Cottonwood Spring

#7 in Best Things To Do in Joshua Tree National Park
Cottonwood Spring picture
© LRM Photography/Getty Images

Key Info

Lost Palms Oasis Trail

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
3.9

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Cottonwood Spring Oasis, located 7 miles from the park's South Entrance, served as an important place both for Cahuilla Indian Tribe and gold miners who depended upon its water. Today, visitors can see remnants of a primitive type of gold mill, as well as concrete ruins of two later gold mills.

There are several hikes in and around the area, including an easy hike to a second oasis and a short hike to the remains of a mill. A 3-mile loop trail to Mastodon Peak features great views and leads to the Mastodon Mine and the Winona Mill Site. Meanwhile, the longer Lost Palms Oasis trail is an 8-mile trek that rewards hikers with the largest stand of fan palms in the park. Cottonwood also shelters a campground, located about a half-mile from the spring.

Recent visitors were impressed with the spring and said it was well worth stopping. According to the National Park Service, this is also one of the best birding spots in the park. For more information about hiking, birding and the area's history, visit the NPS website.

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#1 Rock Climbing

Climbers flock to Joshua Tree from around the world to tackle the literally thousands of routes open to them. There are challenges for all ability levels, with more than 8,000 climbing routes, 2,000 boulder problems and hundreds of natural gaps to choose from. Because Joshua Tree has its own particular set of safety issues, from high temperatures to remote climbing spots, it pays to do your homework first. If you're unfamiliar with the park, you'll want to purchase a climbing guide and hiking map, which are available at park visitor centers and online.

Certified guides can also lead you on climbs and provide a great way to explore in safety. If you do hire a climbing guide, make sure that they are permitted to work in Joshua Tree National Park. Each guide is required to have rock guiding certifications through the Professional Climbing Guides Institute, the American Mountain Guides Association or similar organizations. They are also required to be certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR and must carry insurance.

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