Lost Palms Oasis

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Lost Palms Oasis

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Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

In the south of Joshua Tree National Park, the Colorado Desert takes over the land. While the north – made up of the Mojave Desert – is full of the Joshua trees for which the park was named, they don’t grow this far down. This is the land of the palms.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

The Mojave Desert is hot and arid. Summer days can be searing and the dry sand feels like dust. But, despite the extreme conditions, somehow these enormous fan palms not only survive but thrive in certain plans.

It’s because there are literally cracks in the earth here, caused by the San Andreas Fault that runs nearby. These cracks allow water to come up from subterranean reserves and provide enough moisture for the trees to live.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

I think the best way to see the fan palms in Joshua Tree National Park is to do the ‘Lost Palms Oasis’ hike. Not only is it a really enjoyable walk but it takes you through a part of the park that is noticeably different from the main attractions in the north.

The Lost Palms Oasis hike begins a couple of kilometres from the Cottonwood Spring Visitor Centre and there’s a carpark there. It is not a loop so you’ll walk out and then have to turn around and come back the same way. It is about 6 kilometres (3.5 miles) in each direction.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

I walk quite quickly and it took me a bit over 3 hours in total, including a decent break in the middle (I’ll come to that soon). For the average walker, it would probably take a bit longer. So – a big warning here – make sure you take enough sun protection and water for a long hike. You will need both, regardless of what month it is. You should also give some consideration to whether you should even attempt the hike if it’s really hot weather.

The Lost Palms Oasis hike takes you through a range of landscapes, which is one of the things I enjoy about it so much. It starts along a sandy track where shrubs are scattered across the dunes. Small yellow flowers brighten some of them.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

As you go along, larger rock formations appear alongside the track. The piles of stones create a backdrop for the cacti that spring up in front of them.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Further along, the track climbs up and down rocky crests. You’ll find yourself in a small canyon one second and then, the next, with a panoramic view across the land. Purple and red flowers are now blossoming on the plants.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

And then suddenly, without warning, you hit the top of the large ravine that has all the fan palms inside. You’ll easily be able to see them from above, they rise up so tall compared to all the other vegetation in the area.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

The path down to the bottom of the canyon isn’t well marker and I actually missed it. You need to look out for a track that heads down the hill to the left from what appears to be a lookout spot, hopefully with a pile of rocks still there as a marker. If, like me, you continue onwards, you’ll need to scramble down a rather slippery slope.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

Down amongst the trees, it’s much cooler than the rest of the walk. Not as much sun can get down here, for starters, but there also seems to be a bit of a breeze coming through the trees. There are lots of shady spots on the soft sand are quite a few people have staked out a spot to rest for a while – some are reading books or having a light meal. After the long walk, it could be a good idea.

To get back to the car, you just need to retrace your steps. There aren’t really many alternative routes on the way back to take detours and it is safer just to stay to the trail.

Lost Palms Oasis hike, Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA

The Lost Palms Oasis hike is much further south than most of the popular spots in Joshua Tree National Park and not as many visitors venture this far down. While you’re unlikely to have the trail to yourself, you’ll definitely feel more like you’re in the wilderness than in some of the other parts of the park. As well as the unique scenery, that makes for quite an adventure and one of my highlights.

Read my guide on the best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park

Accommodation at Twentynine Palms

I would recommend staying in Twentynine Palms. There are quite a few reasonably priced motels and restaurants. You could try one of the following options:

9 Comments
  • Henry | Jul 30, 2016 at 10:07 am

    Well if you get to see a stunning view like that, the intense heat you endured as you traversed will all be worth it!

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 6, 2016 at 10:22 pm

      Well, yes, a little bit of discomfort from the heat is certainly worth it for the wonderful landscapes. But in the middle of summer it can be so hot that it’s actually quite dangerous to do the hike – especially without the right preparations. So you need to be careful in those circumstances.

  • John | Aug 2, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    you shared amazing photos of that beautiful place and photos are looking so beautiful.

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks very much. It’s not hard to get some beautiful photos from this national park. There’s something really special about Joshua Tree!

  • Debbie | Aug 5, 2016 at 3:43 am

    What an awesome landscape- great photos! Definitely a hike to add to the list!
    Debbie recently posted..Photo Essay: Phenomenal Fireworks Display From USA Disney Team Ends Celebration Of LightMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 6, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      It’s a great one! Let me know if you give it a go sometimes. As I said, it’s not the most popular but it’s worth the effort!

  • Lost Horse Mine | Bloggsom | Aug 20, 2016 at 1:05 am

    […] You might want to read here about my other favourite hike at Joshua Tree […]

  • Hiker dad | Feb 22, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Love this place–I took my kids there when they were 4 and 1–great place to romp around.
    Hiker dad recently posted..Best LED lantern for 2017My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      What a cool place to take your kids! It would be like exploring an incredible new world!

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