Tree the last time I was in California (Coachella 2013) as a sandstorm was ripping through the valley. The weather this time around was cooperative and we had a nice hot California day in the park.
We started the day by picking up a couple jugs of water and food for the day in the town of Joshua Tree as there are no services within the park itself. Even though it was early February it was nearing 30ºC, so a couple litres of water per person was a necessity (Sidenote: Lady at the 29 Palms gas station commented that it was “almost” shorts weather). From this side of the park you could see the ranges to the west of the park.
View from Willow Hole
We did the short 1.5 mile (2.4 ish Km) trail to Barker Dam. This trail is pretty flat and takes you through some other worldly rock landscapes before bringing you to the dam.
Looping back towards the parking lot there is a short spur to see some petroglyphs. The bright colour of the glyphs are (supposedly) the result of a Disney crew painting over the original carvings to make them more visible on camera.
Barker Dam Glyphs
Following the hike we took the drive up to Keys View. The San Andreas Fault (dark linear feature in photo below) can be seen on clear days from here. Several other faults also run through or near the park.
San Andreas Fault from Keys View
View west of the park
Salton Sea from Keys View
We next did a quick stop at Skull Rock. There were a bunch of people posing here for I’m assuming outfit of the day photos. This was probably the busiest place we stopped at. The rock is visible from the main road and the area around it is worth exploring as well – loads of rounded rock formations.
Our last stop for the day was the Cholla Cactus Garden. Upon getting to the trailhead we saw a couple of ominous signs. Apparently bees swarm in the hotter months around moisture sources and the cactus “jump” (YouTube Cholla Cactus Attacks to see)
The cactus doesn’t actually jump, but the branches are weakly attached, so brushing or touching them can cause pieces to break off.
The cactus garden was a pretty spectacular sight – hundreds of thousands of cholla cactus located in one place. We arrived as the sun was starting to descend so there was almost a glow on the needles