Forty Nine Palms Oasis, Forty Nine Palms Canyon Trailhead, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Forty Nine Palms Oasis - 3.3 miles

Forty Nine Palms Canyon Trailhead

Forty Nine Palms Oasis

Forty Nine Palms Oasis

Round-Trip Length: 3.3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,737' - 2,787' (3,073' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +50' net elevation gain (+769' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
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Forty Nine Palms Oasis - 3.3 Miles Round-Trip

Forty Nine Palms Oasis is one of five recognized oases in Joshua Tree National Park. Over 50 native California Fan Palms and localized dense vegetation are nestled deep within a rugged, sheltered canyon. Because bighorn sheep and other wildlife are drawn to this rare and delicate desert resource, this is a day-use area only.

The hike begins with a steady, moderate climb on a well-defined trail lined by creosote and jojoba. Large sculpted boulders, rugged ridgelines and steep canyon walls frame this otherwise stark landscape.

The trail briefly levels after .4 miles along a north-facing slope with good views out to 29 Palms. At .7 miles the trail reaches its highest point (3,073') and bends sharply south on a steady, winding descent into the oasis - canyon. Note the prevalence of barrel growing along these steep and rocky hillsides.

You'll reach an unmarked split at 1.5 miles near the canyon floor - bear right for the official and most direct path into the oasis. It's possible to take the left fork and a more circuitous route in, but given the terrain, this is not recommended.

You'll reach the base of the first palm grove at 1.6 miles (2,787'). Large boulders, lush vegetation and algae-green tinted pools accent this protected area. Travel is more difficult through and beyond the first grove to the second, which is only several dozen yards away up a steep and cluttered canyon. Follow one of many social trails to good view points.

The darkened trunks of these palms are the result of several fires that have swept through the canyon over the last century. Regardless, the oasis remains healthy and vibrant.

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.

Travel beyond the oasis up Forty Nine Palms Canyon is possible, though only recommended for confident and capable scramblers and navigators. Forty Nine Palms Canyon continues steeply for another 1.5 miles above the oasis, then levels out through a high and isolated open valley. It continues on with less difficultly for another 2 miles.

*Consult a ranger for day-use boundaries, camping restrictions and technical skill and equipment requirements.

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Worth Noting

  • 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.

  • There are 158 Desert Fan Palm Oases in North America - 5 are found in Joshua Tree National Park.

  • Fan Palms can live for 80-90 years, grow over 75 feet tall and weigh as much as three tons.

  • Wildlife - especially the endangered Desert Bighorn Sheep - are drawn to oases. Dawn and Dusk are good times to see wildlife.

  • Strict Day-Use Restrictions apply.

Directions to Trailhead

From Highway 62 just west of 29 Palms, CA, turn south on Canyon Drive. The short, winding road dead-ends at the trailhead parking lot.

Contact Information

Joshua Tree National Park
74485 National Park Drive
Twentynine Palms, CA 92277-3597

Trip Reports

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