Even though there are no Joshua trees to be seen on this 3-mile out-and-back hike in Joshua Tree National Park, it’s a marvel to see the cacti when they bloom in the springtime, and the trail is lined with creosote bushes and hardy jojoba. The out-of-place palm trees that cluster around the small, lush oasis provide welcome shade and invite hikers and rare desert wildlife alike. It’s one of the five recognized oases in the park.
Note that there is extremely limited shade, and temperatures almost always run remarkably high on this trail. Pack much more water that you’re expecting to consume, and make sure that everyone in your party is in good health. Though the 1.5 miles each way coupled with 300 feet of elevation gain don’t sound ominous, the National Park Service rescues a number of underprepared people every year.
This deserted hike is well maintained and packed full of wildlife. A plethora of hawks and desert birds can be heard among the scrub brush while reptiles and the occasional rodent dart across the path. Keep a sharp eye out for the chuckwalla; this strictly herbivorous lizard can grow to be as long as 1.5 feet long, asserting itself at the largest of the Mojave Desert lizards and the second largest in the southwest, dwarfed only by the Gila Monster.
The oasis itself provides a fascinating look at desert ecology. The palm trees were planted by miners in the early 1900s who wanted to mark the small spring that ran through the area. The darkened trunks of the palms reflect the number of fires that have come through the area in recent history—Fan Palms are naturally fire resistant and can actually benefit from small fires.
Though travel beyond this small series of pools and springs is possible, it’s only recommended for strong hikers and confident scramblers. A bit of savvy navigation is required. If you so choose, the lesser-marked trail beyond the oasis continues for another 1.5 miles before it opens up into a high, isolated valley.