Lost Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua Tree National Park

Lost Palms Oasis Trail is one of the longest day-hiking trails in Joshua Tree National Park. It’s located in the Colorado (Sonoran) Desert of the park, which has a lower elevation than the Mojave Desert, so you won’t see any Joshua trees on this trail. However, don’t be mistaken. This is a beautiful hike, especially in spring.

It has been too windy in Desert Hot Springs Area to enjoy hiking for several days now. So we were itching to go for a long hike. Our friends and we have been wanting to do a hike in Joshua Tree National Park and the timing last week was right. The weather wasn’t too warm or too windy. There should still be plenty of wildflowers to see in Joshua Tree.

This was our second time hiking Lost Palms Oasis Trail. We did it first time in spring of 2012. So this time around I wasn’t as excited because I didn’t remember the hike to be that spectacular. Just a nice hike as I recalled. But I was pleasantly surprised. This time it was even better. There were more flowers blooming. Since the temperature was cooler, I found myself looking around and enjoying the scenery more.

Trailhead of Lost Palms Oasis Trail is at the Cottonwood Spring parking area. There is no toilet facility at the trailhead, but Cottonwood Visitor Center is nearby.

Sign at the trailhead

Hillsides were full of brittlebush.

The trail was well-marked, on rolling terrain with beautiful views throughout.

It was like walking through a garden.

Descending into the Lost Palms Oasis

Lost Palms Oasis is situated in a picturesque canyon

Looking up from our lunch spot

Joshua Tree National Park is full of fascinating boulders. Ever wonder how these iconic boulder formations were created? The park’s Geologic Formations page has an answer.

Lots of boulders with different formations

Lost Palms Oasis Trail is a 7.5-mile out-and-back trail. On the return we took Mastodon Mine Loop Trail back to the parking area, adding about 1.5 miles to the total distance. If you have energy, it’s well worth it.

Boulders along Mastodon Mine Loop Trail on our return. You can see Salton Sea in the background in this picture.

Mastodon Mine Loop Trail

One of the highlights of the hike this time was seeing Chuckwallas, herbivorous lizards. Our friends told us to look out for Chuckwallas on rocks. They were so good at spotting them. We had a lot of fun finding and photographing Chuckwallas during this hike.

A vibrant globemallow bush. This was one of the largest bush I’ve seen so far.

Hiking back to Cottonwood Spring

  • Date hiked: March 29, 2017
  • Hiking time: 6h 37m
  • Distance: 9.0 mi round-trip (out and back, return to the trailhead via Mastodon Mine Loop Trail)
  • Elevation change: Approx. 1,300 ft gain
  • Note: Do not underestimate the desert. This hike is not appropriate on a hot day. Even on a cool day, carry plenty of water and have sun protection.

12 Comments

  1. The wildflowers and sky in Joshua Tree look amazing this time of the year! Thank you so much for posting this hike. We’ll be in Joshua Tree in late July (not ideal, but all we could swing) and were considering this hike but had read mixed reviews for summer. By any chance, did you do Mastodon Peak, too? We’re looking for 2-3 days of hikes, plus one night of backpacking if you have any recommendations. (Thank you so much!! I really appreciate your help and wisdom.) Lost Palms Oasis in spring looks stunning for sure. I’d never heard of Chuckwalla lizards before–looking forward to spotting some later this year!

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    1. We didn’t hike up Mastodon Peak as it looked like our party wasn’t interested in extending the end of an already long hike. Mastodon Peak is a short spur of the Mastodon Mine Loop. There’s a sign said the trail to Mastodon Peak is not maintained but I saw several people up there and it didn’t look like a problem to hike up there.

      I hesitate to say that Lost Palms Oasis isn’t a hike for summer (the park does warn to not hike in the heat) because it depends on the weather and how early you hit the trail. When we hiked it in 2012, it took us about 2.5 hours to get to the oasis. We ate lunch for about 30 min. I didn’t have a photo to check the time we got back to the trailhead. It was probably 2 more hours (we didn’t do the Mastodon Mine). We tended to spend more time hiking in than out as we take more photos. So we talk about 5 hours on the trail. If you start the hike by 7:00 am, you might be back by noon. Hiking back will be hot regardless. If you are early risers, getting to the trailhead by 6:00 am is even better for minimizing time in the heat. As long as you’re prepared to abort the hike if it gets too warm, I think you could consider this hike. It’s a good idea to have back-up activities to do for a hot day.

      I don’t have info about backpacking in Joshua Tree to be useful.

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      1. Thank you so, so much for this very helpful info, Keng! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to leave such a detailed and helpful response. I didn’t realize that the Mastodon Peak trail was a spur of the mine loop, so that was good to know. I appreciate the time projections, too, as that really helps me plan. We’re early risers and may possibly spend a night at Cottonwood before moving further north into the park, so 6 am might be doable. Good call on the back-up activities, too, especially if the heat winds up being more than we bargained for. If nothing else, I’m sure the kids will enjoy climbing the rocks! Thank you again for your wisdom and sage advice!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply

        1. You’re welcome Christine. Although these days you can research most hikes from from the internet, it’s sometimes more effective and more efficient getting a few tips or some info from someone who did the hike directly. Then you can read more from there. I’m happy to help when I can.

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