Saturday, November 5, 2016

Joshua Tree's Willow Hole Trail

The last time we visited Joshua Tree National Park we were staying in Desert Hot Springs so it was a 40 mile one way drive to visit the park. This time we're staying at Twenty Nine Palms RV Resort and the national parks east entrance is just a few miles away.

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?



It turns out week day mornings are the perfect time to hike in Joshua Tree National Park, we had the trail to ourselves until the very end. Weekends are a different story...as we found out a couple of days later. Fortunately an early start gets you a parking spot and some solitude on the trail!

18 comments:

  1. I was so surprised how poor the park map is. If you know of a trail, the rangers will help, but I found them useless with ideas. I think you mentioned the National Geographic map for this park. That is the map to have. Like you mentioned, the trails are well marked, you just have to find them! The NG map is excellent with all the park trails mark with mileage. We purchased this during our visit. This looks like a wonderful trail. I love the rounded boulder rocks in Joshua Tree. Thanks helping give me a rock fix:)

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    1. Nope, I did not know about the NG map...good to know for next time!

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  2. Wonderful! Such great pics of this beautiful place. Nothing better than a warm rock nap :-)))

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    1. You bet, solitude, perfect temps, retired...might as well nap!

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  3. Love those unique trees. And I'm surprised to see so much vegetation in the desert.

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    1. Me too, considering they only get about 4 inches of rain a year!

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  4. I so want to visit Joshua Tree. We had planned on a Dec stay this year, but changed plans to go to Borrego Springs instead...mostly because of the pups . Your hike sounds like fun and Joe would love the siesta part! The picture of you standing with the Joshua Tree is awesome. I had no idea they grew so big.

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  5. I'm embarrassed to say this park is almost outside our back door and we've just scratched her surface. Hope to rectify that soon. Great photos Lisa! Thanks for the hiking tips.

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    1. Yes indeed, it's not that far and would be perfect for a getaway in the truck camper!

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  6. what a scenic and peaceful hike you two found....

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    1. It's a great park, especially on week days!

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  7. I would thank you in advance for the research you did, for all we do now is follow this trail. Since early morning hike is what we always do this would just be perfect.

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    1. Both Willow Hole and The Maze are so worth the price of admission!

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  8. Just beautiful! We love Joshua Tree NP and have hiked many trails, but didn't know about this one. It's such a fun park for rock scrambling. Thanks for the tip on the hike and the great photos—it sounds like picking up a National Geographic map for our next visit is a good idea, too.

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  9. Thanks for the great heads up that lots of trails aren’t on the map. Hope springs eternal for me and I’m still dreaming of both Desert Hot Springs and Joshua Tree. Glad to know about Twenty Nine Palms. I hope that some of your research ahead of time was on the National park website that does list all its trails. These look like great trails. Love rock scrambles. Just the name Wonderland of Rocks is exciting. Love the closing black and white. Seems so perfect for the landscape.

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  10. What a cool hike you did! Good tips on the maps and where to stay, thank you.

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  11. So beautiful. Love it there, but never been to the north side. Wanna go back!

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