Sunday, April 10, 2011

Geology Tour Road

It's been 3 weeks since we've been out to our desert place, and really missing it!  I had two goals for this weekend: [1] Work Goal - buy and/or clean filters for the swamp cooler, which requires considerable time up on the roof, up and down the ladder, etc., and [2] Fun Goal - go explore "Geology Tour Road" in Joshua Tree National Park.  I'll spare you the boredom of blogging about the swamp cooler, but the Geology Tour Road was really fun.  This was my first visit... very scenic, and a "must do" recommendation!

So, Geology Tour Road is easy to find; it's well marked (large sign)... just grab a map as you head into the park.  It's about midway between the 29 Palms and Joshua Tree entrances to the park, so doesn't really matter which entrance you take.  As you turn off the main road, you will see bathroom facilities and this sign on your right.  There is also a metal box near the sign... be sure to pick up the Geology Tour Road Guide that's inside this box.

According to the guide, this is an 18 mile (round trip) tour that "leads through one of Joshua Tree National Park's most scenic landscapes".  I'd have to agree!  There are 16 numbered stops along the way (not always easy to spot), and the guide points out the geology highlights at each stop.  Very cool!

My Better Half on the Geology Tour Road

The brochure says four-wheel drive is recommended, especially after you get about 5 or 6 miles into the drive.  I never actually put my Jeep into 4WD, and I think a 2WD vehicle with decent ground clearance could make it fine.  Definitely not recommended for the Honda Accord, however!

Gayle capturing desert sky!

We picked a great day to take this drive, with giant, fluffy clouds and the threat of rain (never happened).  And we picked the late afternoon for the long shadows.  There were so many photo opps that I kept the camera around my neck for the entire drive!   We only saw a handful of people on the drive, even though it was a Saturday in April.  Highs were only in the 50's, so our ride in the open Jeep was a little on the cool side, and we bundled up accordingly!

It was a crazy day, weather-wise.  In the AM we went over to Home Depot in Yucca Valley and there were actually snow flakes coming down!!  Only lasted for about 10 minutes, but pretty wild!

OK, back to the tour...

Around marker 12 - Lost Horse Mine area
Please note, I'm not organized enough to put these photos in order... they skip around quite a bit!  The area around marker 12 (Lost Horse Mine area) is a good place to stop and look around.  There is a trail head that starts off from here, and two large ore processing containers.  The brochure says this area is "riddled with tunnels and shafts dug by miners of gold and other precious metals".  Interestingly, the Lost Horse Mine is one of the few mines that was actually profitable (due to the high grade ore in this area).

View across top of Squaw Tank (Marker #9)
Above is a view of "Squaw Tank" which is a small concrete dam.  Cattlemen built this in the early 1900's to capture water for their cattle.  It was dry behind the dam today.

Around mile 7, the road makes a large loop, and becomes one way only.  Be sure to stay to the left.

You will run across the sign below after crossing the dry lake bed.  Stay right (toward 29 Palms).  We're saving Dillon road for another trip in the future.

Stay right (toward 29 Palms) to stay on the loop

Crossing the dry lake (somewhere near marker #13)

Getting close to completing the loop, and heading north... just beautiful!

 By late afternoon, it just seemed like I couldn't take a bad picture!  The light was great, the the blue sky with fluffy white clouds were awesome!

Above is a picture with the twin peaks of Malapai Hill.  I guess geologists get excited about this sort of thing!  According to the brochure, the hill is 400 ft. above the valley floor and is composed of black basalt, which erodes more slowly than the surrounding monzogranite.  Anyway, to my eye, it's just a cool looking hill!

Gayle under beautiful desert skies!
There were a few areas where the flowers were really beautiful.

Unidentified plant getting ready to flower... I just liked the late afternoon light.

Well, that's it.  Hope this gives you a flavor of the Geology Tour Road.  I'm looking forward to seeing it again sometime soon!


  1. Those are ALL great pictures.....the sky looks beautiful, it's hard to pick a favorite.
    The evening & rearview mirror are close to the top of the list.
    Looks like a great weekend - how long in all did the trip take?

  2. Thanks for the compliments... I stole the rear view mirror idea from you! Yes, I was really happy with the way the pics turned out. The tour can be driven in about an hour (non-stop). Problem is, you will want to stop every mile or so to hike around and explore, take pics, etc. Probably want to allow about 3 hours.