The deserts of America are full of life and unusual attractions. The Mojave is a favorite hunting ground for the unusual and unexpected. This route starts in the Sonoran Desert, passes through the Colorado Desert and ends at 'an oasis of murals' in the Mojave Desert. Along the way are numerous examples of why this area of the country attracts thousands of road trippers each year. Be sure to stop, get out of your car and walk into the desert, especially in the spring...The desert along CA-62 is often carpeted with tiny wildflowers that are often invisible when passing by at 70 mph!
Here are just a few of the highlights on this route:
Phoenix, Arizona (Starting point)
Phoenix, is the capital of Arizona and the 5th largest city in the U.S. Its metro area is called the 'Valley of the Sun.' Many visitors to Phoenix enjoy going to Old Town Scottsdale and Tempe's Mill Avenue. Phoenix South Mountain Park and Preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the country and a drive to top of the ridge provides great views of the Valley of the Sun. The Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden located in Papago Park is a great way to learn about the desert plants found in the southwest. Phoenix was a 2009 All-America City.
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Quartzsite, AZ (mile 126)
Quartzsite, Arizona is the burial place of Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali). In 1935 the Arizona Highway Department posted a plaque the reads: 'The Last Camp of Hi Jolly. Born somewhere in Syria about 1828. Died at Quartzsite December 16, 1902. Came to this country February 10, 1856. Cameldriver - packer scout - over thirty years a faithful aid to the U.S. Government.' The Quartzsite Bakery is outstanding. A sign outside the bakery says 'We're open, get your buns in here!' During the winter months Quartzsite is popular spot for snowbirds and swap meets, but during the summers the town's population declines dramatically.
Colorado River at Parker, AZ (mile 138)
Parker, Arizona is located in the Sonoran Desert along the Colorado River. Parker is the county seat for La Paz County. It has a couple of nice diners and you probably should stock up on water, food and fuel before leaving Parker. Parker gets hot in the summer, but the winters are great. Buckskin Mountain State Park is 13 miles north of Parker on AZ Highway 95 and Parker Dam is another four miles north of there.
Earp, CA (mile 140)
Earp, California is located across the Colorado River from Parker, Arizona. The only thing in Earp is a tiny post office building that has a tiny cemetery with a fake grave for Wyatt Earp. But there's a very nice mural on the side of post office building.
Vidal Jct., CA (mile 155)
Vidal Jct. is the junction of CA Highway 62 and US Highway 95. There is an agricultural inspection station along with a gas station and restaurant. US Highway 95 north goes to Needles, while south goes to Blythe. This route heads west on CA Highway 62. Vidal Junction is a gateway town for exploring the rest of the region.
CA Highway 62 Rock Banners (mile 160)
A few miles west of Vidal Jct., CA Highway 62 crosses some rail road tracks and from that point, the highway runs parallel to the railroad tracks and an aqueduct. The RR tracks are elevated and over the year, travelers have spelled out messages using the local rocks.
Rice Shoe Tree (mile 165)
At this spot there use to be a Tamarisk tree that travelers visited and left shoes and other sundry things. Sadly, the tree caught fire and these days all that's left is a mound of dirt where the tree once lived (and thrived). The shoe tree will not be forgotten thanks to RTA's Life Cycle of a Shoe Tree. Just south of this spot is a large cement slab that has an old rusted car on it along with an old couch. Next to the slab, under a bush, is a huge stash of shoes (at least this was true on 14 March 2010).
Rice, CA (mile 167)
The population of Rice, California is zero. There are only a couple of partially standing structures (the remains of a gas station and a brick wall with a fire place) in the area and some railroad stuff. Cement foundations scatter the area. People have used Rice to dispose of junk. The desert views from Rice are spectacular. Off-roaders would enjoy driving the Blythe-Rice Road through the Colorado desert to Midland. There's usually some railroad cars parked in Rice, but I've never seen a train go by. On the east edge of Rice, along CA Highway 62, is a fence that was used to keep people from playing in a old house (which has been burned to the ground) and this fence has become a shoe fence. Note: When the house was standing, it had a tree that became a popular underwear tree, but the underwear tree was chopped down. During the early 1940s, Rice provided grounds for WWII Desert Training Camps.
Iron Mountain Pump Plant Road (mile 216)
Iron Mountain Pump Plant Road is a private road 17 miles west of Rice, but be sure to stop to take a look at a pole that road trippers have turned into a mileage pole.
Colorado/Mojave Deserts (mile 227)
The Colorado and Mojave deserts come together near the eastern edge of the Joshua Tree National Park. The Colorado Desert is lower and hotter than the Mojave Desert.
Twentynine Palms, CA (mile 270)
The welcome signs to Twentynine Palms, California say it is 'an oasis of murals' and the signs aren't kidding. The murals in Twentynine Palms are some of the best murals in the country. Twentynine Palms itself is somewhat nondescript; it is a military town that has lots of lodging and numerous restaurants. Twentynine Palms is an excellent spot for visiting the outstanding Joshua Tree National Park. In addition, on the west edge of Twentynine Palms, off of CA Highway 62, is a roadway to a parking lot for the 49 Palms hiking trail. This trail ends up in a canyon where there is a collection of palm trees native to California. Twentynine Palms is also a hideaway for movie celebrities and home to one of the most amazing restaurants in California! Be sure to stop by the Twentynine Palms Inn and have lunch at the little cafe on the side of the swimming pool. You'll be amazed!
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A striking mural painted by John Pugh
in 2008 can be found in downtown Twentynine Palms
Photo by Gerald Thurman
Click here for more photos of this route by Gerald Thurman
Click here for more photos of this route by Gerald Thurman