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 🙂

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.




  1. Love this park!! The rocks are just so cool. It is hard not naming all the different rock shapes you see as hiking around. Yes, slices of bread indeed!!

  2. I love the photo with the San Gorgonio mountains! You should visit the vulcan Teide in Tenerife (Canary Islands). There are so many rocks with different colours: white, red, tourqoise, bkack … it’s amazing!

  3. So glad you made it to Joshua Tree NP—it’s long been one of our favorites. It truly is a wonderland of rocks. I always enjoy your exuberant poses along the trails. :-))

  4. We had tried several times this winter to get back to Joshua Tree NP but each time the rains moved in. I will bookmark this for a fall adventure later this year. Great photos!

  5. Joshua Tree has been on our list for awhile…love all,your pictures and descriptions. I agree…loaves/slices of bread! Beautiful pictures of the Joshua Trees too MonaLiza! And I love the picture of you at the lookout with arms wide open! Life is good, heh?

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