Scenic Roads: Joshua Trees Parkway in Arizona
In the 1980s, Joshua Trees became immortalized after the release of the U2 album by the same name. The image of the band in the California desert with a lone Joshua Tree in the background made the yucca specious illustrious with fans, many of whom roamed the California countryside in search of the exact spot in which the famous photo was taken. [Apparently the Joshua Tree shown on the U2 album died in 2000 and a plaque now commemorates its place in history.]
While California has the greatest concentration of Joshua Trees, and a dedicated National Park, Arizona has a scenic parkway dedicated to the unusually distinct shrub. Along U.S. 93 between Wickenburg, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada there is a small, but concentrated stretch of Joshua Trees that is worth a stop. The sighting of Joshua Trees begins near the small town of Wikieup, a small dot on the map known for nothing more than Luchia’s pie. Heading south on U.S. 93, around milepost 127, you’ll come to the Big Sandy River, which is likely more sand than river unless it’s been raining. Striated canyon walls straddle the highway while saguaro cacti, ocotillo, scrub and distant mountains paint the landscape.
At Milepost 147, you’ll start seeing giant boulders piled on top of each other. The hoodoo-looking formations are a fascinating sight in an otherwise flat to hilly landscape.
Joshua Trees become the focal point of this drive around milepost 162. By milepost 169, the forest of Joshua Trees is brimming and you’ll see a sign that says, “Joshua Trees Parkway.” It’s a label that formalizes the obvious. The route continues on to the West’s Most Western Town of Wickenburg, a classic Old West town where cowboys roam and artists reign. Most Vegas-bound travelers speed down this road with jackpots in their minds-eye and don’t notice the beauty and historic charm of this scenic Arizona road.
If you’ve ever driven down this stretch of U.S. 93 and stopped to check out the Joshua Trees, please leave a comment below and share your experience.