California’s remarkable rocks part 3 – Joshua Tree National Park

This is our final segment about California’s remarkable rocks, as we continued through the southern part of the state.

After climbing around the pinnacles and craggy spires at Pinnacles National Park and gaping at the dramatic and vivid formations at Red Rock Canyon State Park, we arrived at yet another geologic wonder.  If you’re tired of looking at photos of rocks, you may stop here and look at pretty flowers somewhere else instead 🙂

Coyote

Right at the entrance the Coyote’s were ready to roll out the red carpet for us

Joshua Tree National Park

The San Gorgonio mountains provided a snowy backdrop through the Joshua trees

Joshua Tree National Park is in the top three of the nine national parks for popularity in California, behind Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park.  More than 2.5 million people visited last year — 60% more than just two years earlier.  It may be in the desert, but the rock piles and jumbled formations are often what inspire folks to come here.

As for us, we came in the winter so we had little competition during our explorations.  As always, seeing the best a park has to offer involved following several trails.  We took the Willow Hole, Hidden Valley, Ryan Ranch and Skull Rock treks.

Joshua Tree National Park

Heading into a wonderland of rocks

At first the hiking looked easy, as the trails were mostly flat.  But it was no easy stroll, and several times we have to negotiate carefully through a  jumbled landscape – even doing a little scampering.  In the process we were dazzled by oversized loaf-like stacks of rocks, and we pondered the arrangement of boulders in columns and spires.  It felt like we were thrown into an otherworldly place while in the middle of all this beauty.

Joshua Tree National Park

Standing on top of what looked like a stack of bread loaves

Joshua Tree National Park

Huge granite domes scattered around at the end of the Willow Hole trail

Joshua Tree National Park

This is a rock climber’s mecca, with 400 climbing formations and 8,000 climbing routes

Joshua Tree National Park

These rocks looked like they were dredged with oatmeal and are ready for deep frying

Skull Rock

Skull Rock – that’s an easy one

Joshua Tree National Park

Throughout the park we saw high narrow stacks of rocks as if a giant had piled them neatly on top of each other

Joshua Tree National Park

Monstrous stacks of slice bread

Ryan Ranch

Ruins of Ryan Ranch, dubbed “the gold brick house”.  Built circa 1890 according to the National Register of Historic Places

Ryan Ranch House

Life at Ryan Ranch must been rough and rugged, but look at the view they had!

And then there is the Joshua tree, the namesake of the park.  It was Mormon settlers who named the trees because the branches stretched up toward heaven and reminded them of the Biblical prophet Joshua pointing the way to the promised land.

Joshua Tree

A bushy Joshua tree

Joshua tree

Some researchers think the average lifespan for a Joshua tree is about 150 years

Joshua Tree

These “trees” are a distinctive icon of the Mojave desert.  Neither a tree nor a cactus, but rather a yucca plant

One day we drove to the highest point of the park known as Keys View.  The viewpoint faces south and on this decent day we had amazing views of Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea and several surrounding peaks.

Somebody in this family has to be a ham – guess who?

So there you have it, just a glimpse of the dramatic and remarkable California rocks we explored in January.  If you’re interested in seeing other California rocky landscapes we’ve visited, below are my appropriate posts.  Yosemite National Park (still my all-time favorite) isn’t on the list, as we visited it several times before we started RV’ing and blogging.  We have no plans to return there since it’s just too crazy busy for us now.

 

Next up:  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park