After a wet winter, the Mojave explodes with wildflowers like brittlebrush and desert paintbrush, and April’s mild temperatures make it ideal for undertaking this moderate 4.5-mile loop from an 1867 fort to a colorful canyon. Begin at the ruins of Ft. Piute, built to house soldiers protecting an early freight route. Hike on in the bright green band of cottonwood, willow, baccharis, and mesquite along the creek on the Old Mojave Road-Piute Canyon loop trail, where the Chemehuevi farmed in the mid-nineteenth century. Bear right at mile 0.6 for the trail to Piute Canyon. Scan for petroglyphs and check out views of the park’s badlands on the 1.3-mile trip through the canyon, then turn left and traverse 0.7 miles along Piute Ridge. Join the Old Mojave Road and walk east for 1.3 miles to the junction with canyon trail, then head back to Ft. Piute.
INFO: 4WD recommended. Map: Trails Illustrated Mojave National Preserve #256. (760) 252-6100; nps.gov/moja
-Hike provided by Linda Slater, Chief of Resource Interpretation and Outreach at Mojave National Preserve.