We had passed this little turnout on the West side of the road, just past the Maze Trail pullout, many times, seeing a couple of cars parked there and wondered what was out there. So, one morning on the way into the Park, we decided to stop and check it out. As soon as you park, there is a well-worn trail leading away to the West. It travels up into the rocks and then heads North out to a nice viewpoint, which would be a great Sunset Viewing Spot. Then it continues down a wash, descending eventually to another viewpoint, where you look towards the road and houses in the distance. At this point, we turned around and headed back up the wash. The trail is about a mile or so to the last viewpoint, but there are plenty of places you could explore on the way in or on the way back. It's always fun to try a new trail in the Park, you never know what you're going to find. This is a good one if you just want to get in and on the trail right away and don't have that much time to explore. Try it sometime.
Skull Rock is one of the tourist 'hot spots' in the Park, so I always try to go early before the crowds arrive. The other day, I spent a wonderful morning exploring the rock formations to the South behind Skull Rock itself. It was one of those classic desert mornings with the cool air, bright blue skies, a light breeze and that enticing scent of earth and sage in the air. The birds seemed happy as well, chittering amongst themselves, singing to their mates and flitting about as I moved slowly through and around the rock formations. I spent a couple of very pleasant hours exploring the area before heading back to the car. There's a lot more to see than just Skull Rock and the Nature Trail. Go early and leave enough time to wander freely, you'll be glad you did.
On the way over to Split Rock, I noticed a section of rocks on the hills just before the turnoff to Split Rock and thought to myself...self... let's go check those out. There's a pullout just before the turn to Split Rock, so I parked and headed to 'them that hills' to see 'what was what' and all. What a fun place to roam around. You can hike up this one slant of rocks to the top for some great views, come down in to the valley around the back, boulder through a side canyon (a nice workout!) and over to the group of Easter Island-Like formations opposite the slant. I spent a couple of hours ranging all over and had a great time. It just proves you don't always have to follow the crowd to the 'Big Attractions'. There's plenty of great hikes almost everywhere in the Park, so fine a pullout and do some exploring.
We hadn't hiked the Maze Trail in a while and were worried that we'd missed all the flowering, but no, there was still plenty of flowers to see and beautiful views as well. This is always a great hike if you just want to get in quickly to the Park and on to the trail. We didn't do the entire Maze Trail this time, instead branching off toward the Big Pine Trail to see what was down that particular wash. It hooks into the official Big Pine Trail which heads over to the Boy Scout Trail. We turned around about half way because my stomach was growling and I could smell the coffee brewing back at the chuck wagon aka our house. The great thing about this trail is you can really head off in any direction at any time and still have a great hike. Try it some time.