Day Trip #10: Geology Road Tour @ Joshua Tree National Park

Geology Tour Road Guide

An 18-Mile Motor Tour at Joshua Tree National Park

Click here to see’s video tour from this trip.

Geology Tour Road as you descend into Pleasant Valley.
Geology Tour Road as you descend into Pleasant Valley.

If you’re looking for an easy 4WD adventure check out the Geology Tour Road at Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a great way to see different types of rock formations and geological wonders that are common to the desert regions and to Joshua Tree National Park.

The Geology Tour will take you through a portion of the Queen Valley en route to Pleasant Valley, where the road loops through the valley revealing scenic views and numerous points of interest around the loop. As you travel into Pleasant Valley you’ll see interesting rock formations and sculptures. Along the route you can stop at markers that correspond with an informational brochure available at the entrance to Geology Tour Rd.

There are 16 stops that make up the Geology Tour. I’ve noted a few of my favorites below. During my trip I didn’t stop at all the markers, but I did get photos of some points of interest when I stopped the Jeep and explored on foot.

Rock piles around Squaw Tank.
Rock piles around Squaw Tank.

Squaw Tank is the 9th stop along the tour. Surrounded by huge boulders and rock piles,  look for Squaw Tank, a man-made dam. Cattlemen used this dam to catch run off water from the rocks to water their cattle in the early 1900s. You can find other similar dams in the park where natural “tanks” or pools formed after the rains.

The 12th stop has the remains of an old mining area. The hillside is riddled with old mines and shafts. From the floor of the valley it’s hard to see, but once you walk up to the old rusted tanks on the hillside, you can see an old buried shaft behind the tanks. If you take a short hike up the trail beyond the road you may discover other mines and shafts that have been since filled in. A few old tailing piles may still be visible if you look for them.

My favorite stop was #16, the Panoramic View. Take a few photos of the view as it’s one of the highlights on this tour. In the distance you can see huge rock piles in the northern part of the valley. You’ll see Malapai Hill (also noted at stop #7), a hill composted of black basalt which rises 400 feet up from the valley floor.

Rusted cyanide vats at old mining site.
Rusted cyanide vats at old mining site.

The road is for 4WD only past #9 stop at Squaw Tank. After that point 4WD is recommended. The tour takes about 2 hours to complete, so make sure you take plenty of water and that you have enough gas before you start your trip.

Note: Pick up a Geology Tour brochure in the box at the entrance to the road. This brochure has information that corresponds to each of the 16 marked stops along the route.

Click here to see the video tour from this trip.

Click here for a map of the Geology Tour Road.

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