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Keys View at Sunset, Joshua Tree National Park. It is named for the Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) native to the park. It covers a land area of 3,199.59 km2 – an area slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island. Straddling the San Bernardino County/Riverside County border, the park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains run through the South-West edge of the park.
The dominant geologic features of this landscape are hills of bare rock, usually broken up into loose boulders. These hills are popular amongst rock climbing and scrambling enthusiasts. The flatland between these hills is sparsely forested with Joshua trees. Together with the boulder piles and Skull Rock, the trees make the landscape otherworldly. Temperatures are most comfortable in the spring and autumn, with an average high/low of 29 and 10 °C respectively. Winter brings cooler days, around 16 °C, and freezing nights. It occasionally snows at higher elevations. Summers are hot, over 38 °C during the day and not cooling much below 24 °C until the early hours of the morning.
Naturalist Peggy Larson calls the desert “a mosaic of miniature worlds.” The desert can be a hostile place, but these miniature worlds provide habitats for many diverse life forms. Hidden Valley is one such world. The rocks ringing the valley block the wind and collect moisture, creating a special micro-climate that supports many plant and animal species. This secluded valley has also appealed to humans, both past and present, as a source of food, protection, and for its special beauty.