Queen Mountain sits along the northern border of Joshua Tree National Park, its highest peak is 5,677 feet, making it one of the highest peaks in the park. The mountain is for the most part trailess, the only exception being a faint trail leading up to the peak from the south side of the mountain. The top of Queen Mountain is a vast playground of miles and miles of maze like washes, and granite boulder formations. The possibilities of getting lost are great without good navigational skills. In terms of wilderness and remoteness, this is about as wild as it gets in Joshua Tree National Park, with the exception of the park’s most eastern range, the Coxcomb Mountains.
Over the past year I have made a half-dozen or more trips to the top of Queen Mountain, most of those trips I have spent wandering the washes in search of Native American pictographs, and a cave that has been said to have been the cave of butchers! Every trip up the mountain, I have found myself wandering deeper, looking harder, fighting with more difficult terrain, and usually coming up empty-handed in my search. There have been a couple of exceptions however, those being a small pictograph/habitation site on the western corner of the mountain, and the other being that of the cave of the butcher(s).
While I have been pleased with the two locations in which I have managed to locate, I have found myself bitching about coming up empty-handed more often than not. But yet I continue to find myself drawn back to the mountain that was once dubbed “Power Mountain” by Chemehuevi shaman and chief, William Mike. It hasn’t been until my two most recent hikes up the mountain that I have come to terms with the fact that Queen Mountain is by far my favorite place to spend a day in Joshua Tree National Park.
Those that have come to know me through reading this website, should be aware that I enjoy solitude. I spend much of my time in the desert alone, or at the most with the company of my wife, or a good friend. Queen Mountain guarantees solitude, I have never come across another person in my travels, and very few footprints – other than those of the neighborhood Mountain Lions. This is a far contrast from much of Joshua Tree NP, which is overrun with visitors for what is now a majority of the year (over 1.5 million visitors in 2014).
In terms of wildlife, Queen Mountain is Joshua Tree’s “Jungle Book”. While most of the critters prefer night over day, their presence is made known by the extensive number of tracking leading throughout the meandering wash systems. The Queen, is also the home of my one and only Mountain Lion encounter. I was introducing my buddy, Desert Mike to the Queen. It was nearing dusk, and we were roughly six miles out from our vehicles. Having just climbed up a 30-foot dry fall, we stopped to take a rest at a boulder pile above. Investigating our surroundings, we noticed something large peering out at us from a cave in the granite tower above us. It moved in a shifty way, and would stop, sit down and watch us. Needless to say, we quickly got on our way.
Other animals that may be encountered on Queen Mountain include the majestic Desert Bighorn, crafty bobcats, brother coyote, ringtails (also known as the Miner’s Cat), a variety of snakes, lizard, and birds. For those of you that are birders, this is a place that you definitely want to be spending time. Nowhere in the park have I seen as large of a variety, or sheer number of birds.
One of the main reasons for the large animal population, may be attributed to the abundant amount of vegetation. Pinyon pine trees, Joshua trees (though few), a variety of yucca, as well as having the most diverse number of species of cacti in the park. I’ve always felt that Queen Mountain has its own unique ecosystem, while similar to that in valleys below, but extensively more diverse.
All in all, Queen Mountain is Joshua Tree’s best kept secret. Every aspect of the mountain is breathtaking and there is adventure, and opportunities for new discoveries at every turn of the washes. The views of Hidden Valley, San Jacinto, and the Morongo Basin from the many different vantages are unparalleled. The solitude is welcoming, and a breath of fresh air.