Alien Landscapes in Joshua Tree

We spent the weekend in Joshua Tree National Park, which was super amazing. It’s about a 2 hour drive outside of LA and along the way, you see dozens of wind farms. We drove there at night and the wind farms look even more interesting in the dark. Many of the turbines have red lights that flash on and off to warn aircrafts of their presence so out of nowhere you’ll see bunches of red lights randomly appearing in mid-air.

Wind Turbines on the way to Joshua Tree

We stayed in the Copper Mountain Mesa region and were greeted with clear blue skies the next morning. We stopped to buy groceries at the Joshua Tree Farmer’s Market (the tomatoes and strawberries here were so fresh and sweet it was unbelievable). We ate a healthy breakfast at Natural Sisters Cafe (great muffins and juices!) and then went on our way into Joshua Tree.

The Desert Sky in the Morning

After entering Joshua Tree, we stopped at Marker 24 (close-ish to the Joshua Tree Town Entrance to the NP) to hike the Maze Loop, which we heard was one of the best trails in Joshua Tree. There are a few parking spaces along the trailhead and I also think it’s ok to park along the road as well. You can get a trail map here (the trail is pretty well-marked but it never hurts to know what you’re in for). There were very few people on this hike; we encountered 2 people during the entire 8-mile loop. It was also an awesome introduction to Joshua Tree; we saw lots of Joshua trees, changing rock formations, wildlife, and all kinds of cactuses.

The Joshua Trees on the Maze Loop

After the hike, we spent some time driving and stopping at various rock formations but our most favorite stop was at the Cholla Cactus Garden. It’s just at the edge between the Colorado and Mojave Deserts and you’re treated with a beautiful view of Pinto Basin upon stepping out of the car. The Cholla cactus garden is a quick stroll around a field of Cholla cactuses and along the way you really do see why they are called the Teddy Bear Cactus. Be sure to pick up the little pamphlet at the entrance if you want to learn some fun desert facts.

Cholla Cactus Garden with Pinto Basin in the background

Our last stop of the day was the Barker Dam Trail. This small trail takes you into the Wonderland of Rocks where you will probably see some people rock climbing.

Walking into the Wonderland of Rocks

The water has long since dried up at Barker Dam so searching for animals here is unlikely to be fruitful but the hike is still fun and you are treated to some lovely desert scenes and petroglyphs near the end of the hike.

One of the views along the Barker Dam Trail

For our final moments in Joshua Tree NP, we drove to Keys View, where it was freezing, ran to the top of the viewpoint to snap a couple of pictures and look for the San Andreas Fault and ran down. The view is totally worth the drive and a few minutes in the cold so do get out of your car when you get there.

I originally wanted to go to Pappy & Harriet’s (famous for their BBQ and their music) for dinner but we were too tired to go out so we picked up some meat from Stater Bros (the only grocery store we could find in the region) and had a small bbq at our house under the stars. It was the perfect end to the day.

As we meandered our way out of town, we found quite a few offbeat things to stop and look at. First, we saw a desert sculpture park at 4th St S and Sunfair Rd. There are quite a few of these in Joshua Tree and I recommend checking one out. I think the most famous one is the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum on Blair Lane. It’s really interesting to see these sculptures rise out of the sand in the empty desert.

Our next stop was the Institute of Mentalphysics, which is right next to the TwentyNine Palms Highway between Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree. I can’t speak to any of the services since that’s not our thing but the grounds, especially the labyrinth, are fun to walk through. If you are an architecture buff, the buildings were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, so bonus!

The entrance sculpture at the Institute for Mentalphysics

Our last stop was the Desert Christ Park, north of Yucca Valley. There are 40 statues of Jesus in various positions and with different faces. There was no one there when we visited so it was a pretty tranquil place to walk among the statues and observe the town of Yucca Valley below.

Multiple Jesuses at the Desert Christ Park

After the park, we ended our adventure in the desert and drove back to civilization.

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