Mockingbirds, falcons, and wood-warblers are among the 270 species of birds that flock to Big Morongo Preserve, a 31,000-acre wonderland just west of Joshua Tree National Park. Pack a pair of binoculars and a birders’ field guide to explore the 2.6-mile, multi-trail loop that circles the preserve.
From the trailhead, head northeast for a brief stretch along the Marsh Trail. After 200 feet, bear left onto Desert Willow Trail for a gentle stroll north past alkali goldenbush and a wide variety of desert flora. Less than half a mile into the loop, merge onto Yucca Ridge Trail for a hilltop ramble offering spectacular views of the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the west.
The trail drops into a small canyon midway through the hike, following West Canyon Trail along a creek created by mountain run-off. The charred yuccas and cottonwoods that dot the landscape are eerie reminders of the wildfire that raced through the preserve in June 2005. At mile 1.5, climb out of the canyon, then head north to reconnect with the Mesquite Trail. The hike finishes on the Marsh Trail with a lush and leafy stroll past cattails, red willows, and cottonwoods before returning to the parking area.
Info: Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
-Mapped by Amy Balfour