Thunder Mountain Trail, Red Canyon, UT


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"Queen Valley Roads: A network of [dirt] roads, totaling 13.4 miles, cross this valley of boulder    
piles and Joshua trees. A bike trip can begin at Hidden Valley or Big Horn Pass . . . Bike
racks have been placed in this area so visitors can lock their bikes and go hiking."
~ JTNP web page re: backcountry roads in the park

Hmm . . . I'm not so sure the network of roads in Queen Valley is the ideal place to go mountain biking in Joshua Tree National Park.

When Jim and I did our first scouting mission in the park earlier this week we drove our Odyssey minivan a couple miles back Desert Queen Mine Road (next photo) to a trailhead parking area and noted both how narrow the roads are and how much dust is raised by cars and pickup trucks on a dry day.

Today had even more traffic throughout the park, including Queen Valley, since it's the beginning of a warm, sunny spring weekend. I think Jim was wise to do his long bike ride on paved Park Boulevard this morning rather than detouring through Queen Valley.

He was surprised by the amount of traffic on the main park road but at least it's two-lane -- so motor vehicles could pass him more easily -- and he didn't choke on dust.

This is part of the main park road where he cycled:


I mentioned in the previous entry that Jim did a 30-mile bike ride this morning. He came up with a great plan so we could both get in good workouts.

First he dropped me off at the northern terminus of the Boy Scout Trail at Indian Cove, then drove around the park on US 62 to the west entrance. He parked at Keys West, the southern end of the 8+ mile-long point-to-point trail I was hiking, so I could drive the car home.

("Home" this week is the Twilight Dunes RV Park on the Marine base north of the town of Twentynine Palms.)

Jim began his bike ride at Keys West. He followed the main park road east and north through the park, past the Oasis of Mara Visitor Center, through Twentynine Palms, and up to the Marine base. Although the volume of traffic along this entire route was a nuisance, it was all on paved roads and relatively fast, dust-free riding.

Descent to the park's north gate and Twentynine Palms; Morongo Basin in the distance

After I got done hiking I decided to check out the other dirt roads in Queen Valley that we didn't see on Monday.

I didn't notice the traffic on either Park Boulevard or in Queen Valley quite as much since I was in the car and not on a bike. I was able to take most of my photos as I was driving without having too many other vehicles visible in the pictures. A few times I stopped and got out to take photos.

This map section of the park shows the Queen Valley roads. I highlighted where I drove -- all but a part of Odelle Road:


Road and mountain bikes and all motorized passenger vehicles must remain on paved or unpaved roads at Joshua Tree. Fortunately, there are lots of miles of unpaved roads in the park for backcountry enthusiasts to enjoy.

ATVs and other motorized off-road vehicles are not allowed to be ridden anywhere at Joshua Tree.

Mountain bikes and 4WD vehicles cannot be ridden on any of the hiking trails or cross-country through the desert. Dogs aren't allowed on the trails, either, and I think horses are allowed only on the California Riding & Hiking Trail. Those rules are common in many of our national parks.

The park web page describing backcountry roads lists a network of seven adventure-filled options, including the four interconnecting roads in Queen Valley that I rode this morning.

Some of the roads are suitable only for mountain bikes and high-clearance 4WD vehicles, but the Queen Valley roads -- the only backcountry roads I'm familiar with at Joshua Tree -- are OK on a dry day for 2WD vehicles like my low-clearance Odyssey minivan.

Just don't get stuck in a soft area of sand if you turn around or have to move over for another vehicle.


After leaving the trailhead at Keys West, I drove east on Park Boulevard to the paved road that goes past the Hidden Valley Campground.

Just past the large parking area for the Barker Dam and Wall Street Mill Trails, shown below,

dirt Queen Valley Road veers off to the right and goes several miles east through the valley to the parking area for the Pine City and Desert Queen Mine trails.

Three roads intersect in the valley with the Queen Valley Road -- Bighorn Pass Road, Odelle Road, and Queen Valley Mine Road. All are narrow, sandy roads with not a lot of room to pass oncoming traffic.

In most places the roads have been graded as in the picture below, with a low wall of sand that can create problems if you don't have 4WD and have to pull over to avoid getting hit by someone coming toward you in a larger vehicle -- or driving too fast and being obtuse:

The photos in this entry are mostly from my drive through the valley this afternoon. A few are from our shorter drive on Queen Valley Mine Road four days ago.

Here are a few more photos from the valley:

Above and below:  The more interesting rocks in Queen Valley are closest 
to the Barker Dam-Wall Street Mill end of the network of dirt roads.


Queen Mountain (5,677' elevation)

Wildflowers along the road

Queen Valley is full of Joshua trees -- and wildflowers in a good year -- but I didn't care for the relatively barren terrain in this valley compared to the much more interesting rock formations along the main east-west park road.

If you're short on time when driving through Joshua Tree, I think it's most rewarding to stick to Park Boulevard and the road up to Keys View. There are good reasons why those roads are paved!


Our timing to visit the park this week was excellent to see many wildflowers and the Joshua trees in bloom.

It's difficult in a desert to know when the flowers will be at their peak because there are so many variables. Fortunately, some of the flowers remain in bloom for several weeks and there is usually a succession of different flowers throughout the spring, summer, and fall.

Here are a few of the flowers we saw in Queen Valley this week:

Above and below:  The park's iconic Joshua trees were at their peak.


Above and below:  I spotted lots of Desert Sand Verbena near the roads in Queen Valley today.


Above and below:  Although I saw Desert Globemallow on most of my hikes in Joshua Tree NP,
none of the clumps were anywhere near as big as this one in Queen Valley (about 3x3').


Although there are several trails that can be accessed from the roads in Queen Valley, I ran out of time to hike any of them this week.

If you're interested in more information about them, just do a web search for the Pine City, Desert Queen Mine, or Lucky Boy Vista trails. Lucky Boy can also be accessed from the Split Rock loop trail.

Next entrymurals, quirky art, and nice landscaping in and near the town of Twentynine Palms

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2016 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil