Idyllcreek A-Frame Cabin in Idyllwild

This experience was provided free of charge, all opinions are my own.

Idyllwild is a nice mountain town near Palm Springs that’s a popular destination for people that live in lower elevation like myself. I have been many times over the years but when I saw some of the A-frame cabins available on Air BnB I knew I needed to go back. For this trip, I worked with Experience Idyllwild who manages eight properties, two which are A-frames, and Amie and I headed out to spend 24 hours relaxing in a cabin.

Details

  • You can book this cabin here, but it is popular so book it in advance
  • After booking, you will be sent information on how to get there and all the stuff you need to know about the cabin.
  • Pet-friendly but requires an extra fee

Idyllcreek Cabin

We arrived shortly after our check in time and had no problem reaching the cabin and getting set up.

It was just as beautiful as I hoped, with two bedrooms, a full bathroom downstairs and a half bathroom upstairs.

It also had a large kitchen, dining room table and living area with a TV and fireplace.

I didn’t even turn on the TV while I was there, but I got a ton of use out of the fireplace.

The cabin had central heating which was nice since it got down to the 20’s at night when we were there.

The main draw though is, of course, the excellent A-frame design that has been so popular on Instagram over the last few years.

Complete with market lights, outdoor fireplace, and seating, this was a great spot to hang out and to take photos while we stayed there.

There is also a spa out here which is a fun addition, especially on winter nights.

One of the biggest draws for us was that the property was pet-friendly and we could bring our old bulldog. He loved being able to explore the area and sleep by the fireplace.

We hardly left the cabin while we were there, but if you are looking to explore the town, there are some great food options and other spots to check out that you can read about in this post.

Thanks to Idyllcreek for hosting us and check them out online if you want to visit as well.

Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Hidden Valley is one of Joshua Tree National Park’s most popular hikes. The one-mile loop trail takes you through a valley that is primarily enclosed from the outside world with towering walls of rocks. It was also a popular spot for rustlers to hide their cattle since it is a mainly confined valley. The trail is pretty level, and it is an excellent hike for the whole family. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 1 mile
  • 50 feet of elevation
  • Location:

Getting There

Hidden Valley is located opposite the Hidden Valley Campground and close to the turnoff for Barker Dam. It is well signed, and you can reference the park map to see its exact location.

The trail

From the parking lot, you will head out on the well-marked trail in the northwest part of the parking area.

The trail heads uphill first along a series of stone steps. After less than a tenth of a mile, you will reach the top of this section and be in the Hidden Valley.

It is said that the opening you walk through was blasted by Bill Key’s from Keys Ranch to give his cattle better access to the grasses in the valley.

The hike continues on a clockwise loop, heading slightly downhill on a well-maintained path.

There are many signs along the way that note interesting parts of the trail as well as different plant and animal life.

The trail then passes an extensive collection of rocks on the right and starts to head downhill into the valley.

As you continue downhill you will start to see how big the valley is and the large rocks on each side of you. It was a lot bigger then I anticipated it being. The trail will then curve around, and you will start to go back the way you came.

Don’t miss the giant burrito, which is the name for one of the more massive rocks in this section. Eventually, you will come back to where the trail split in the beginning and then head back down the stairs to where you parked.

Also, note that this is a great spot for sunset, the colors are beautiful here, and the views are impressive. Let me know what you think of this spot in the comments and find more places to explore here.

Arch Rock Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

One of my favorite places in all of Joshua Tree National Park is the White Tank Campground. This collection of 11 campsites are private and awesome, plus they lead to a wonderland of rocks which includes the popular arch rock. This short trail will take you the arch and if you have time you can explore and find the heart rock and other fun spots in the area as well. Here is all the information.

Details

  • 1 mile
  • Flat
  • Location: White Tank Campground

Getting There

To get to White Tank Campground from the Oasis Visitor Center in 29 Palms, head south on Park Blvd. There will be a split in the road and you will want to head left. From there you will pass by Belle Campground and then get to White Tank Campground. If you went to Cholla Cactus Gardens then you went too far. When you enter the campground you will drive down the small main road and will then reach the trailhead sign and a place where 3-4 cars can park for the hike.

The Trail

From the parking area, you will see a sign for the trailhead. Head out on the well-maintained trail as it climbs up a small hill.

You will then get a view of the backcountry area and can look out over the sea of rocks around you.

Continue to follow the trail down and you will see a sign for Arch Rock.

From here you can see the arch and you can start your exploration of the area, including climbing on the rocks surrounding it to get a better view.

One of the best things about camping in the White Tank Campground is that you can come walk out here at night and take star trails photos of the arch as well.

Heart Rock

Many people ask me about where Heart Rock is, and I think it is fun that this spot is more unknown and you have to search to find it.

I won’t give the exact location either, but it is about a quarter mile or so from Arch Rock if you want to look around for it.

As you can see, this is a great hike in the park and one that is easy enough for families to do as well. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Key’s Desert Queen Ranch Tour in Joshua Tree National Park

Located in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park, Key’s Ranch (AKA Desert Queen Ranch) is an incredibly well-maintained homestead only accessible via a 90 minute guided tour. It’s one of those spots that I didn’t even know existed in the park and something that I highly recommend you visit if you get the chance. Here is all the information.

Details

  • $10 + park entrance fees
  • One tour each day, Thurs – Sun. Check dates on their site as they do change and are not offered in certain seasons.

Getting Tickets

Tickets can only be purchased from the Oasis Visitors Center in 29 Palms. If you want to visit this spot, you will want to get to the center early as they sell out fast, especially on the weekends. I have heard stories of it selling out right when they open at 8:30 AM. When I went, I got there at 10 AM on a Thursday, and there were only three tickets left. Once you get a ticket, you will proceed to the entrance and pay your fee to enter the park and for the ticket cost. You can then explore the park until meeting time 15 minutes before the tour starts.

History

George Barth was born in the late 1800s and got into mining before joining the traveling road show and working as a stuntman. He was asked to join the Rough Riders but broke his leg and was sidelined from the show. He traveled around and did some mining before he settled in Joshua Tree in 1914 and was in charge of running the ranch. He changed his name to Bill Keys and married in 1918, raising multiple children at the homestead. After his death, the ranch was sold and passed through a few owners before it became part of Joshua Tree National Park in 1970. They started doing tours in 1972.

The Tour

After meeting at the locked gate 15 minutes before it was time for the tour to start, the ranger let us through the gate, and we all drove to the parking area for the ranch.

The tour began from the parking area, and over the next 90 minutes, we learned the history of the family and homestead as well as walked all over the property, looking in windows and experiencing this unique site.

I will say that it is a tour and you can not go off on your own, so you can’t set up any pictures and must take them as you walk along. Here are some of the highlights from the tour.

The Shed

This metal building had a lot of old tools and artifacts from the early years of the ranch.

The Well

The well, which sits under the windmill, was interesting to see out in the field where they used to grow their food.

The House

The house is the highlight of the ranch tour as it is well maintained and the interior is left primarily as it was when the family moved from the ranch. You can’t go inside, but you can look in the windows.

There’s an old retaining wall reinforced with metal from bed springs outside of the house as well.

The gate that goes around the house is made of Joshua Trees that were cut right here on the property.

In the back is a collection of many old cars and machines that were used on the ranch. They are all in disrepair, but they are cool to see out there.

One of the cars was even used as a makeshift chicken coop to keep the chickens safe from coyotes.

In the 1960s two movies from Walt Disney were filmed here, such as “Wild Burros of the West,” and the building they built to house tools for the movie is still here as well.

After exploring some more, our time at the ranch came to an end. It was a great tour, and it was easy to see why this area is off-limits to the public since there are so many historic artifacts. The sheer amount of stuff here and how well it has been maintained makes it a really unique place to explore in Joshua Tree National Park. 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.

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.

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.

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.

Desert View Trail in the San Jacinto Wilderness from Palm Springs Tram

The Desert View Trail leaves from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Station and goes out on an easy 2.5-mile loop. It’s a great trail for the whole family as there is not much elevation gain and there are five notches where you can get different views of the valley below you. Here is all the information so you can check it out.

Details

  • 2.5 miles
  • 50 feet of elevation gain
  • Location: At the base of where the tram lets off

Getting There

You need to ride the tram to get to this trail, you can read about doing that here. From the tram drop off, you will just want to head to the first floor then walk down the steep walkway to the bottom where the cement meets the trail.

The trail leaves from here, and there are signs so the trail is easy to follow.

The Desert View Trail is part of the Nature Trail for the first tenth of a mile, then it splits out to the left, and you will be walking closer to the mountainside.

Notch 1

Almost immediately you will get to notch 1 which provides a view down to the valley but which is not great due to the trees that have grown up blocking a lot of it.

Notch 2

Notch 2 is up next, after another tenth of a mile or so. This view is better than notch 1 but still not great.

Notch 3

Luckily notch 3 is up next, and it is the best view on the trail. This view is large with a nice 120-degree viewing angle. It looks down on the valley below and the large rock on the mountainside to the right.

Take your time with this view as it doesn’t get better than notch 3 on this trail.

Notch 4

Notch 4 is another small viewpoint, and it looks at the mountainside more than the valley, with a great view of the rock mentioned above but not a lot else.

Notch 5

After about a quarter mile you will be at notch 5 which is another relatively unimpressive view as a lot of it is blocked.

Even though most of the views are not great, this trail is worth it just for notch 3 as it is a nice easy trail and it has a great payoff with that viewpoint.

On the way back, you will make it to a wooden bridge, and when you cross it, you will be back on the Nature Trail again.

There are plaques to read for this trail, and it is a flat walk back to the trailhead.

Do remember that when you leave this area and walk back up to the tram station the walkway is steep so save energy for it. All in all, this is a great hike for the whole family in the San Jacinto Wilderness. You can learn more about taking the tram up to the top here.

Let me know what some of you other favorite trails are here in the comments.

Desert View Trail in the San Jacinto Wilderness from Palm Springs Tram

The Desert View Trail leaves from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Station and goes out on an easy 2.5-mile loop. It’s a great trail for the whole family as there is not much elevation gain and there are five notches where you can get different views of the valley below you. Here is all the information so you can check it out.

Details

  • 2.5 miles
  • 50 feet of elevation gain
  • Location: At the base of where the tram lets off

Getting There

You need to ride the tram to get to this trail, you can read about doing that here. From the tram drop off, you will just want to head to the first floor then walk down the steep walkway to the bottom where the cement meets the trail.

The trail leaves from here, and there are signs so the trail is easy to follow.

The Desert View Trail is part of the Nature Trail for the first tenth of a mile, then it splits out to the left, and you will be walking closer to the mountainside.

Notch 1

Almost immediately you will get to notch 1 which provides a view down to the valley but which is not great due to the trees that have grown up blocking a lot of it.

Notch 2

Notch 2 is up next, after another tenth of a mile or so. This view is better than notch 1 but still not great.

Notch 3

Luckily notch 3 is up next, and it is the best view on the trail. This view is large with a nice 120-degree viewing angle. It looks down on the valley below and the large rock on the mountainside to the right.

Take your time with this view as it doesn’t get better than notch 3 on this trail.

Notch 4

Notch 4 is another small viewpoint, and it looks at the mountainside more than the valley, with a great view of the rock mentioned above but not a lot else.

Notch 5

After about a quarter mile you will be at notch 5 which is another relatively unimpressive view as a lot of it is blocked.

Even though most of the views are not great, this trail is worth it just for notch 3 as it is a nice easy trail and it has a great payoff with that viewpoint.

On the way back, you will make it to a wooden bridge, and when you cross it, you will be back on the Nature Trail again.

There are plaques to read for this trail, and it is a flat walk back to the trailhead.

Do remember that when you leave this area and walk back up to the tram station the walkway is steep so save energy for it. All in all, this is a great hike for the whole family in the San Jacinto Wilderness. You can learn more about taking the tram up to the top here.

Let me know what some of you other favorite trails are here in the comments.