Exploring the Sights Around Joshua Tree South

While staying outside of Joshua Tree in the beautiful and scenic Joshua Tree South BLM lands, we took some time to venture out to explore some of the scenery surrounding the southern side of Joshua Tree.

On our way out to Joshua Tree, we drove through nearby Box Canyon. It seemed very interesting when we passed through, so we made up our minds to make the 10-minute drive back at some point to explore it further.

We spotted a 4×4 trail which broke off of the road on our way through, so this was what we headed for when we returned. We brought the dogs along with us for a nice hike through the smaller canyons. We parked the Jeep at the trailhead and set out for a nice hour-long hike.

The dogs enjoyed themselves with some off-leash trail time, while we had fun admiring the crevices of the different canyons and the local desert fauna.

After work on another day, I had a random craving to take the Jeep out for some light off-roading, since we had yet to do any on the trip so far. So we returned to the same 4×4 trail around sunset, this time to drive instead of walk. The trail was enjoyable and mild as it wound through the canyons. It was also fun to experience it at night. We drove about 30 minutes out until the trail broke out of the linear canyon into a more open area with multiple directions. Being that this was just a light-hearted mini-adventure, we did not want to lose our way in the dark, so we chose to turn around and head back.

The next area that we had on the list to see was the nearby Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a large, partially natural, partially man-made, saline sea. We knew that it was very close-by to our location at Joshua Tree south, and we thought that it would make a great opportunity to take our canoe out for its first (and only ?) use of the trip so far. We made our way over on a Saturday afternoon with a packed lunch and the fury family in tow for some fun.

We spent about three hours paddling on the lake, enjoying the glassy-still water, and the 360-degree views of the mountains and desert surrounding the lake.

I had also brought my inflatable SUP board with me for the day, in case I might want to get out on it. Once we returned to shore from our paddle, it was shortly before sunset and I could tell that the lake was going to be beautiful as the sun dipped below the mountains, so I made the decision to take the SUP out for a quick session.

Once I was on the water, I was so glad that I didn’t pass up on the chance for a quick paddle. By this time, there was virtually no one around, neither on shore nor out on the water. The stillness of the of the lake, combined with the silence of the vacant area, and the immensity of the sun setting above the distant mountains, made for an incredibly tranquil experience. Standing on my board and slowly paddling towards the setting sun in the shadow of the mountain offered a certain meditative experience. For me, this marked another major moment during our travels where I thought to myself, “This is why we do this.”

I soaked up as much of the peaceful sunset as I could before turning back toward shore and paddling in with the remaining light.

The last place we visited while staying at Joshua Tree south was Painted Canyon, which is also very near Box Canyon.

On Valentine’s Day, we packed ourselves a nice picnic of Italian fare and wine for dinner and headed to Painted Canyon in the early afternoon for some off-road adventuring.

Painted Canyon is accessed by a long, rugged dirt road, which juts off of Box Canyon Road. By rugged, I mean that the road was extremely washboarded, with some decent-sized potholes in many places.

Once we arrived, the canyon was very scenic, and kind of smaller than we expected. We drove through to the end of the road, and there seemed to be some solid hiking through smaller canyons available there, but surprisingly, considering it was Valentine’s Day, it was quite busy. (Too busy for our tastes.) We opted to head back the way we had come, where we were able to find a nice, secluded spot off of the main road to enjoy our Jeep picnic.

The funny story that isn’t conveyed through the nicely-staged Instagram photo, is that shortly after setting up our little picnic, we were swarmed by flies and gnats, most likely attracted by the scents and moisture of our food. Again, being the desert newbies that we were, we hadn’t considered this possibility… Unfortunately, we were forced to eat our picnic with all of the doors and windows closed. It wasn’t the hottest of days, but it quickly became uncomfortable in the stuffy Jeep.

We finished our meal quicker than we would have liked and hopped out of the Jeep to do some hiking on a deserted trail that we were parked beside. After a nice, short hike, we jumped back in the Jeep to head back home with our fun new valentine’s day memories.

We had a blast visiting these amazing places surrounding the southern end of Joshua Tree. Given the chance, we think that there is probably more to explore in Box Canyon and Painted Canyon, so we would probably return for some more exploring.

Did we miss anything in the area? Do you have any recommendations? We would love to hear them! Please feel free to share any tips or recommendations in the comments below!

About Brendan Binger

Brendan BingerI’m Brendan, the other 50% of Life Among Pines, and a self-taught designer and marketer. I enjoy the singular privilege of waking up each day to spend my time doing what I love. Recently, I have been applying my time towards growing my freshly founded web design and digital marketing agency: Quarry Design Group. When not working, you can find me riding triple fins or seven-plys, face down in the pages of a new book, or exploring the wilderness of the US.