• Sunrise at the Cholla Cactus Garden

    Joshua Tree

    National Park California

There are park alerts in effect.
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  • Cottonwood Trails Closed

    Trail access remains closed to Cottonwood Spring Oasis, Lost Palms Oasis, and Mastodon Peak. More »

  • Pinto Basin Road Under Construction; Expect 30+ Minute Travel Delays

    Visitors should expect 30+ minute waits when heading north and sound bound on the Pinto Basin Road. Due to construction activity around Cottonwood Visitor Center, additional waits of 30 minutes may be in place when leaving the visitor center parking lot. More »

  • Deteriorating conditions of Black Rock Canyon Road

    The road leading to Black Rock campground has deep potholes, is deeply rutted, and can be difficult to negotiate, especially in large vehicles. Please drive with caution.

Cottonwood Spring

Important Trail Update: There is a temporary closure in effect for some Cottonwood area trails. The affected trails include Cottonwood Spring, Mastodon Peak, and Lost Palms Oasis. Trails will remain closed until further notice. For alternative trail information, click here.

Cottonwood Spring Oasis, one of the best kept secrets in Joshua Tree National Park, is just seven miles from the southern entrance to the park. The spring, the result of earthquake activity, was used for centuries by the Cahuilla Indians, who left bedrock mortars and clay pots, or ollas, in the area.

Gold
Cottonwood Spring was an important water stop for prospectors, miners, and teamsters traveling from Mecca to mines in the north. Water was necessary for gold processing, so a number of gold mills were located here. The remains of an arrastra, a primitive type of gold mill, can be found near the spring, and concrete ruins mark the sites of two later gold mills in the area.

Cottonwood Spring was first mentioned in a gold mine claim filed in 1875, indicating that the trees are native. Fan palms first appear around 1920, perhaps growing from seeds deposited by a bird or coyote.

Hiking
A number of hikes begin at Cottonwood Spring. A short, easy walk down Cottonwood Wash leads past a second oasis to a dry falls. In wet years, the falls can become a scene of rushing water and red-spotted toads. Bighorn sheep often come up the wash for water in the early hours. An old teamster road drops down past the falls to the lower wash. A short hike leads through palo verde and desert willow trees to the remains of Moorten’s Mill.

The three-mile loop trail to Mastodon Peak offers spectacular views, interesting geology, the Mastodon Mine, and the Winona Mill Site. And, for those looking for a longer hike—eight miles round trip—and the largest stand of fan palms in the park, the Lost Palms Oasis trail is a sure winner.

Birding
But you don’t have to hike to enjoy Cottonwood Spring. This is one of the best birding spots in the park, so bring your binoculars and sit a spell.

Camping
The campground, which has water and rest rooms, is located one-half mile from Cottonwood Spring via a signed trail; there are also shaded picnic tables in the campground.

Ranger Programs
To learn more about the plants, animals, and history of this fascinating place, join a ranger-led hike, walk, or evening program, offered most weekends.

Did You Know?

Wilderness Map

Joshua Tree National Park has over 550,000 acres of wilderness, offering visitors opportunities to explore where few others have ventured. More...