Many Southern Californians don't realize it, but Joshua Tree National Park is the closest national park to where they live.  For those who love the desert, wildflowers and unforgettable vistas, this wonderful place is waiting to share its beauty with you.   And with careful planning, you can see a lot of it in one day.  This is just what Hoffy Tours did this April with fifty members of Chicago Club from Laguna Woods.

The Chicago Club enjoying a picnic in beautiful Hidden Valley.

Joshua Tree National Park is about a two-hour drive from LA and Orange Counties.  We left at 8 AM and were at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twenty Nine Palms by 10 AM for a ranger talk.  Along the way, I recommend the rest stop off Interstate 10 at White Water - stellar views of the snow on Mt. Jacinto to the south.  The Visitor Center is a great educational stop with a short nature walk to the Oasis of Mara - one of the many desert fan palm oases in the desert.  One of the group even saw a rattlesnake!

From the North Entrance Station in Twenty Nine Palms, we took the 18-mile loop road - Park Boulevard - and saw the
most beautiful parts of the national park before existing at the West Entrance Station in Joshua Tree.

The most beautiful parts of the park are accessible along Park Boulevard which winds through the park from west to east.  As we climbed in elevation from 29 Palms, we began to see the incredible rock piles for which Joshua Tree is famous.  We stopped at Skull Rock and marveled at the mojave yucca and cactus blooms.  April and March are great times to go with cool temperatures and lots of flowers awaiting.  We pushed on to Keys View with its fabulous vistas of the Coachella Valley, the San Andreas Fault and Palm Springs.  The viewpoint is almost a mile high and its was fascinating to see scrub oak, juniper in lush mixtures at the upper elevations.  The bleak vegetation on the hotter, south-facing slopes was a lesson in water and plant ecology.

The Apricot Mallow is a gorgeous bloomer at upper elevators and rocky slopes in Joshua Tree.

Our choice of a picnic spot was Hidden Valley - most popular stop in the park.  The name - Hidden Valley - comes from this legendary cattle rustlers' hideout which is now a stunning one-mile loop trail riding around the natural amphitheater of rocks.  Make sure to visit Hidden Valley.  Our next stop was  the Cap Rock Trail - a perfect (and short) loop trail arrow around a huge rock pile.  Cactus, wildflowers and lizards abound, and the photography was great.
The Beavertail Cactus blooms were firing!

Cap Rock is a wonderful loop trail with photo ops galore!

From Cap Rock, we continued on Park Boulevard to the west through dense forests of Joshua Trees and the forbidding but beautiful Wonderland of Rocks to the north.   To me, this is the most beautiful part of the park - sweeping vistas, huge mountains of rocks, and the best concentration of Joshua Trees.  The trees were named by Mormons in the 1850s for their resemblance to the Prophet Joshua pointing with outstretched arms to the promised land.  The Wonderland of Rocks are the most impressive set of boulder mountains I have ever seen.  I recommend taking the 8-mile Boy Scout Trail from Indian Cove campground to the parking lot at Park Boulevard.  There's also a gorgeous dead-end trail to Willow Hole, but, WARNING, stay on the trails!  We foolishly tried to "bushwhack" our way to our campground only to get hopelessly lost in rocky canyon after canyon.  Fortunately, we turned around and found the Willow Hole Trail, but the fear factor was definitely there.

On the Boy Scout Trail with an impressive Joshua Tree.

Our tour of Joshua Tree National Park ended as we exited at the West Entrance Station in Joshua Tree.  We were amazed how much we saw in one day and, after a tasty date shake at Hadley's Fruit Orchard in Cabezon, we were home by 5:30!  Hoffy Tours will plan this trip every spring (check out my website at: in January for the exact date.  I'd also love to take your group out to the desert and lead a one-day tour.  I would need at least 15 people to make it a go, and I promise you an unforgettable tour.  In the meantime, enjoy these images of Joshua Tree National Park.

The Claret Cup cactus has a deep red-orange flower.
Our state reptile - the desert tortoise - on the move.  If you see one, don't disturb its path.  These
reptiles have an uncanny sense of direction and purpose in their movements.

Campsites at Indian Cove are nestled among the boulders near the Wonderland of Rocks.

The Mojave Aster.

The Chicago Club picnicking at Hidden Valley.

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