Joshua Tree National Park in southeastern California offers a number of excellent trails through the Mojave Desert. The trail that leads to the Lost Palm Oasis is somewhat “off the beaten path” in the eastern part of the park. This part is geographically already part of the Colorado Desert which joins the Mojave Desert to the east. The eponymous Joshua Trees are not present in this part of the park.

The trail leads through the hot desert landscape over hills and through dry river courses (washes) to a large shady oasis in a canyon with mighty fan palms. The trail is basically easy to walk, but it can get very hot already in spring. In summer, the tour is not necessarily recommended….

The trailhead is near the smaller visitor center in the eastern part of the park at Cottonwood Spring Oasis. From the parking lot, the trailhead is immediately downhill a bit to the small Cottonwood Springs Oasis, which is formed by mighty fan palms and cottonwoods. The oasis probably goes back to the first settlers and gold seekers in this region, who wanted to create a shady place here. They succeeded excellently in doing so, which you will notice at the latest when you continue the trail through the desert after a stay under the shady trees.

It goes uphill and downhill through the desert landscape of the Joshua Tree NP

It goes on a shadeless path over small hills uphill and downhill. Again and again it goes down into mostly dry riverbeds to follow them for a while only to climb the next hill again. Even though there is no significant difference in altitude between the trail start and the oasis, the ups and downs add up to quite a few meters in altitude. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Salton Sea to the south of the park from the higher points. The vegetation in the eastern part of the park is dominated by Choalla cacti and Yucca bushes. Joshua Trees are more likely to be found in the western, somewhat higher part, of the national park.

A shady oasis in a narrow valley is the worthwhile destination

At the end of the trail, above the oasis, there is a short turnoff to a viewpoint. On the opposite hillside between the rocks there is a pitoresque cluster of palm trees. A little before the viewpoint, a short steep path descends to the oasis, which is covered with over 100 large fan palms. In the valley itself, you can follow the path for quite a while. Due to the humidity in the valley, there are many birds and flowers that you hardly find outside the oasis. After a recommendable extensive rest in the cool and shady valley, it goes back on the same way to the parking lot.

Through Washes and Canyons back to Cottonwood Spring

Preferably you should start early in the morning for this tour. This way you avoid the heat on the shadeless trail and you have the oasis mostly to yourself. On weekends in the season, the trail is relatively popular.

Alternative route:

If the tour is not long enough for you and you are still fit and have enough water (!), you can turn right onto Mastodon Peak Trl. on the way back and reach the starting point of the hike via this trail. This will extend the tour by about 1 kilometer and also add some elevation gain in this case.

As in all desert regions in the southwestern USA, the months of April and May are especially recommended due to the sometimes numerous (depending on the amount of precipitation in winter) blooming flowers and cacti.

Lost Palm Oasis Trail – Hike to an oasis in the desert

  • Length: approx. 13 km (round trip)
  • Start: Cottonwood Spring parking area (near campground)
  • Duration: about 4-5 hours
  • Endurance: medium-high
  • Difficulty: low-medium
  • Danger potential: low
  • Ascent/Descent: medium
  • Specials: extreme temperatures in summer probably
  • Tip: start early to have the oasis to yourself….
Lost Palm Oasis Trail im Joshua Tree Nationalpark
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