The Orocopia Mountains Wilderness is in full bloom. The weather this past Saturday provided the perfect excuse to trek the near 200 miles from Los Angeles to the Orocopia Mountains for a day of hiking, 4×4 sightseeing, and wildflower photography (I took a lot of other photographs too). At about 4 AM we pulled the top off my Rubicon Jeep and headed topless towards the desert.
If you are going topless in the desert, be sure to have plenty of sunblock, lots of fluids, and a light-colored cap. This first photo is of my Jeep parked along our first stop on Red Canyon Trail, which is accessible near Chiriaco Summit in Chuckwalla California, that was our starting point on this near 70 mile off-road daytrip.
This photo shows the recently updated map of the Orocopia Mountains Wilderness, which I estimate the Palm Springs Bureau of Land Management (BLM Palm Springs) replaced sometime since my last trip here in January. The blue arrows are mine and they show the 60ish mile Route I followed from Red Canyon Trail, to the Bradshaw Trail, along the Coachella Canal, through the Meccacopia Trail (seasonally closed from June 1 to September 30), and back out to the 10 freeway along Powerline Road.
This budding beaver tail cactus was my first desert flower photograph of the day. It was still early in the morning, so they hadn’t opened yet, but there were beaver tail cactus to be seen along much of the day’s trails. This one was spotted along Red Canyon Trail.
Flowering ocotillo along Red Canyon Trail. These are far more abundant in the Colorado desert portion of Joshua Tree National Park, and even more so in the Chuckwalla Mountains, at least from my experience coming across them on hikes. The ocotillo cactus is one of my favorite plants in the desert, and I have photographed quite a few over the years. For this post, rather than share a close-up of the orange flowering buds, I decided to show the sky and Chocolate Mountains in the distance.
These blooming white desert thorn apple flowers were spotted along the Bradshaw Trail in the middle of Salt Creek near the old railroad trestle bridge. They were very popular amongst a group of rather large ants, and they smelled great, although I think they are in the weed family. I’ve seen the same plant growing in parts of Joshua Tree as well. From what I know, I believe this plant can be quite fatal to humans and animals as well, as it’s rather poisonous.
We took a break from the jeep to hike a few miles inside the Gucci Springs area. Wow, this place smelled tremendous. As the breeze blew, there were strong scents of wild sage, and nearly everything we spotted appeared to be flowering. The photos don’t capture the sounds and smells and feeling of calm one can experience when walking through this desert wilderness.
This batch of white desert flowers was extremely popular with the morning bees. They didn’t seem at all concerned that I was nearby taking photos, as they were quite busy in their activities of gathering pollen. Not a bad background for this photo eh? It is a beautiful place.
Yellow and orange desert flowers by the thousands were soaking up the sun when I came across this area near the Coachella Canal. If you’re planning on doing the off-road 4×4 loop that I’ve shown on the map above, be particularly careful navigating through the Coachella Canal area from the Bradshaw Trail, towards the Salton Sea. Not only is there the live military bombing range to the southeast, there are numerous unmarked maintenance roads between Drop 24 and Drop 31 along the canal. If you’re not familiar with the area, navigation can become considerably difficult, always best to travel in a group.
The Orocopia Mountain Wilderness is quite a large area and there’s no way I’d get a photograph of everything flowering on only one daytrip. We took time for another hike, and when coming back to the Jeep near where I parked along the Bradshaw Trail, I came across these rich purple flowers budding from the bushes around me. They appeared similar to creosote bushes but the flowers were purple instead of yellow. I’ve got to do some reading up on my desert flora.
I believe this orange cup shaped flower is a apricot mallow or globe mallow, like I said I’ve got to do some research on my desert plant life, and make some updates here. I do know I spotted this one in a sandy wash along our hike back to the Bradshaw Trail. The day brought us desert flowers blooming in shades of orange, purple, pink, yellow, and red, I’m glad we took the time to break away from the beach for the day.
And if all you thought we could see was flowers, don’t forget this is the desert, as shown in the above shot of Mecca Hills. This photo was taken along the Meccacopia trail and it shows amazing contrast of how plainly brown everything can appear from the distance when in the desert. You really have to get out on foot and experience it for yourself if you want to see wildlife and wildflowers. Lastly, here’s a beaver tail cactus flower soaking up the afternoon sunlight.
This flowering beaver tail was one of my final photos of the day, taken near the crossing of Little Box Canyon Trail and the Meccacopia Trail. From here we headed out towards Powerline Road and an on-ramp along the 10 freeway at Frontage Road. Thanks for visiting!