Joshua Tree National Park, of course, is teeming with its namesake plant species. It’s also home to thousands of climbing routes, nearly 200 miles of hiking trails, and five desert palm oases.
The park just outside of Twentynine Palms, California spans nearly 800,000 acres, with elevations ranging from 536 feet to 5,814 feet.
The western area of the park is part of the Mojave Desert and the Joshua tree is the dominant plant there. But the eastern part is in the Sonoran Desert, with a corresponding difference in vegetation: here you will find mainly creosote, paloverde, ocotillo and cholla cacti.
Perhaps the most interesting places in the park are the native palm oases. In all of North America, there are only 158 fan palm oases, and five of them are here.
These oases are home to Filiferous Washingtonia, the only palm native to western North America. They can only grow where there is a constant supply of water, like here, where groundwater is available from seismic faults and fractures. These palms typically live 80 to 90 years, and some reach 75 feet tall.
For people heading from southern Nevada, the closest to visit is the Mara Oasis. Beginning behind the Oasis Visitor Center, there is a paved half-mile loop trail around the palm trees.
Also on this near side of the park is 49 Palm Oasis, about a six-mile drive from the Visitor Center. To see this one, you’ll need to travel about three miles round trip; it usually takes a few hours.
The other three oases, all sharing the same trail, are in the southern region of the park, about an hour’s drive south of the Oasis Visitor Center and about 1.5 km from the center of welcoming visitors to Cottonwood.
The first is the Cottonwood Spring Oasis, where visitors must walk just five minutes from the parking lot.
The second is Lost Palms Oasis, where the trail takes you three and a half miles further and usually takes about five hours round trip.
The farthest is the Munsen Canyon Oasis, which is a few miles from Lost Palms Oasis. I wouldn’t recommend going as it is an extremely strenuous hike with lots of route finding and rock scrambling.