Joshua Tree: Put on those high desert hiking boots

The desert of Saturday morning cartoons may be a barren and lifeless place. But hike the high desert above the Coachella Valley, near Palm Springs, and you’ll discover a landscape teeming with wildlife and dramatic geologic displays of monzogranite, exposed monoliths and fantastical twisted rock forms.

Discovered flower-clad yucca and wildflowers, and discover a fan palm oasis and an alpine wilderness high above the desert floor.

Two different ecosystems, the Mojave and Colorado deserts, meet in Joshua Tree National Park, resulting in a large number of plants and landforms sculpted by strong winds across this 794,000-acre park. The Mojave sits on the western side at 4,000 feet above sea level, and it’s home to forests of the whimsical, spiky Joshua tree, a star attraction in itself.

Hike the Maze Loop Trail, a see-all-the-park-features circuit that begins near the park’s west entrance and leads through stands of Yucca brevifolia or Joshua trees, with its treelike trunk and spiky, prickly branches all akimbo. Some bear clusters of white, waxy flowers, ready to bloom. Each tree is distinctive.

Scramble over strange rock formations and through desert washes and slot canyons to reach a maze of high walls and twisting canyons. Here, granite rock piles look like someone stacked them to resemble an eagle’s head or a recumbent Snoopy.

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