The hike to Lost Palms Oasis begins near the Cottonwood Visitor Center near the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. At the start of the hike you will be able to visit the Cottonwood Springs Oasis if you want, or begin the trek to the Lost Palms Oasis by taking the trail at the end of the road you take from the visitor center. It is about a 7.4 mile trek that takes you through several washes, canyons and over a few hills as well. While the elevation gain from the beginning of the hike to the oasis is only about a 120 foot elevation gain, you will actually have about 1,500 feet of total elevation gain in your round-trip hike as you follow the trail.
This is a moderately strenuous hike, and 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.
So if you are planning on visiting Joshua Tree National Park to do this hike, grab your CamelBak, other Hydration Pack or Hydro Flask head on out to Joshua Tree National Park and get out on the trail.
The hike to Lost Palm Oasis begins at Cottonwood Springs, and is well marked. Like I mentioned above, the trail will take you in and out of several washes over mostly level terrain, but you will climb a few small hills.
After about .7 miles from Cottonwood Springs you will come to the Mastodon Peak and Nature Loop split, follow the sign to the Lost Palm Oasis direction at that point.
Just keep following this trail for several miles, there will be signs along the way to keep you going in the right direction, just make sure you stay on the well marked trail.
As the trail makes its way to the oasis you will climb along a very beautiful ridge that is lined with ocotillos and other desert vegetation where you will have a nice view of the Salton Sea on clear days.
The trail drops from the ridge into a canyon for awhile, and then you will climb up until you reach the Lost Palms Oasis overlook. It is at this point that you can take the trail down into the oasis.
The oasis is a great place to eat your lunch or a snack before returning the way you came to get back to your car.
The oasis is loaded with California Fan Palms and various other types of desert vegetation, and there are several spring fed pools where you will see many different types of insects, and other desert wildlife as well.
You should also keep in mind that during warmer months you may also come across one of the many types of rattlesnakes that call Joshua Tree National Park their home, so keep alert, stay on the trail and don’t go crashing through bushes or climbing rocks without looking first and making plenty of noise. Rattlesnakes will try and avoid people for the most part, but of course if they feel cornered or in danger they will protect themselves. I hike with trekking poles, and when approaching densely vegetated areas I will poke my poles around to see if there are any snakes around.
How to get there: To get to the trailhead you can come from two different directions. From the south entrance, take the I-10 Freeway to exit 168 and head north on Cottonwood Spring Road. After about 7 miles, turn right at the sign before at the Cottonwood Visitor Center and continue about 1.2 miles until the road dead-ends at a cul-de-sac above Cottonwood Oasis. 1 mile to the trailhead at road’s end. From within the park, take Park Blvd to the junction with Pinto Basin Road. Take Pinto Basin Road thirty miles to the Cottonwood Visitor Center, turn east and continue one mile to the trailhead at road’s end.
Fees: Please note that if you enter from the south you will have to stop at the Cottonwood Visitor Center to pay your use fees for the day before going to the trailhead, when coming from inside the park you will of course already paid your fees. The park entrance fee is $20. This covers a 7-day vehicle permit, admitting the passengers of a single, non-commercial vehicle on the day of purchase and for the next six days. There is no separate 1-day permit; your receipt is good for re-entry if you come back anytime within the week.
The entrance fee is $10 for each motorcycle or bicycle. The fee per person on foot is also $10. There is also an annual Joshua Tree National Park pass available for those who plan on visiting the park several times during the year.