Monday, July 3, 2023

Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail

Joshua Tree National Park

April 2023

The Cholla Cactus Garden Nature Trail is not considered "Accessible" but we decided to check it out anyway even though we only had Kellisa's travel wheelchair with us. We left her off-road specialty chairs at home for this trip. We were filled with immediate optimism when we saw a couple disabled parking spots near the start of the trail. We knew we would at least try this trail when we saw the beginning section was wide and despite being natural, the surface appeared to be solid. 

After unloading Kellisa and her chair, we read the trail signs, including a warning not to touch to Cholla Cactus due to stinging barbs that can easily detach and embed in your skin. We had no reason to doubt the park's signs describing the removal of these barbs as extremely painful. 

The trail is a short 1/4 mile loop and we weren't sure if it would be accessible the entire route, but we were eager to find out. The trail passed through 10 acres of Cholla Cactus and they were quite close to the trail, but it was always easy to avoid touching them. The trail had a couple of short boardwalks over what I assume to be occasional washes. These were easily navigated with Kellisa's chair because they had very minor height differences from the trail.

We traveled in a counterclockwise direction around the loop and found the only real obstacle for a wheelchair towards the end when there were a few decent sized rocks scattered along the path. It looked like these rocks were kicked or placed on the trail, maybe by children? They definitely looked out of place. There weren't many and they could easily be kicked to the side of the trail. Since I could wheel Kellisa around these rocks without disturbing them, I decided to leave them how we found them since I couldn't be absolutely sure they didn't belong in the middle of the trail.

With the exception of the above mentioned rocks, we found the trail accessible. I'm not sure what is keeping the trail from being designated as accessible, but we would love to see the minor improvements take place so more disabled visitors could enjoy this beautiful trail through one of the few Cholla Cactus gardens in Joshua Tree National Park

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