Desert Flow

Imagine boldly trekking across an open desert, entering a wild and rugged canyon, and ending up at a…

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Imagine boldly trekking across an open desert, entering a wild and rugged canyon, and ending up at a tranquil oasis surrounded by palm trees. You don’t have to be Indiana Jones to make this kind of adventure a reality. Visit the lower elevation, and less-traveled, east side of Joshua Tree to embark on a 7.2-mile (round-trip) trek brightened by early spring blossoms and connecting two oases. The Lost Palms Oasis Trail starts at the Cottonwood Spring Oasis, crosses the Colorado Desert through a hot spot for wildflowers, and travels to its namesake attraction in a dramatic rocky canyon. The route is a mix of hard-packed dirt and some dry sandy channels, which makes traction a bit tough in sections. And you won’t hear much other than the breeze and your own boots on the path. You’ll gradually gain 400 feet—and vast views of the desert. Arid as it is, the deep blue of Canterbury bellflowers and bright pink of beavertail cactus are plentiful among the yucca. Make your way to an overlook for a top-down view of Lost Palms Oasis, a rare underground desert spring that keeps the surrounding palm trees quenched. From here a short, steep trail descends to this tranquil sanctuary with small pools of water. Giant boulders make prime perches for a snack break. Return the way you came. Two palms up!

From I-10 east of Palm Springs, take the Cottonwood Springs Rd. exit and go north to the east entrance of the park. After 7 miles, turn right on the paved road next to the Cottonwood Visitor Center. Continue 1 mile to the trailhead at road’s end. Hike through Cottonwood Spring Oasis and make your way southeast on Lost Palms Oasis Trail for 3.6 miles to the oasis. Bring along this trail brochure.

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