Rattlesnake Canyon & Covington Crest Trail - Joshua Tree National Park - California
On our visit to Joshua Tree National Park, we pretty much stuck to the northern end of the park. Rattlesnake Canyon was a boulder scramble that we eventually aborted, but the Covington Crest Trail was secluded and had many of the largest Joshua Trees in the park.
With our friends, Steve & Esther, we set out to do a couple of hikes.
First, we drove east and turned right to go in the Indian Cove entrance of Joshua Tree National Park where there is a campground, a picnic area, and a couple of hikes.
We started out with a hike in Rattlesnake Canyon.
A ranger Linda and Esther spoke to the other day practically begged them not to do the Rattlesnake Canyon hike because he said that's where they have to do most of their rescues - lots of sprains and broken bones.
But according to Esther's area hiking guidebook, it didn't sound that bad.
Ultimately, our goal was to hike through the slot canyon. We knew there was going to be a lot of scrambling and boulder hopping, but we thought we were up for the challenge. We parked in the picnic area and walked a short distance into the canyon wash.
Though Rattlesnake Canyon is a known 3-mile round-trip hike, it is not a designated trail so there are no trail markers. It's certainly not always clear which way to go. This is what it looked like from the start.
We immediately noticed several of these large, granite boulders that appeared to have small, rectangular rocks embedded in them.
After admiring rocks like that in different colors, we began our scrambling.
The guidebook said it was fairly easy scrambling and it was, but it would only take a slight miss-step for a sprain or worse. The granite was nice and "sticky" in most places providing for a good grip with our hiking boots. But some rocks had been worn down by so much activity that they were slick.
We carefully picked our way through small openings.
Then there would be flat sections through sandy washes, ....
but they didn't last long. Soon we would have to figure out the next portion of our route and start climbing.
Esther and Linda followed Steve up one side, ....
while I went to scout a possible secondary route to the slot canyon.
We finally made it to the slot canyon. It was only about a third of a mile in.
However, it looked a bit trickier than we anticipated. Knowing our limitations, we decided it wasn't worth the risk to climb over the slick rock and a dry waterfall to access the slot.
We thought we could climb up around either side of the slot and continue on, perhaps accessing the narrow passage from the other side. Again, we scouted a few different climbing options, but always seemed to come to an impasse (well, an impasse for us, not necessarily for those more agile, flexible, and less cautious).
So, we determined we wouldn't risk it. It had already been a pretty good workout for us middle-aged adventure seekers. We started climbing back down.
While we were in the midst of all this beauty with no one else anywhere around, we found a spot to sit and have lunch before continuing back toward the Jeep.
Down we went still being careful of our footing.
We passed some more interesting boulders that looked like they had veins running through them.
In total, we hiked less than a mile, but it was still enjoyable. As a matter of fact, had we continued, we wouldn't have had time to do our second hike of the day which highlighted the park's namesake.
From Indian Cove, we drove west on Hwy 62 almost to Yucca Valley where we took La Contenta road south. The paved road came to an intersection, but we were supposed go straight across where the road was dirt.
We traveled about two miles on that very narrow, rough, sandy, dusty road ....
before entering the Joshua Tree National Park boundary where the road, though still dirt, was much better.
We drove several miles on the dirt roads making a couple of turns according to our guidebook directions. Our target was the Covington Flats area. The guidebook said it was a secluded, hidden gem of a hike where many of the park's largest Joshua Trees grow.
Along the way, we spotted a pair of healthy coyotes. Steve got a couple of pictures before they wandered deeper into the brush.
Eventually, we arrived at the trailhead. First, we wandered around looking at some of the huge Joshua Trees.
Steve and I have some extra fascination with these interesting yuccas. This one seemed to be the largest in that area.
But there was certainly a great concentration of big ones all around.
Back in the parking area, we picked up the Covington Crest Trail. The sign said it was 2.1 miles one-way, ....
but our GPS readings and the guidebook showed it was about a mile and a half. It was a gentle climb up through the desert ....
with more huge Joshua Trees dotting the landscape, .....
including this beautiful behemoth.
We reached the end and a great view of the Coachella Valley just as the sun was getting ready to set behind Mt. San Jacinto.
We all added layers as it was pretty chilly on top of that ridge, and my co-hikers posed for a photo.
We stuck around just long enough for the sun to disappear and to take one last photo with a junior Joshua Tree in the foreground.
Then, armed with headlamps and flashlights, we headed back down. The lights weren't necessary as we had just enough twilight to make it back well before darkness.
We were all glad we left ourselves enough time for that hike. Very nice and, again, not a soul around. The combination of huge Joshua Trees and no people made this our favorite hike in Joshua Tree National Park.
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