Skip to main content

Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road; Joshua Tree National Park

This past October I traveled through Joshua Tree National Park from Park Boulevard south to Box Canyon Road via Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road.   Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road act as a continuous roadway which connects the Mojave Desert to the Sonoran Desert via a pass through the Cottonwood Mountains to the Sonoran Desert.


Pinto Basin Road is a 29.7 Park Service Road which connects Park Boulevard south through Mojave Desert to the Cottonwood Visitor Center at the foot the Cottonwood Mountains.


Cottonwood Springs Road from the Cottonwood Visitor Center traverses a pass in the Cottonwood Mountains 7.3 miles south to former US Route 60/70 on Box Canyon Road.  Cottonwood Springs Road is the primary access point to Joshua Tree National Park from I-10 which is located just north of Box Canyon Road.



The National Park Service Map of Joshua Tree National Park illustrates that Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road act as a singular 37 mile connecting road.



Part 1; a brief history of Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road

In August of 1936 Joshua Tree National Monument was established over the Little San Bernardino Mountains and surrounding basins that were filled with the namesake Joshua Trees.  By the 1930s the terrain that became Joshua Tree National Monument was mostly known for small scale mining operations.  A primitive roadway along what is now Cottonwood Springs Road and Pinto Basin Road is shown connecting from Box Canyon Road near Shavers Well northeast to Old Dale Road and Black Eagle Mine Road on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Riverside County.


A National Automobile Club from 1926 also shows current Cottonwood Springs Road and Pinto Basin Road as part of the connecting route from Shavers Well north to New Dale/Old Dale. Old Dale (simply Dale at the time) was founded in 1884 on the shore of Dale Dry Lake.  Water from Dale Lake was pumped from out of the ground to supply a mining operation which was six miles away.  In 1910 the community of Dale was moved to "New" Dale which was in operation until the 1940s.  Much of Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road likely were constructed to facilitate the mines of Old Dale and New Dale.


At some point between 1935 and the early 1940s most of the park roads of Joshua Tree National Monument were constructed.  Pinto Basin Road is shown connecting all the way to Park Boulevard on a 1944 State Farm Insurance Map of California.


Joshua Tree National Monument was elevated to National Park status by Congress in October of 1994 as part of the California Desert Protection Act.


Part 2; a drive on Pinto Basin Road and Cottonwood Springs Road

My approach to Pinto Basin Road was from eastbound Park Boulevard in the Mojave Desert.  I made a right hand turn onto Pinto Basin Road southbound at an intersection known as Pinto Wye.  Cottonwood Visitor Center is signed as 30 miles away along with I-10 being shown as 36 miles away.



Pinto Basin Road southbound passes by Belle Campground, the Arch Rock Nature Trail, and White Tank Campground before entering Wilson Canyon.








Pinto Basin Road southbound descends through Wilson Canyon and enters the namesake Pinto Basin at the Cholla Cactus Garden.


















Pinto Basin Road crosses Pinto Basin in a generally southeast direction passing by the Ocotillo Patch.  At the intersection of Old Dale Road/Black Eagle Mine Road the route of Pinto Basin Road swings southwest.






















From Old Dale Road/Black Eagle Mine Road the route south on Pinto Basin Road shows Cottonwood Springs 8 miles away along with I-10 13 miles away.


Pinto Basin Road southbound generally follows Smoke Tree Wash to the Cottonwood Visitor Center.










The Cottonwood Visitor is a sparse facility which is located near the Cottonwood Campground.  From Cottonwood Campground the namesake Cottonwood Springs and Lost Palm Oasis can be accessed by trail.


Cottonwood Springs Road begins at the Cottonwood Visitor Center and is signed as 7 miles from I-10.


Cottonwood Springs Road southbound crosses the Cottonwood Mountains out of the Joshua Tree National Park limits to I-10 in the Sonoran Desert.  























Cottonwood Springs Road terminates south of I-10 and merges into Box Canyon Road.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

US Route 199

I was planning on driving US Route 199 for the third time this weekend.  However "external factors" have pushed my visit to US Route 199 back for the time being.  While I can't do a driving log for US Route 199 at the moment I can still write about it's history.


This blog will be slightly different from the usual flair for Gribblenation.  Generally I have a stockpile of my own road photos from which to draw from.  In the case of US Route 199 I was far more focused on hiking photos during my first two visits in 2014 and 2016 than the actual highway.  At some point I will add a series of modern driving log photos but for the time being I will draw from numerous other sources to illustrate US Route 199.


Part 1; the History of US Route 199

Present US Route 199 is a 80.05 mile highway which connects US Route 101 in Crescent City of Del Norte, California northeast to Interstate 5 in Grants Pass of Josephine County, Oregon.  US Route 199 is one of the original US Routes and …

Trans-Sierra Highways; California State Route 108 over Sonora Pass

In the fall of 2016 and late summer of 2020 I took a series of drives over mountain passes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Both traps culminated by way of crossing over the Sierra Nevada Mountains westbound by way of the 9,624 foot Sonora Pass on California State Route 108.  
California State Route 108 ("CA 108") is a 99 mile east/west State Highway which originates at US Route 395 in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  CA 108 crosses the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by way of the 9,624 foot Sonora Pass and terminates at CA 99 co-signed with CA 132 in downtown Modesto.  CA 108 has a 21 mile unconstructed segment which would extend it to Interstate 5 near Crow's Landing if completed.  
Part 1; the history of Sonora Pass and California State Route 108Much of the early history of Sonora Pass is described by way of two informational plaques at the actual Pass.  The first documented crossing of Sonora Pass was in October of 1841 by way of a course slightly due nor…

The Tioga Pass Road

Last Summer the Tioga Pass Road over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite National Park opened late due to the heavy snow pack from the previous winter.  Approaching the start of July the Park Service finally had cleared the road to Tioga Pass.  That being the case I headed up shortly after the 4th of July holiday during a lull in the tourist season.


The Tioga Pass Road runs from the Big Oak Flat Road at Crane Flat east to US Route 395 ("US 395").  The Tioga Pass Road is largely within the boundary of Yosemite National Park but is maintained by Caltrans as California State Route 120 ("CA 120") east of the Tioga Pass entry station to US 395.  The National Park Service maintained portion of the Tioga Pass Road serve as a implied connection between the two segments of CA 120.  The Tioga Pass Road is the highway mountain pass in California reaching Tioga Pass at 9,945 feet above sea level.



Part 1; the history of the Tioga Pass Road

Tioga Pass first obtained notewort…