If you ever find yourself cruising Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman, do yourself a favor and plan a quick pit stop to see Arizona’s own Joshua Tree Forest.
If you’re like a lot of people, when you hear Joshua Tree, one of two things come to mind:
- Joshua Tree National Forest in California
- The fifth studio album by the rock band U2
But did you know you can drive through a Joshua Tree forest in Arizona? It’s true. On Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Wikieup, there’s a 7-mile stretch of road graced on both sides with Joshua Trees and other hardy desert plants.
Although the Joshua Tree National Forest in neighboring California gets far more attention, Arizona’s Joshua Tree Scenic Parkway is pretty spectacular too. While not an official park or destination, there are a few spots to pull off and take in the sights. It’s quite unique, especially looking to the west where a ridge of mountains serve as a magnificent backdrop.
Pro tip: Time your visit to coincide with a sunrise or sunset, and chances are good you’ll be treated to a unique sight to behold for years.
What is a Joshua Tree?
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia) is actually not a tree at all. It happens to be the largest variety of yucca and can grow to more than 20 feet at an average of only one-half inch per year. It provides habitat for many birds, mammals and reptiles. And a spectacular visual for us humans.
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Why is it called Joshua Tree?
According to Wikipedia, the name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer.
Joshua Tree quick facts:
- New seedlings may grow at an average rate of 3 inches (7.6 cm) per year in their first ten years, then only about 1.5 in (3.8 cm) per year after that.
- The trunk consists of thousands of small fibers and lacks annual growth rings, making it difficult to determine a tree’s age.
- Each plant has a deep and extensive root system, with roots reaching as many as 36 feet (11 m) deep.
- Can live for hundreds of years; some specimens survive a thousand years.
- The tallest trees reach about 49 ft (15 m) in height.
- Flowers grow in panicles that appear from February to late April.
- Joshua trees usually do not branch until after they bloom.