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Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop

Joshua Tree National Park

Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, California

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Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop

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  • View south from the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) within the Cottonwood Springs Oasis.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Desert spiny lizard (Sceloporus magister) at Cottonwood Springs.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) within the Cottonwood Springs Oasis.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) within the Cottonwood Springs Oasis.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Cottonwood Springs Oasis.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Mojave poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma).- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Cottonwood Spring Nature Trail - Mastodon Peak Loop.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastodon Peak Loop.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastodon Peak Loop.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Acton encelia (Encelia actoni) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  •  Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  •  Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback) along the Cottonwood Spring Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  •  Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • California barrel cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus).- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  •  Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  •  Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Yellow cups (Chylismia brevipes).- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Chuckwalla cholla (Cylindropuntia chuckwallensis) along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
  • Hiking along the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastodon Peak Loop.- Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail - Mastadon Peak Loop
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Easy to access desert oasis. Diverse landscape. Open views.
Cons: 
Far from other Joshua Tree National Park destinations. Sun exposure.
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Region:
Western Sonoran + Colorado Desert, CA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
275.00 ft (83.82 m)
Parking Pass: 
National Park Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.50 mi (4.02 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
3,010.00 ft (917.45 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Contributor

The trailhead to the Cottonwood Springs Nature Trail and the Mastadon Peak Loop is best accessed from the southern end of the park; the climate here doesn’t support Joshua trees, which deters a number of people from making the trek. Consequently, this relatively lesser-trodden hike is perfect for those with limited time or for travelers staying in or passing through the Coachella Valley.

The beginning of this loop is nestled into the Cottonwood Springs Oasis and is named for the prominent lone Cottonwood tree that rises above the crowded fan palms. Placards are placed about the short nature trail educate tourists about the miners and settlers who planted many of the trees in the early 1900s for shelter and to mark the springs. There’s even a split rail fence protecting an old mule-driven arrastra, or a pit where freshly mined ore was crushed to make it more transportable.

Climbing out of the oasis and into the maze of shallow canyons and washes reveals views of Mastadon Peak rising in the distance. Here massive boulders, sheer high-ball boulder problems, and a few single pitch rock climbs dot the landscape. These areas are less popular for climbing than other hot spots in the park, but they still offer excellent rock and fun movement.

Negotiating the moderately steep climb to the peak takes hikers by a wealth of desert flora. It’s an ecological transition zone between the Sonoran Desert to the east and the Mojave to the west. Therefore, creostone, jojoba, juniper, ocotillo, and many species of cacti abound while the observant traveler can also get glimpses of mesquite, willow, and smoketrees.

From the top of Mastodon Peak, views across the Eagle Mountains span out to the north while the Cottonwood Mountains stretch to the west and the Salton Sea sits to the south. Pay close attention if you choose to continue on the loop and descend to the west of the peak—the washes can be sparingly marked. Those who come down this way get an excellent look at the Mastodon Mine and continue on a path that later intersects the trail to Cottonwood Campground

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Nearby Camping + Lodging

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

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