One thing we've figured out about Joshua Tree NP is that very few of the interesting features in the park are actually on the park map. For example the fabulous hike we did in 2014, known as the Maze Loop, is not on the park map. The trail is signed but the only way to know about it is to do your research before you arrive.
The Willow Hole trail came up during the research phase this time so we headed out early one morning to beat the heat and potential crowds. This trail is accessed from the Park Blvd. Boy Scout Trailhead, then veers right into the Wonderland of Rocks and ultimately ends about 3.3 miles in at a grove of willows.
We arrived to an empty parking lot and a kiosk with the Willow Hole trail clearly marked...even though it is not on the official park map. We also found the trail to be well marked the entire way. I guess Joshua Tree NP wants people to explore in depth on their own, or perhaps they don't map everything in order to keep foot traffic light on the trails.
Though this hike was about seven miles out and back, it was pretty flat with very little rock scrambling, so an easy hike overall.
|We crossed a broad, flat plain dotted with Joshua trees, some of them were huge!|
|A couple of miles into the hike we approach the Wonderland of Rocks.|
|There was water in the bottom of this depression and the dark line on the rock indicates high water line.|
We had to scramble over the rocks in front of Hans, this was the most difficult part of the trail...and really wasn't all that hard.
|Once in the Wonderland of Rocks the trail continues through a wash with fantastic boulders everywhere.|
|There were even flowers scattered through this portion of the hike....in November!|
|Lots of birds in this lush canyon.|
|At about 3.3 miles the wash widened and grew even more lush and we came around a corner to find a large stand of willows.|
|Beyond the willows we crested a small rise and were greeted with a view of a small valley and the mountains beyond.|
See tiny Hans in the center?
|More willow among the rocks. There were small pockets of standing water in the lowest spots.|
We saw signs of bighorn sheep...but no actual live sheep!
|Back through the willow forest.|
|Instead of retracing the same path, we scrambled through a side wash, |
ultimately finding a peaceful place to stop for lunch and a little siesta.
|On the way back to the parking area we did see a few people, including these two rock climbers.|
See them in red and white?