Joshua Forest Scenic Byway

A Joshua tree along the side of the road

The Joshua Forest Scenic Byway (Parkway, Road - depending on which map you're looking at) runs along US Highway 93 for 54 miles between Wickenburg and Wikieup. This is the area where the Mohave desert to the north meets the Sonoran Desert to the south. The biggest change you'll see is in the vegetation: the Mohave has more Joshua trees, the Sonoran more saguaros. But in this area, the line is somewhat blurred and you'll find saguaros in the lower areas, Joshua trees above and a mix in the middle.

The Joshua Forest Scenic Byway rises from Wickenburg, crosses over a high point of granitic hills with black basalt cliffs running off into the distance on both sides of the road and then descends a bit into Wikieup. There are flat-topped mesas and ranges of jagged mountains all along the way.

Just a few miles north of Wickenburg you'll start seeing lone Joshua trees mixed among the saguaros, ocotillos, cholla and creosotebush. As the elevation rises, the saguaros fade out, leaving larger clumps of Joshua trees. Then you come to a great view to the west of the Sawyer Peak monolith at Tres Alamos Wilderness. A few more miles and the black lava cliffs of Arrastra Mountain Wilderness rise to the west. The hills to the east seem a bit more gentle but once you cross the Santa Maria Wash, it's rugged to the east, too, with big piles of granite boulders everywhere. Then the boulder piles give way to majestic sweeps of volcanic ridges and mountains: the Aquarius Mountains to the east, the Hualapai Mountains to the west. Then you arrive in the small town of Wikieup.

There'll be ocotillo, prickly pear and cholla along the way but everywhere you're going to see creosotebush as that hardy plant seems intent on taking over everything in the countryside (but I guess a name like "Creosotebush Scenic Highway" isn't as romantic).

A view just out of Wickenburg
Just out of Wickenburg, starting to get into the Joshua trees
A view of desert and distant mountains along the Joshua Forest Scenic Byway
Joshua trees, creosotebush and ragged mountains: typical Mohave/northern Sonoran desert
A desert and mountain view along the Joshua Forest Scenic Byway
A typical wash in the area, note the lava caprock
The Aquarius Mountains
Aquarius Mountains to the east
Joshua Forest Scenic Byway scenery outside of Wikieup
Almost to Wikieup
Arrastra Mountain Wilderness area map

Related Pages

Map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!