Joshua Tree National Park Loop Backpack

Sunrise at Upper Covington Flats
Sunrise at Upper Covington Flats

A lucky lady I am. Lucky to be surrounded by people who inspire, challenge, and leave me in awe. My hiking buddy, Arrow is one of those special individuals.  She is the one when life is throwing every rotten thing imaginable, she manages to come up smiling, open, giving, and positive and then heads into the wind.  Arrow is the one you want along when a backpacking trip features hiking off-trail and includes only: maps, ideas, and options.

Joshua Tree is located in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of Southern California and is a perfect destination in the fall, winter, or spring. It is primarily waterless. For the backpacker, this means hauling extra water that is very heavy.

We headed to Joshua Tree National Park for an overnight backpack excited to just be outside with a pack on. With a route in mind, we started at the Upper Covington Flats Board. We were both willing to be flexible due to the predicted heat wave. The temps were for-casted to be in the 90’s.

TRIP DATE: March 16-17, 2013
DIFFICULTY: Moderate with cross-country and some trail
MILEAGE: About 45 mile loop
NAVIGATION: Map and compass required and/or good GPS
WATER: Don’t count on natural sources, water at North Entrance Station restrooms

During our trip we continually made adjustments to our route based on water, heat, and how we were feeling. This worked. The route we ended up hiking I recommend and was very diverse, interesting, scenic, and fun. I did not GPS our route on my phone so this Google map’s waypoints are an estimate of the trip.


Day 1

Arrived late the night before at the trail head and camped at Upper Covington Flats Board, from the sign-in board we hiked the California Hiking and Riding Trail to Lower Covington Trail, down Smith Water Canyon to Quail Wash, then loaded up on 6 liters of water at the Joshua Tree North Entrance Station (the only available water in the park), hiked North View trail to Big Pine Trail to Boy Scout Trail, walked Park Boulevard Road to Johnny Lange Connector. We camped above Johnny Lange Canyon.

Day 2

Hiked up Johnny Lange Canyon, then headed cross-country to the route up Quail Mountain, down to Juniper Flats, and then took the California Hiking and Riding Trail back to the trail head at Upper Covington Flats.

Note: On this trip we primarily used Topo Maps iPhone app and the Joshua Tree  Tom Harrison map. We found that many of the established trails on the Tom Harrison map were actually routes not trails and we both wished we would have brought USGS 7.5  minute maps.

 

Entering Smith Water Canyon
Entering Smith Water Canyon
Maneuvering Rock Falls
Maneuvering Rock Falls
Bighorn in Smith Water Canyon
Bighorn in Smith Water Canyon
Wonderland of Rocks
Wonderland of Rocks
Joshua Tree Bloom
Joshua Tree Bloom
Johnny Lange Connector Slot
Johnny Lange Connector Slot
Johnny Lange Canyon
Johnny Lange Canyon
View of Quail Mountain
View of Quail Mountain
Quail Mountain Summit -San Jacinto left, San Gorgonio right
Quail Mountain Summit -San Jacinto left, San Gorgonio right
California Hiking and Riding Trail
California Hiking and Riding Trail
    • View all trip photos on Flickr

 

16 Comments

  1. RosaIo ho avuto una laimcrucica per tutti gli operai che sono morti sulla Morte Nera. Soprattutto per gli addetti alle pulizie ed i cuochi.

  2. Pingback: Happy 5th Birthday Lady on a Rock! | Lady on a Rock

  3. Would you recommend going in late December?

    • Our first trip to Joshua Tree a few years ago was at Thanksgiving. The days were warm and nights really cold. I would think December would be great, but if you are tenting it bring good cold weather gear for nights.

  4. Lars Nilsson

    That was an amazing hike! Loved the photos – but one of them has me confused. JT is east of San Gorgonio and northeast of San Jacinto, yet SanJac is on the right of the photo?

    • Great catch! I have been to the top of both San Jacinto and San Gorgonio peaks and really should know the locations. 🙂 Big thanks. All fixed on the pic. It was a fun and intiially very unplanned route which ended up working great thanks to the terrain in Joshua Tree. Heading to the ADZPCTKO this weekend and climbing Mount Baldy. Should be able to see all of these peaks from the top.

  5. That looks pretty awesome and I like every part but the carrying all those extra litre’s of water! You two rock.

    • I know. Right? Water IS serious weight. Hikers can spend a lot of money on lightweight gear and within a split second 6 liters of water lands in your pack. For me memories of backpacking in the 90’s comes rushing back. Not going back to that time of heavy packs again.

  6. What a beautiful area!

    • I just love the backcountry areas in our National Parks! You can just trek out of the main tourist areas and beauty, solitude, and awesomeness awaits the lucky hiker. You are the hiker that embraces this daily. 🙂

  7. Joshua Tree National Park is one of my favorite places to visit. I have yet to backpack there, but I am looking forward to doing so this fall (hopefully).

    • It IS interesting backpacking to desert areas with very few water sources. If the springs are not dry often the water is fouled with wildlife droppings making the water unhealthy to drink. Yet I love being part of the stark and raw landscape outside of the standard day-hiker radius. It gifts the backpacker with peace and solitude like no other. Hopefully your experience this fall will be the same!

  8. Thank you for your kind words:) We are on way for the big day tomorrow . I will be having trail and off trail dreams during surgery 🙂

  9. AMY STEWART

    So inspiring, so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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