Did you know that you could take a short moderate day hike from Desert Edge, a community east of Desert Hot Springs, California to the western boundary of Joshua Tree National Park?
If you’re interested in a summit hike in the Desert Edge Area, you should check out a previous post about the Flag Mountain Hike. Similar to the Flag Mountain Hike, a hike to the Joshua Tree National Park boundary in this post starts at Sam’s Family Spa where we’re currently staying. At the bottom of this post I included more information about the route.
Desert Edge is an unincorporated community in Riverside County, east of Desert Hot Springs. We hiked this trail several times, each time taking a slightly different route to get to the canyon. One thing that will likely be true is that you will have the trail to yourself. Feeling like taking a walk in our front yard, I didn’t take as many photos when we hiked this trail. So, to provide a better sense of what the trail is like, the pictures used in this post came from our hike on multiple occasions.
The first part of the hike you go through desert valley floor landscape with a typical desert vegetation in the area, mostly creosotes, brittlebushes mixed with cacti, like chollas, barrel cacti, and beavertails.
After about a mile into the hike, the trail enters a canyon/wash. Most of this hike is really on a dirt road. You could see tire tracks on the road. However, we never see any vehicles during any of the hikes we did on this trail.
Other than some lizards and jackrabbits, we almost never saw other wildlife on this trail. One time our friends encountered a rather large rattlesnake. But last week we were lucky to see desert bighorn sheep, 12 of them. What a treat!
At the end of the hike, which is inside the Joshua Tree National Park Boundary, there is a well-used fire pit. It has a wide and level space to park a car and to set up tents. It looks like a nice place to camp. From the fire pit, the canyon splits into short left and right forks. They are impassable by vehicles, but you can explore on foot.
After taking a break and refreshing ourselves, it’s time to head back out. The return hike was much easier as it’s a downhill walk pretty much all the way. This is the hike that we love to have, basically just a few steps away from Sam’s Family Spa. It doesn’t have as spectacular views as many that we’ve done, but the scenery is interesting enough and the solitude we get is a big plus.
If you do this hike from Sam’s Family Spa, the hike takes the same path as the Flag Mountain Hike across the desert toward Hacienda Avenue, which is unmarked and is just a dirt track. Note that before you come to Hacienda Avenue, you’ll cross a path that is lined with power poles. This is a service road for these power poles, not Hacienda Avenue. Continue north through the desert (if you don’t see an obvious path, just keep walking north) and turn left at Hacienda and head for the northwest direction.
Depending on where you turned left onto Hacienda, about 0.2 mi later you should reach a small trail junction where you can turn right and follow a red GPS track on the map heading north. This trail junction, however, may not be obvious to spot from Hacienda. If you never hike this trail before, it will be easier to continue on Hacienda. At about 0.3 mi from when you turned left onto Hacienda, you will reach a dirt road that crosses Hacienda. At the intersection, on your right, there is a tall rock pile that stretches approximately in the north-south direction. This elongated rock pile lies between the two red GPS track in the map. It’s one of the first places we explored when we stayed at Sam’s in winter 2016/2017. We called it the Dragon’s Back. You can walk on top of the Dragon’s Back for its entire length for a better view of the valley.
From Hacienda, turn right at the intersection and head toward the mountain to the north with the Dragon’s Back on your right. About 0.6 mi after leaving Hacienda, you will come to a three-way junction where the road joins the trail from the east side of the Dragon’s Back. Beyond the three-way junction, there is only one route going into the canyon, and there’s no route finding required.
- Date hiked: Winter-Spring seasons
- Hiking time: 2h 20m
- Distance: Approx. 5.5 mi round-trip (out and back)
- Elevation change: Approx. 877 ft gain
Note: Bring plenty of water and sun protection. There is very little to no shade on this hike, so it’s best to avoid taking this hike on a hot and sunny day.