This hike was my favorite hike during my recent trip to Southern California. The 2.3 mile long Mastodon Peak Loop Trail is on the far southern end of Joshua Tree National Park near the Cottonwood Visitor Center. We were lucky to have warm weather in the low 80’s and blue skies with puffy white clouds. After parking in the Cottonwood Springs parking lot, we took off down the Cottonwood Springs Trail. The Mastodon Peak Loop follows this trail for approximately a mile before veering left and looping back around towards the campground.
Following the Cottowood Trail before the Mastodon Peak Loop veers off
The beginning of the trail goes right by the Cottonwood Spring which is a virtual oasis in the desert. The massive Cottonwood trees surrounding the spring look so out of place in the surrounding desert. After passing the spring, the desert returns in force with cactus, rocks, and sandstone. After taking the left to follow the Mastodon Peak Loop and leaving behind the Cottonwood Trail, we started to pick up some elevation. Once we ascended to the peak, there was one of the signature giant rock piles that you see in Joshua Tree NP. Of course Josh had to climb to the top, so Anya and I followed him as he picked his way up through the rocks.
Starting to ascend to the high point of the Mastodon Peak Loop Trail
Climbing rocks in Joshua Tree NP is incredibly fun. It is part rock scramble and part hopping from rock to rock. We ended up circling around the peak and coming up the back side of the rock formation. We admired the view with the surprising sight of a large body of water to the south. After looking online, I think it was the Salton Sea, but I’m not 100% sure of that. We found a shaded spot in the rocks at the top. We each had a granola bar and chilled for a bit. I then made my way down so I could take some pictures of Josh and Anya on the top.
View from the top of Mastodon Peak with the Salton Sea? in the distance
Josh and Anya at the top of Mastodon Peak in Joshua Tree NP
After taking the pictures, I went ahead a bit while Josh and Anya worked their way down. Almost immediately around the corner is the entrance to a gold mine. The gold mine is barred but you can easily look down into it. There is a partial structure beside it which looked to be in the process of being rebuilt. It was cool to think that under the Mastodon Peak we had climbed was a gold mine. Josh and Anya caught up then and checked out the mine as well.
Mastodon Mine sign and barrier
Peering down into the Mastodon Mine
After leaving the gold mine area, we quickly finished the loop and made our way back to the car. This hike was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough.