Distance: 2.5 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 3440'
Elevation Gain: 500'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 0.40
Round trip time: 50 minutes
Recommended water: 16 oz.
Parking/Fees: $15 National Parks (one vehicle, good for a week)
While in Palm Springs for a tech conference, I wanted to take advantage of daylight savings time and proximity to Joshua Tree to try to mop up the Sierra Club lower peaks in the park. Some of the hikes are very short, like this one to Mastodon. It is a 2.5 mile loop with very little gain, but it surprised me by packing a lot of great views, an interesting mine, and a fun scramble at the summit. It starts near the Cottonwood Springs campground at a parking lot at the end of Cottonwood Springs road. The Lost Palms trail is well signed and groomed, and about a mile down the trail branches left to Mastodon. The loop continues past the summit, then down a wash and back to the road. When you get to the base of the Mastodon summit, you can charge it directly for some class 3, or follow the use trail around to the north side for an easy class 2 scramble. I didn't find a benchmark or register around any of the high points. After I spent a few minutes on the summit, I returned to the loop and it led by the Mastodon Mine ruins. The mine itself is blocked off to protect people from themselves, but the ruins were nice highlight. This would make a nice family hike. If you want to make it a longer, you can continue down Lost Palms trail to the Lost Palms Oasis instead of taking the side trail to Mastodon, about a 7 mile out and back, or a little over 8 if you did the oasis and Mastodon. It felt great to be back in the desert.