Hidden under the high ridges of the north side of the Little San Bernardino Mountains, Forty-Nine Palms Oasis provides both an essential water source for wildlife in the range and serves as an exciting destination for the desert hiker. Located just outside the small town of Twenty-Nine Palms, this serene, verdant oasis grows in stark contrast to the Spartan and hearty arid vegetation of the lower Mojave. Desert familiars such as Brittlebush, Almond, Acacia, and Barrel Cacti give way in the low trenches of the canyon to willows and California's only native palm tree, the California Fan Palm, found only in a middling collection of desert ravines in Southern California. In springtime after a rainy winter, annuals appear in brilliant fashion across the trail serving as a vivid backdrop for various reptilian natives. As enter the the canyon and climb over the wide ridge in a landscape marred by time, heat, and little water, it is remarkable indeed how profoundly ordered the diversity of this desert ecosystem truly is.
Elevation Gain: 550'
Location: Joshua Tree National Park
The Trail: From the trailhead, enter the trail as it climbs through time-tested jumbles of granite flanked by small, patchy stands of Brittlebush, Beavertail, Mojave Mounds, Hedgehog, and Prickly Pear cacti. Keep a sharp look out for various species of lizards, snakes, and even the endangered Desert Tortise, who enjoys a meal of plentiful springtime blossoms. As the trail crests the wide ridge, the view expands into the canyon bottom below and the heights of Desert Queen Mountain above. Soon, the oasis itself comes into view as the path drops into the ravine below. During the descent, surroundings of Barrel Cacti and other brush in the foreground are vigorously contrasted with the verdant grove of palms in the background; echoing a theme of contrast familiar in all of nature. After arriving at the canyon floor, the path takes a few hundred yards before arriving in the midst of the life-giving waters of the mountains. Over the eras, the ground below, through faults and distinct geological conditionsl have allowed fissures to spring forth water thus giving perspective on the delicate balance of life here in the Mojave. You cannot actually go down to the water, as it is an area of special environmental concern, but the the stately groves of palms are more than a worthy substitute. After enjoying the calms of this desert vale, ascend the ridge, and then descend its backside returning to the trailhead.
Saint Vincent Ferrer, Pray for Us!
Hiked 4/3/2017. San Bernardino County, CA
|Encelia Farinosa: Brittbush|
|Little San Bernardino Mountains|
|California Fan Palm|
|Desert Spiny Lizard|
|Long Nosed Leopard Lizard|
|Western Fence Lizard|