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Joshua Tree National Park trail closed to save sheep

Bighorn sheep at Joshua Tree National Park
(Image credit: Getty)

One of the most popular trails at Joshua Tree National Park has been closed due to the ongoing drought in California, which is making it difficult for wildlife to access water.

The park's native bighorn sheep are particularly affected, so the National Parks Service has taken the measure to allow the animals undisturbed access to the limited amounts of surface water. The NPS explained in a statement (opens in new tab) that the Fortynine Palms Trail will remain closed “until summer monsoons provide adequate rainfall to increase water availability". Park wildlife biologists are monitoring the situation.

It's estimated that around 100-200 bighorn sheep live in Joshua Tree National Park. They are hardy animals adapted for life in the desert, but are badly impacted by poor rainfall. Early in the year they tend to get enough water from grazing on grass and other plants, but during the summer they must trek to water at least once every three days, and ewes feeding young must seek water daily.

Plan your hikes

If you've planned a trip to Joshua Tree, there are lots of other excellent hiking opportunities still available. We've rounded up a list of the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park that offer spectacular views of the desert landscape. However, the NPS advises visitors to be very careful in the extreme heat.

It recommends that all morning hikes should begin at or before sunrise, and end by 10am. If you want to hike later in the day, you shouldn't start until after 4pm.

"Summer temperatures on exposed parts of park trails can reach over 120° F (49° C) in the shade," the service warns. "Hiking in extreme heat can lead to serious health risks including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyponatremia, and death."

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).