Joshua Forest Scenic Byway
A lone joshua tree with open desert and stark mountains in the background
The Joshua Forest Scenic Byway is along US Highway 93 between State Route 71 (north of Wickenburg) and Wikieup (this is the primary route connecting Phoenix, Kingman and Las Vegas, NV). This is a beautiful area of open desert cut with big sandy washes and dramatic mountain ranges for backdrops. Services are almost non-existent and the vast majority of people you'll come across out here are flying up and down the highway, intent on getting to Las Vegas and blowing their money or on returning to Phoenix and recouping their losses. There are a few smart ones, though, who stop and "smell the roses."
Public use side roads are not very common but if you should choose a good one, you'll find yourself at a wilderness boundary (or two) within a couple miles of leaving the pavement. In early March of 2009, I made the drive from Wickenburg up to State Road 97 (where I turned northeast and went over the hill toward Bagdad and Hillside). Along the way I got off the pavement and hiked around a bit near the Tres Alamos Wilderness and again at the edge of the Arrastra Mountain Wilderness. I also pulled off the pavement several times to check out the views and get up close and personal with some of those Joshua trees and other beautiful cacti decorating the countryside.
Cholla, prickly pear, ocotillo, ironwood and Salt Creek Mountains
The Joshua Tree Forest below Tres Alamos Wilderness
The Joshua Forest below Arrastra Mountain Wilderness
Joshua Forest Scenic Byway map
Joshua Forest Scenic Byway area map