Since our January 12 visit to Joshua Tree, some very nice rainfall has brought extensive color to virtually every area of the park. With little more than an all-eyes drive from the most southerly entrance to the park (at the I-10) to the northerly entrance at 29 Palms, we were transfixed by the artists’ pallettes almost everywhere.
The stars of the show are the desert dandelions, now at peak, mixing their bright fluorescent yellows and snowy whites with the poppy oranges and an alluring yellow primrose species seen in the sandy washes. One of the nicest flower displays is currently the delicate white flowers of the sand blazing star (Mentzelia involucrata) which grow in small clusters among sand and rock. Look for them as wispy clusters about 24″ high delicately waving in the breeze.
The lower washes in Cottonwood Canyon feature the rich deep blue and purple desert bluebells (Phacelia campanularia)—also called desert canterbury bells—which have no rival in that band of the spectrum. Cottonwood Canyon can be reached from the south entrance of the park, north of the I-10, but as of April 3 the show is what may be called “past-peak,” with one exception being the beautiful bluebells in the washes crossing the winding road through the canyon which reaches the visitor’s center at the top.
Park staff serve the visitor’s center until 4 PM, where very useful maps, displays and information are available. Restrooms are located there as well. Beyond the center is the gently meandering Pinto Basin Road, traversing the northwest periphery of a sprawling desert plain that can be said to be Sonoran Desert and Mojave Desert at the same time.
Many of the photos in the manual slideshow below where taken March 31 in the northerly reach of the bajada at the mouth of Cottonwood Canyon, where the chia and lupine displays were particularly phenomenal. This area is embraced by golden hills adorned with vibrant brittlebush and the flower-drenched shrubs of bladderpod.
The best blooms we saw were quite accessible along Pinto Basin Road, with only a little walking or hiking needed to reach some striking views. A few recommended spots are shown in the map beneath the photo gallery.
To enter the manual slideshow below, click on any image. Photos by Barbara Swanson.
Click on any icon in the map box below for a popup photo and title of the site as georeferenced. The map can be made full-screen (upper-right box) and can be switched to satellite view or back to terrain (default). The map also supports zooming.