If you’re driving Interstate 10 between Arizona and Palm Springs, you might be surprised to see a sign for Joshua Tree National Park. Most people know about the park’s northern entrances near the park’s namesake town, Joshua Tree. But there’s also a southern entrance off I-10 (directions below).
Just a mile or so from the highway is a family walk on the Bajada Nature Trail. This short walk in the desert teaches families about the plants that survive months, sometimes years, with very little water.
In the parking lot, a sign explains the difference between the Mojave and Colorado deserts that met in Joshua Tree National Park. The Mojave is home to the Joshua Trees, the Colorado desert has the desert-like trees and shrubs).
Cross a bridge over an arroyo (dry stream), and an arrow will point you in a counter-clockwise direction. The first sign explains a bajada. It’s the slope at a base of a mountain. It’s formed by sand and gravel. Sand is the key word here. This is a sandy trail in the desert. There is no shade. Bring plenty of water for the short walk.
As you hike the loop, you’ll learn how plants survive in the desert. Like the ocotillo plant that drops its leaves in long, dry periods. Learn about the palo verde, the creosote bush and other plants.
After the one third mile walk, consider driving to the Cottonwood Visitor Center to learn about more hikes and walks in the park. A good family hike nearby is Lower Cottonwood Wash. It’s like a scavenger hunt where you can search for old car parts and milling remnants.
In the park, also check out Barker Dam, Lost Horse Mine and Wall Street Mill. If you’re driving through the area, visit Corn Springs Oasis and the slot canyon at Anza Borrego State Park.
Details: The nature trail loop is about one third of a mile with minimal elevation gain. There are no trees here, so there is no shade.
Directions: From I-10, about 25 miles east of Indio, exit Cottonwood Springs Road. Drive north, pass the park’s entrance, about 1/2 mile to the marked trailhead on the east side of the road.
Want more hikes? Check out this list of great places to hike throughout the west.
Don’t miss any of my hiking reports, click on the “subscribe” button at the top of this article for an alert each time I publish. And follow me, DenverHikingExaminer on Facebook and/or HikingDebbie on Twitter.