Joshua Tree: Keys View, Hemingway, Cholla Garden, Hidden Valley Campground

Before I post the next write-up on the Ryan Mountain hike, I want to briefly discuss four places where I spent a bit of time screwing around in Joshua Tree. None of these places really counted as hikes. If I were to write them up, the posts would be pretty short. However, since I thoroughly enjoyed each of these places, I’ll say a few things about each while sharing some of the pictures I snapped.

Keys View

The north wall of the Coachella Valley, also known as the Little San Bernadino Mountains, cannot hold a candle to the imposing massif of Mt. San Jacinto. However, Keys View, which is a popular view point, allows the visitor a chance to see an expansive view of the Coachella Valley, along with the Salton Sea, the San Andreas Fault, Santa Rosa Mountains, San Jacinto Mountains, and Mt. San Gorgonio. On a clear day and during a sunset, you are likely to see some spectacular sites. You are also likely to see a bunch of people come and go, stopping only for a few minutes to say, “Hey, I can see the Salton Sea.” This view is not earned the way normal mountain views are, so this is to be expected. The best bet is to pull up some dirt next to a weathered old juniper bush and watch the sun sink behind Mt. San Jacinto, which I did on both evenings.

Before sunset, day 2

Sun setting over the San Jacinto Mountains

Clouds obscuring the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio

Rays slashing across the valley floor


This stop on the Loop Rd. sits between the Boy Scout Trailhead (more on that later) and the Hidden Valley Trailhead and campground. There are no trails here save for what climbers have carved in order to get to the imposing Hemingway Buttress. I have no idea why it’s called Hemingway, but so it goes. In the grand scheme of all things Joshua Tree, this area is no different from the areas around Barker Dam and Hidden Valley. However, the light at this final stop in the park before I went to San Jacinto was gorgeous, and I got some good shots because of it.

Cholla Cactus Garden

The Cholla Cactus may be one of the most pitiless, merciless plants around. It has thousands of sharp, tiny spines that have a number of scales. The scales enable the spines to grip into the victim in such a way that pulling the spines out becomes extremely difficult. This cactus is also called the Jumping Cactus because individual pods will detach when a passerby brushes against. As the pod detaches, the spines spring into the victim’s skin, leaving a sharp, spiny, bloody mess. That sad, these cacti are incredibly beautiful. I wasn’t here at a good lighting time; it was overcast. That said, you can still get a sense of how strange, beautiful, and horrible these plants are.

Hidden Valley Campground

I had stayed at this campground a couple years ago with my friend Sean. We came out to watch a meteor shower, and I fell in love with this campground. It’s a smaller campground, with 45 sites. It’s also incredibly popular since there are so many great climbing spots. Rock climbers will set up shop here, so good luck getting a spot. I lucked out because I got here at 6:45 am, hunkered down, and waited for a spot to open up. It’s also a great place for a late afternoon or an early morning stroll.

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