Mastodon Peak offers panoramic views of southeastern Joshua Tree National Park. The low summit is located in the Colorado Desert, so you will not see any Joshua trees around here. What you will see is some beautify desert that becomes populated with wildflowers come spring. Mastodon Peak can be reached via a 2.6-mile loop with 440 feet of elevation gain.
The easiest way to complete the loop trail is in a counter-clockwise direction. Start by taking the Lost Palms Oasis Trail from Cottonwood Spring and make a left at every junction you come to.
A Desert Tortuous shares the trail
Start the hike by descending into Cottonwood Springs Oasis. Pass through the spring fed palms and continue up the opposite bank toward Lost Palms Oasis (3.6 miles away). The hard-packed trail ascends gradually to the east past yucca and ocotillo. At the first junction, 0.7 miles from the trailhead, turn left following the sign toward Mastodon Peak.
Hiking up the trail to Mastodon Peak
The trail gains 165 feet over the next quarter mile before coming to the base of Mastodon Peak. Break from the loop here and follow the use trail to the summit. The climb is just one tenth of a mile long, but the route is somewhat elusive to follow. A bit of light scrambling is required as the undeveloped trail wraps around the rocky east side of Mastodon to arrive at the 3,400-foot summit.
From here, the views are far and wide. That large blue body to the south is not a mirage. It’s the Salton Sea. To the east, the highest point in sight is Eagle Mountain at 5,350 feet.
Descend from the summit and continue along the loop trail, passing the remains of Mastodon Mine, which operated here until 1971. The trail descends west toward Cottonwood Spring, crossing and traveling down a series of desert washes. This section of the loop is easier to follow in this direction than in the reverse, and hiking down the loose sand is certainly better than the alternative.
The trail comes to a final junction a mile from the peak, near another set of ruins at the former site of Winona Mine. For those staying at Cottonwood Spring Campground, a 0.2-mile trail continues straight ahead to return you to your campsite. For everyone else, turn left to return to the trailhead. The 0.4-mile long sandy track curves to the left, running alongside the paved road before returning to the start.
To get to the trailhead: From the 10 Freeway, take exit 168 and head north on Cottonwood Spring Road. After 7 miles, turn right before the at Cottonwood Visitor Center and continue 1 mile to the trailhead at road’s end. From within the park, Take Park Blvd to the junction with Pinto Basin Road. Take Pinto Basin Road thirty miles to the Cottonwood Visitor Center, turn east and continue one mile to the trailhead at road’s end.
Trailhead address: Unnamed road off Pinto Basin Road, Joshua Tree National Park, CA 92277
Trailhead coordinates: 33.736992, -115.810888 (33° 44′ 13.17″N 115° 48′ 39.19″W)
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Or view California Desert Hikes in a larger map
|Lost Palms Oasis|
This 7.2-mile hike visits a desert oasis nestled between mountains in the southeast corner of the park.
This level 0.3-mile nature trail loop explores the plants living on a desert bajada.
|Cholla Cactus Garden|
This quarter-mile loop allows visitors to stroll through an intense concentration of cholla cacti.
|Desert Queen Mine|
This 1.6-mile hike follows a level trail to an overlook before crossing a canyon to visits the ruins of one the most profitable gold mines in the California desert.
This level 1.5-mile loop visits a small foreign-looking reservoir within the Wonderland of Rocks.
|Fortynine Palms Oasis|
The 3-mile round trip hike visits a cool desert oasis.
The 101-site campground is home to a 0.6-mile interpretive trail and endless bouldering and rock climbing opportunities.
This one mile loop circles the interior of a small valley surrounded by tall rocks that serves as an excellent bouldering arena.
This 3-mile round-trip hike offers summit views from the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
|Lost Horse Mine|
This 4-mile round-trip trail visits a well-preserved mine and mill.
This 1.2-mile hike leaves the crowds at Keys View for even grander views at a 5,550-foot summit that looks out on the Coachella Valley, the Salton Sea, Mount San Jacinto, and much of Joshua Tree National Park.
This 5.5-mile hike summits a peak with impressive views over the west side of Joshua Tree.
|High View Nature Trail|
This 1 1/3-mile loop climbs a ridge on the west side of the park that offers views of San Gorgonio Mountain and Yucca Valley, along with an introduction to desert plants.
|Lucky Boy Vista|
This level 2.5-mile hike visits a modest overlook at the site of an old mine.
|Hikes in the California Desert|
Explore more trails in Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Mojave National Preserve.
|Joshua Tree Campgrounds|
There are nine campgrounds with 500 total sites spread throughout the park to facilitate your visit.
|Joshua Tree Wildflowers|
The desert in bloom is something any outdoor enthusiast in California should see.