One of the first hikes I ever did in Joshua Tree National Park is the hike to 49 Palms Oasis. It is a hike of about 3.4 miles roundtrip, and gives you an elevation gain of about 300 feet. While not very strenuous, you will need to be in decent shape, and have proper hiking shoes or boots, plenty of water and follow all the normal hiking tips. Don’t try this trail in flip-flops with no water, and unless you are very experienced and prepared don’t do this one in the summer, it is just too hot and dangerous.
The trail has its own access road into the park with no ranger station, which is an added bonus for anyone who wants to go on a great hike without paying an entrance fee to Joshua Tree National Park. To get to the trailhead from the Oasis Visitor Center travel five miles west on Hwy 62 and turn left on Canyon Road. From the Joshua Tree Visitor Center, travel 11 miles east on Hwy 62 and turn right on Canyon Road. Canyon Road turns slightly to the left and becomes Fortynine Palms Canyon Road. Follow it to the parking area.
The hike begins with a moderate uphill climb almost from the start, and provides hikers with views of Red Barrel cacti, Creosote and Jojoba as it makes its way through a boulder field. The trail will level off a couple times before you reach its highest point at about .8 of a mile, giving you your first view of the oasis. It is at that point that you will begin a steady, winding descent into the canyon. Just before you reach the canyon floor the trail splits, stay to the right to follow the best path into the oasis.
There are many large boulders within a rugged, sheltered canyon that is home to this fan palm oasis and many different types of desert wildlife. It is comprised of lush vegetation, including the fan palms, and most of the time there are small pools of water throughout the oasis.
This is a good place to find a place to sit to enjoy your lunch or a snack before returning to the parking area following the trail you came in on.
Like I said at the beginning, this is not a summer hike, late fall, winter and spring are usually the best times to hike this trail. Keep in mind during warmer months there is the possibility of coming across rattlesnakes, so be alert, and don’t wander off the trail, or climb onto rocks without looking first.