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Joshua Tree National Park, California
In a unique transitional area, where the lower Colorado Desert meets the high Mojave northeast of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree National Park protects 800,000 acres of ragged trees. The trees can reach up to forty feet in height, but they have to struggle hard to survive in the arid and rocky conditions. All around lie great heaps of boulders, pushed up by the Pinto Mountain Fault, their edges rounded and smoothed by flash floods and winds.
This magical landscape is at its best during sunrise or sunset, when the desert floor is bathed in red light; at noon it can be a blazing furnace, with temperatures sometimes topping 125 F in summer, and rising even higher in the Low Desert section of the park. The Joshua Tree National Park is appreciated by campers and rock climbers for its unspoiled beauty, gold-mine ruins, ancient rock carvings and incredible rock formations.
When hiking in this park, stick to the trails. This is not a place just to drive past; visitors should explore for a while away from the roads. One of the easiest hiking trails leads one and a half miles from Canyon Road, six miles from the visitor center, to Fortynine Palms Oasis. Here, quartz boulders tower around the Indian Cove campground. Another trail from here leads to Rattlesnake Canyon, where streams and waterfalls break the eerie silence.
A brilliant desert panorama of badlands and mountains is seen from the 5185 ft Keys View, from where the Geology tour leads down to the east through the best of Joshua Tree's rock formations, and further to the Cholla Cactus Garden. The park offers nine campgrounds, all in the northwest except for the one at Cottonwood.