The Fortynine Palms Oasis is a popular and well-traveled hike to a shady palm oasis just outside of Twentynine Palms.
The trail was once part of an old Indian trail. The Serrano and Chemehuevi Indians knew this oasis well and ate fruit from the palms and used the fronds in their shelters, sandals, and baskets.
In 1922, Mrs. Bernice Tucker, who lived in Twentynine Palms had planned to build a cabin and settle here. She and her children camped at the oasis but the cabin was never built. They did build a dam and worked on improving part of the trail into a primitive road. Part of that road is now the road to the parking lot.
The palm trees here are California fan palms (Washingtonia filifera) and often live to be eighty years or older. Fire has scarred the trunks of the palms many times. Indians burned out the oasis occasionally on purpose to clean it and encourage new growth. Modern vandals have started fires here too. Please be careful with this delicate habitat. There are only a few oases left in the desert with palms like this and this one is a gem.
Hike: Moderate hike, 3.1 miles Out & Back, 660 ft gain round trip. 1.5 hours.
The trailhead is at the well-signed parking lot at the end of Canyon Road off of Highway CA 62. Canyon Road is four miles west of Twentynine Palms. Watch for a sign. This area is Day-Use only so please be out by nightfall. Park rangers lock the gate at night.
The trail is developed and easy to follow from the parking lot to the oasis. Be aware that it climbs more than 300 ft up and 300 ft back down to the oasis. Remember you have to repeat this to get back to the parking lot.
The trail quickly climbs up the rocky hillside from the parking lot kiosk. You will find some rock-carved steps, as the trail keeps a steady grade to the high point. At a switchback, a half mile up is a sweeping view of the town of Twentynine Palms and the Marine base beyond. A second and equally pleasant viewpoint comes quickly at 0.67 miles near the high point of the trail. From here, views turn towards the canyon ahead. Keep an eye out for scattered patches of California Barrel cacti (Ferocactus cylindraceus) that dot the slopes as you begin to descend into the canyon from the trail summit.
Most of the trail crosses a section of granite known as Twentynine Palms quartz monzonite to geologists. It is suspected to have been formed during the Triassic age from a subducting oceanic plate. As the trail drops down into Fortynine Palms Canyon itself, the trail enters the heavier-varnished Queen Mountain monzogranite and, across the canyon, is the noticeably lighter-colored and aptly named Fortynine Palms Oasis monzogranite. Both of these plutons are thought to be of the Cretaceous period, although the Queen Mountain formation could be older. These Cretaceous granites are the same age as the Sierra Nevada granites though weathering causes them to look very different.
At the oasis, you will find a few pools of water and the welcome shade of California fan palms. There is usually water here but it shouldn’t be used for drinking. Save it for the wildlife. If you must drink the oasis water, you should also filter it first.
Be sure to check the Park's website for current conditions as the trail is sometimes closed to let the bighorn sheep access the springs.