Cholla Cactus Gardens in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Trees are of course the main draw for Joshua Tree National Park, but one of the most impressive areas, botany-wise, is the Cholla Cactus Garden. The few acres of land here have grown countless Cholla cactus and they dot the landscape as you look out towards the hills. It’s a great short hike in the park and a fun 30-minute adventure for the whole family. Here is all the information.

Details

  • .5 mile round trip
  • Flat
  • Great for sunrise and sunset

Getting There

From the Oasis of Mara entrance to the park, you will head south on Park Blvd till it splits. Head left and go past Belle and White Tank Campgrounds before arriving at the Cholla Cactus Garden about 5-10 minutes later. There is a small parking lot where you can park for the short hike.

The Trail

From the parking area, you will see the two entrances to the trail heading out in front of you. It doesn’t really matter which side you start on as it is a loop trail and you will see everything.

At the further west entrance there is a plaque with information though and a small paper pamphlet on the area (not always there).

The trail is flat and short but you will want to take your time as you look out over the cactus and even get up close with some of them.

Don’t get too close though as the cactus get their name because they stick to you pretty quickly.

The trail continues to wind around, and there are a few short bridges that you will use to cross the terrain.

While it doesn’t take long to see this area, it is a really impressive area of the park. It’s also a perfect spot for sunrise as well, since the views are facing east. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Cholla Cactus Gardens in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Trees are of course the main draw for Joshua Tree National Park, but one of the most impressive areas, botany-wise, is the Cholla Cactus Garden. The few acres of land here have grown countless Cholla cactus and they dot the landscape as you look out towards the hills. It’s a great short hike in the park and a fun 30-minute adventure for the whole family. Here is all the information.

Details

  • .5 mile round trip
  • Flat
  • Great for sunrise and sunset

Getting There

From the Oasis of Mara entrance to the park, you will head south on Park Blvd till it splits. Head left and go past Belle and White Tank Campgrounds before arriving at the Cholla Cactus Garden about 5-10 minutes later. There is a small parking lot where you can park for the short hike.

The Trail

From the parking area, you will see the two entrances to the trail heading out in front of you. It doesn’t really matter which side you start on as it is a loop trail and you will see everything.

At the further west entrance there is a plaque with information though and a small paper pamphlet on the area (not always there).

The trail is flat and short but you will want to take your time as you look out over the cactus and even get up close with some of them.

Don’t get too close though as the cactus get their name because they stick to you pretty quickly.

The trail continues to wind around, and there are a few short bridges that you will use to cross the terrain.

While it doesn’t take long to see this area, it is a really impressive area of the park. It’s also a perfect spot for sunrise as well, since the views are facing east. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

The tragedy at Susan’s Bluff

They resumed their journey down the dusty California Trail along the Carson River toward what now is Dayton. When the party reached the Break-a-Heart Ranch, the advance wagons were attacked by Indians. The attack was so sudden, and there was no way to escape in the narrow Carson River ...
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Mastodon Peak in Joshua Tree National Park

Mastodon Peak is a great hike if you are coming from the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. This is the most likely entrance you would use if you are staying in the Coachella Valley and want to visit the park. The hike is 3 miles round trip, and it takes you to the top of a small peak as well as past an old mine. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 3 miles round trip
  • 450 feet of elevation
  • Leaves from Cottonwood Springs parking area.

Getting There

From the 10 Freeway, you will want to get off at Cottonwood Springs Road and head north towards the park entrance. Eventually, you will make it to the Cottonwood Visitors Center. Turn left here and head towards the parking area for Cottonwood Springs, which is where you will start the hike.

The Trail

I chose to make the loop counter-clockwise since the trail is easier to follow in this direction.

The trail leaves from the east side of parking lot and heads down into a small oasis with a few green trees.

From here you will head up on a gradual incline on an easy to follow trail.

The trail does have a lot of sand sections though which are not very fun to walk on.

It builds momentum as you continue the progressive climb with small hills on each side.

After . 7 miles the trail splits from the Cottonwood Springs trail and goes up towards Mastodon Peak.

This split is where you will experience some of the elevation as you climb up the roughly hewn rock steps.

When you get to the top of the small climb, you will be at the base of Mastodon Peak.

It’s a tenth of a mile scramble to the top, but it’s not bad. I recommend walking around the backside and climbing up that way to the top.

The top provides a great 360-degree view out over the park and even across to the Salton Sea if it’s clear.

After hanging out and taking photos head down the way you came, back to the trail, and continue on towards the mine.

Mastodon Mine

After a tenth of a mile, you will see the remains of the mine.

There is not a lot to see here, but you can still look down into the mine shaft which is pretty cool. From here it is a .9 mile hike back to the car.

The end of the trail is uneventful with most of the walking on a sandy washout area. Don’t miss the turn to go back to the parking area and not on to the campground though.

All in all, this is a fun, relatively easy hike in the park. I recommend you check it out if you come in from the south entrance, but I wouldn’t drive down from one of the other entrances just to see it. Let me know what you think in the comments.

‘Tis the season to celebrate

ELKO -- Pioneer Christmas for Kids, the California Trail Interpretive Center's annual holiday celebration, is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 16. Cut paper snowflakes, create Christmas cards, and make other holiday arts and crafts. Enjoy free hot chocolate while listening to live Christmas music.
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Along the California Trail

An ancient set of Indian paths and the natural flow of the Gila River created a major artery for travel through pioneer Arizona. The Gila provided a ready route for the earliest traders, including Toltecs of Mexico, who traded with the Mogollon, Anasazi and Hohokam. The intrepid Padre Francisco Garces, ...
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Geology Tour Road: Joshua Tree’s Easiest 4×4 Road

Geology Tour Road is an 18-mile drive in Joshua Tree National Park that has sections only accessible to 4×4 cars. It is a fun place to drive that shows you what the park would have looked like back in the day and while there isn’t a ton to see here, it is a good intro into the parks geological history as well as a few human elements. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 4×4 is recommended, but you can usually get to Squaw Tank without it. Heading on to complete the loop generally requires 4×4 though. Check with a park ranger for the status of the road.
  • 18 miles round trip
  • Location: The marked turnoff is near Jumbo Rocks Campground.

Getting There

Geology Tour Road is in the park map between Jumbo Rocks and Sheeps Pass. There is a sign noting the turnoff, but you have to keep your eyes peeled to see it.

The Drive

When you turn onto Geology Tour Road, it will be paved for about 100 feet before becoming dirt.

I would recommend taking a picture of the map or grabbing one of the printouts, so you know where you are going before heading out.

There are numbered signs that correspond to the different points of interest in the printout, but I found it hard to see these signs while driving.

Also, the first 6 or so miles to Squaw Tank is not very exciting, it is flat, and there are sparse Joshua Trees around.

Squaw Tank

At the 6 mile mark, you will see a turnout for Squaw Tank which is the primary point of interest on this drive.

You will have to walk about a tenth of a mile to see it. Squaw Tank is an old concrete wall that once served as a dam for water in the area.

I would recommend not heading on from here if you do not have 4×4 since this portion of the drive was rougher when I went.

The road then enters into a one-way loop that will take you alongside a mountain before arriving at Cottonwood Springs.

Cottonwood Springs is the start of many other backcountry adventures in the park, but I didn’t do anything here when I went. There are two old water tanks near the sign though.

The road gets more narrow and rocky here as you head up the small hill to the junction with Berdoo Canyon Road.

This is an actual 4×4 road so don’t attempt it unless you know what you are doing.

The road bends inward and continues the climb before arriving at point of interest 14, 15 and 16.

Point 16 is the best part on this trail as it looks out over the valley and provides a 180-degree view. You can also see the road you came in on in the distance.

After taking some photos at this small pullout, you will want to continue back to where the road split and then head back the way you came.

When I went on a weekday, I didn’t see anyone else on this trail, so it felt pretty remote even though it isn’t. While it is not one of my favorite things to do in the park, it was still a fun adventure that I wholeheartedly recommend. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Exploring Joshua Tree with One Eleven Watches

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of One Eleven for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

This post is the second in my series where I test out the new One Eleven Watch. You can read the first in this series, where I do some beach hiking, here. For this post, I drove out for a full day of hiking/exploring in Joshua Tree National Park to test out the durability and solar-powered features on some of my favorite hikes in the park. Here is the itinerary for a full day in the park if you want to do the same thing.

Arch Rock

For my first hike, I headed over to Arch Rock, which is a personal favorite of mine due to how short the hike is and how impressive the arch is.

Like most areas in Joshua Tree National Park though, the best part is climbing on the various rocks and seeing things from different angles. The watch did great during the bouldering, never getting in the way and resting well on my wrist as I climbed to new heights.

After exploring the arch and the surrounding rocks, I headed to the next destination in the park.

Skull Rock

This is a short .1 mile hike to a rock that looks like a skull. It is one of the park’s popular locations because it is easy to get to, but there is not much to do here other than take a few photos.

Geology Tour Road

From Skull Rock I headed to Geology Tour Road, which is an 18 mile 4×4 drive in the middle of the park.

This road is a great way to get a good understanding of what the park looked like before all the roads and people changed it. It not a very difficult 4×4, so it is a great way to test your skills if you are not very familiar with driving in these conditions.

I was a little pressed for time as I had to make it back to Keys Ranch and still had a few more stops. It was great to take the remote drive though and to trust that the watch would not run out of battery since it was solar powered and there is always a lot of sun in the desert. Heading back to the park’s main road, I continued on the 15-minute drive to Barker Dam.

Barker Dam

Barker Dam is the most popular hike in the park, and it is one that I have done many times. The half-mile trail ends at an old dam created by settlers, and there was a surprising amount of water still present this late in the season.

Key’s Ranch

I rushed through the hike so I could make it in time for the 2 PM tour of Key’s Ranch. There is only one tour a day, so it is essential to get your tickets early and to be on time.

The tour leads you back to the remains of Key’s Ranch, a well-maintained homestead in the park. It was impressive to see how well it has been kept up and to be able to explore it during the hour and a half tour.

Hidden Valley

For my last stop of the day, I headed over to Hidden Valley and did the 1-mile loop through the natural valley.

This is also an excellent location for sunset, and since the sun was going down, I figured I would just find a rock to sit on and watch it fade into the sky.

Spending the day exploring Joshua Tree with One Eleven Watches was a blast. I loved being able to test out the adventure watch on some of my favorite trails in the park. The solar power makes it easy to never think about batteries and the clean aesthetic, which resembles map directions, makes the watch a stylish entry into the normally bland outdoor watch market. Check out the watches and be sure to explore Joshua Tree National Park when you get the chance as well.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall and Gardens in Downtown Los Angeles

As one of the most recognizable buildings in Downtown LA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall attracts thousands of visitors each day. While seeing a concert in it is something you must do if you are a symphony fan, just exploring the grounds and marveling at the architecture is something you can do for free daily. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Free, paid tours are available as well
  • Cannot see the concert hall on most trips but sometimes you can during the summer when practice is not happening.
  • Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily
  • Location: 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Getting There

It’s often hard and expensive to find parking in Los Angeles, and this area is no different. Most structures will be around $4 for 15 minutes and $20 max, so be prepared to pay if you drive in. Alternatively, you can take the train and then just hop on public transportation to get over there as well.

The Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert hall is a fantastic piece of architecture, and it’s a ton of fun to just wander around it and look up at all the angles.

There are various pathways and staircases that take you all around the building, and they seem to go all sorts of ways so it feels like a “choose your own adventure” to pick which path you want to take.

The fun thing about this spot is that the angles continue to change with each bend, so you are always getting new and unique photos as you wind around.

In the back area, there is a small garden with trees and various plants.

This is a great spot to relax at during the day as there is plenty of shade and quite a few tables you can utilize.

Be sure to walk through the garden and check out the big stone flower fountain in the back. It’s a super cool place to grab a photo with the concert hall walls behind it.

If you are wondering what the inside looks like, here is a short video of it.

In Downtown LA, you really are going to want to check out the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Its one of the most unique places in Los Angeles and it has a ton to offer, especially if you are a photographer. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Walt Disney Concert Hall and Gardens in Downtown Los Angeles

As one of the most recognizable buildings in Downtown LA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall attracts thousands of visitors each day. While seeing a concert in it is something you must do if you are a symphony fan, just exploring the grounds and marveling at the architecture is something you can do for free daily. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Free, paid tours are available as well
  • Cannot see the concert hall on most trips but sometimes you can during the summer when practice is not happening.
  • Hours: 9 AM to 5 PM daily
  • Location: 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Getting There

It’s often hard and expensive to find parking in Los Angeles, and this area is no different. Most structures will be around $4 for 15 minutes and $20 max, so be prepared to pay if you drive in. Alternatively, you can take the train and then just hop on public transportation to get over there as well.

The Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert hall is a fantastic piece of architecture, and it’s a ton of fun to just wander around it and look up at all the angles.

There are various pathways and staircases that take you all around the building, and they seem to go all sorts of ways so it feels like a “choose your own adventure” to pick which path you want to take.

The fun thing about this spot is that the angles continue to change with each bend, so you are always getting new and unique photos as you wind around.

In the back area, there is a small garden with trees and various plants.

This is a great spot to relax at during the day as there is plenty of shade and quite a few tables you can utilize.

Be sure to walk through the garden and check out the big stone flower fountain in the back. It’s a super cool place to grab a photo with the concert hall walls behind it.

If you are wondering what the inside looks like, here is a short video of it.

In Downtown LA, you really are going to want to check out the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Its one of the most unique places in Los Angeles and it has a ton to offer, especially if you are a photographer. Let me know what you think in the comments.