Victory Palms, Cottonwood Spring Trailhead, Joshua Tree National Park, California
Victory Palms - 10.0 miles
Cottonwood Spring Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||10.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||2,998' - 2,680' (3,444' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-318' net elevation loss (+2,320' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Victory Palms - 10.0 Miles Round-Trip
Beyond Lost Palms Oasis exist a series of smaller, less accessible groves and oases. Victory Palms - just over a mile down canyon from Lost Palms Oasis - is an isolated and rewarding destination for the more adventurous and physically fit.
While only a relatively small additional distance, travel beyond Lost Palms is difficult, and should only be attempted by those comfortable with bouldering, scrambling and route finding:
The trail gently drops through the Cottonwood Spring Oasis beneath Fan Palms, mesquite, cats claw and desert willow. Interpretive signs discuss oasis ecology and the life of Cahuilla Indians who once inhabited the area.
The trail exits the oasis and enters a maze of canyons, washes and undualting ridges. Though generally well marked, the trail occasionally fades and wash entry-exit points can be obscured.
Despite stark conditions the landscape is filled with Mojave yucca, creosote, jojoba, juniper, ocotillo, chuparosa and numerous species of cacti and cholla. Some washes support mesquite, willow, palo verde, smoketree and ironwood.
You'll pass the Mastodon Peak and Nature Loop Trailjunction (.7 miles : 3,160') and continue across a wide, heavily vegetated wash at 1.4 miles - the only shade you'll enjoy before reaching Lost Palms Oasis. At 2.45 miles the trail drops into a wash, enters a slot-like arroyo and exits left at 2.65 miles with a steep climb and hairpin turn to the left.
The trail quickly drops into and across another small wash, then climbs steeply to a rolling, ocotillo-lined ridge top (2.85 miles) with sweeping views and a good perspective on the uninviting terrain through which you've been traveling. The Salton Sea can be seen to the southwest along this memorable segment.
The trail drops sharply once more into a shallow canyon (3.2 miles), then climbs steeply out past the Lost Palms Canyon Day Use Boundary (3.5 miles : 3,277'). It levels off a few steps higher at the Lost Palms Oasis overlook; a sign marking it sits at the foot of a faint but intuitively followed path leading down to the oasis.
Scan the far canyon wall for smaller groves while descending into the main oasis and canyon floor (3.7 miles : 3,113'). Scores of Fan Palms, dense vegetation, large boulders and spring-fed pools line the deep and narrow canyon floor.
The route continues on a 430', 1 mile drop over steep boulder fields and dry falls to Victory Palms. While some park resources recommend using an un-maintained trail along the canyon's south (right) wall, it's awfully difficult to follow the whole way.
The trail quickly fades, and the canyon wall itself is very steep and perilously unstable. Nevertheless, there is a visible cairn for this faint path just before you see the park-posted 4 mile marker. This also begins the first of 3 steep boulder fields leading to Victory Palms.
Taking this path at the cairn for a short time is advisable, if for no other reason than to avoid a brief but difficult section of boulders, and to see the adjacent Teddy Bear Cholla garden.
The path fades beyond the cholla garden, leaving little choice but to begin the arduous process of downhill bouldering. While more than manageable, it will require an all-body effort and some creative routing.
The boulder field momentarily eases around 4.5 miles (2,865'), a point at which the canyon splits off back to the right. Stay straight (this is important to remember on the return, as you'll need to recognize this subtle fork in the canyon).
More boulders await, though steady progress down canyon soon yields a well-earned glimpse of Victory Palms. The canyon widens and flattens out just before reaching the grove (5 miles : 2,680') - (N33 42.341 W115 45.139).
- N33 43.897 W115 48.085 — Mastodon Peak and Nature Loop Trail junction
- N33 43.774 W115 47.819 — Mile One Marker
- N33 43.343 W115 47.011 — Mile Two Marker
- N33 43.170 W115 46.669 — Enter Arroyo Slot
- N33 43.080 W115 46.548 — Exit Arroyo Slot (bear left)
- N33 42.757 W115 45.896 — Lost Palms Canyon Day Use Boundary
- N33 42.760 W115 45.756 — Lost Palms Oasis
- N33 42.341 W115 45.139 — Victory Palms
- Travel beyond Lost Palms Oasis can be very difficult. Only those in good physical condition and comfortable with scrambling, bouldering and route finding should attempt this hike.
- A good topo map is essential. Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats and ample water are musts.
- Lost Palms Canyon and Munsen Canyon are home to Bighorn Sheep. Signs of these elusive animals are more prevalent as you travel deeper through the canyons.
- There are 158 Desert Fan Palm Oases in North America - 5 are found in Joshua Tree National Park. Desert Fan Palm Oases typically form along fault lines, where seismic activity has uplifted layers of impermeable rock that forces underground water to the surface.
- Fan Palms can live for 80-90 years, grow over 75 feet tall and weigh as much as three tons. Fan Palms are naturally fire resistant, and often can benefit from it. The tree's vascular bundles are spread throughout the trunk (versus just beneath the outer bark), thus increasing insulation from heat. Seed production increases significantly after fires, and generally benefit from the removal of competitors and the creation of new space for growth.
- The Cottonwood Spring Trailhead area itself is quite interesting. At 3,000', this is a transition zone between the lower Colorado sub-district of the Sonoran Desert and the higher Mojave Desert (to the west). This particular area supports plants from both distinct desert ecosystems.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- This is a Day Use Area only.
- Camping is not permitted at Lost Palms Oasis or within the designated Day Use Area encompassing Lost Palms Canyon and Munsen Canyon. Speak with a Ranger for backcountry camping options adjacent to the Day Use Boundary.
Rules and Regulations
- This is a day use area only. Camping is strictly prohibited.
- Avoid interaction with natural water sources and leave these delicate resources to local wildlife.
Directions to Trailhead
From the Oasis of Mara Visitor Center:
Follow Park Blvd (which becomes Pinto Basin Road, which becomes Cottonwood Springs Road) south 38 miles to the Cottonwood Springs Vistor Center. Turn left on Cottonwood Oasis Road for 1 mile to the trailhead.
From Highway 10:
Travel north on Cottonwood Springs Road 7 miles to the Cottonwood Springs Vistor Center. Turn right on Cottonwood Oasis Road for 1 mile to the trailhead.
Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597