The Yucca Forest is fairly easy to get to with a high ground clearance vehicle and the 4x4 option will present more opportunities for taking on the side trails in this vast Mojave Desert expanse. There are two main touring routes in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge and it is only a 10 mile ride via Mormon Well Road to where thousands upon thousands of Joshua Trees and numerous yucca can be found. The Joshua Trees far outnumber the desert yucca, yet these unique plants are related, so the name of this forest is indeed right on the money.
The Yucca Forest certainly is a splendid sight to see and the views of zillions of Joshua trees extend far into the horizon. These trees flourish in the 3,000 to 5,000 foot elevations in temperate locations that do not have lengthy freezing spells. As can be imagined, the natural adaptation leaves a narrow range of places where Joshua Trees can thrive. The Yucca Forest certainly is a large pocket that covers an entire valley, yet by traveling fifty miles north or south, very few Joshua Trees will be encountered at all. Going to lower or higher elevations will reveal more cacti down below, while piñons and juniper thrive up above the Joshua Tree line. It is easy to see that the survival of this tall yucca species is in a precarious state when considering the global warming effect.
This section of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge definitely is not a dark night sky location since Las Vegas is right next door, but the city glow does enable the opportunity for some great night landscape photography even on a moonless night. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times for landscape artists too and a recent dust storm can add an orange glow to the skyline. Visiting during bright daylight hours has its advantages and a few late blooming flowers can be seen at this elevation even during late November. Flocks of Scrub Jays can be seen in this forest, so some birding can be done as well. I packed a light camera bag with only a 35mm lens and a 105mm macro lens for my venture, which turned out to be a handy combo. Wandering around through the Yucca Forest will present many interesting things to discover and ponder over, so be sure to chalk this spot high on the list!
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