Tuesday, December 31, 2019

North View, Maze Loop, and Windows, Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Hiked Saturday, December 14, 2019. This'll be my last post of the year. Not the last hike of the year, and not the last hike I need to blog. But this was a good hike, and a new one, to me.

Settled on this one after a combination of looking over my Trails Illustrated JTNP map, reading a bit on line, and the alltrails app. I upgraded to the "pro" level a week or so previous to this trip, so I could download the maps to my phone and follow along in the app.

Even the base version can direct you to the trailhead, however.

The trailhead is about 2 miles past the West Entrance to JTNP, on the left side of Park Blvd. There's no signage for the very small parking area for this trailhead. Only room for about five cars in the dirt area. I expect on peak times, you've got to park on the road.
A few hikers and a few families were goofing off near the trailhead. However, on the rest of my hike, beyond the first and last 100 yards, I think I saw all of about four other hikers. That was really surprising, considering the great hiking weather we were having.
According to my Trails Illustrated map, it's 1.3 miles on the North View trail to the Copper Mountain viewpoint spur, .1 mile on the spur to the viewpoint, then back .1 mile. 1.4 more miles on the North View Loop to the Big Pine trail, .2 miles on the Big Pine Loop until you hit the Maze Loop, 1 mile on that loop until you reach the Window Loop, 1.9 miles on that portion of the loop until your re-intersect with the Maze Loop then 1.2 miles back to the parking lot. So 7.2 miles total for the whole outer loop complex.
The North View portion, in particular, was pretty spectacular. You walk adjacent to the rock piles and fractured mountains that are pretty common in JTNP, but you're on dirt, so you don't need to boulder hop to see the mountains up close. Many steep cliffs on this north end of the park.
The actual maze loop would have taken me on a couple of trails that bisect the mountains that I walked around on this outer loop. Not sure when I'll be able to, but likely I'll want to hike those sections, too.
During my 100 hike years, I did quite a bit of hiking in Joshua Tree, and had walked pretty much all of the trails listed in the park newspaper. What I'm discovering is that there are a LOT of other trails that aren't in that newspaper. So I think I've walked about four new trails to me in JTNP in just the past three months.
I mentioned the alltrails app, earlier. I'm not entirely sure about its overall utility. I think I've previously noted it's sort of crowd sourced, in that the actual trail descriptions are generally very weak, but some of the trail reviews are very detailed. The added feature (with the "pro" upgrade) of downloading the maps was helpful. It basically lets you track yourself in real-time on your smart phone, in case you ever start wondering if you're heading the right way.
The directions to the trailhead is also helpful in those situations where the start point is not obvious as you're driving on the pavement. You get the warning ahead of time for turns and stops, then know when you're there.
A drawback is that some of the "trails" aren't even trails. They may be cross country routes, and they may not be well-defined, at all. They may list paths that require technical skills to actually climb or rappel a section. So far, then, this strikes me as a helpful planning and hiking app, but one you'll probably want to supplement with separate research before striking out on a trail.
In the case of North View, Maze and Window Loops, the reviews were very helpful in letting me know what to expect. For example, while some sources (and the ranger at the entrance station) talked about how easy it is to get lost on this trail, I (and some trail reviewers on alltrails) found the trail and signage to make the route pretty obvious.
The trails do cross many washes, but the signage and rocks make it pretty clear when you're supposed to cross the wash, and when you're supposed to walk along the wash.
First hike of decent length in a while. I enjoyed my time in the desert. Looking forward to more hikes this winter!

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